The 240-mile Katy Trail is even longer now thanks to a spur trail that’s been added to its western end.
Now the Rock Island Trail is part of the Katy. Rock Island Trail runs 46.4 miles from Pleasant Hill, Mo., eastward to Windsor, Mo. The Rock Island Trail joins the Katy Trail at Windsor.
Bicycle riders and pedestrians have traveled the Katy for years through the heart of Missouri. The trail meanders from Clinton, Mo., on the west end to the St. Louis area to the east. Visitors enjoy scenery of the Midwest, from pastoral meadows to lush forests, streams and rivers. Much of the Katy Trail runs parallel to the wide Missouri River.
Both are state parks, with the Katy being the longest state park in Missouri. Both are built on abandoned railroad beds. A crushed gravel trail makes for nice biking and walking on both paths. Horses are allowed on some of the Katy and most of the Rock Island spur.
Pleasant Hill is a pretty little town southeast of Kansas City. Travelers headed to KC for a Royals game or some barbecue would do well to pack their bikes and take a ride on the new Rock Island Trail.
A family get-together in KC May 20-21 was the perfect chance to sample the Rock Island spur. We pulled into the trailhead a couple blocks west of downtown Pleasant Hill, along Missouri 58, on a cool and breezy Sunday morning, for our first ever ride on the Rock Island Trail.
Like to ride your bicycle on a flat route with no hills? The Rock Island is for you. The first mile takes riders part way on the highway, then on a gravel lane. The trail starts following the old railroad bed about the second mile.
Our ride eastward toward Windsor crossed creeks, went under a highway bridge and traveled by farm after farm. It’s easy to see why the Midwest is the breadbasket of the nation. The soil is the blackest you’ll see anywhere.
Now and then the trail passed through hardwood forest thick in spring greenery. The woods offered shelter from a stiff and cold north wind. Wildflowers were everywhere. The most lovely was a variety we like to call by its not so scientific name — pretty purple flower.
By midmorning, adults and kids were biking, walking and enjoying a May day outdoors on the trail.
Bikers who’ve pedaled the section of Katy Trail from Clinton east to Rocheport, Mo., can expect to see similar vistas on the Rock Island Trail. That is, Midewestern scenery of fields, crops, barns and some attractive farm homes makes for a pleasant bike ride.
An hour of pedaling east, then an hour back to Pleasant Hill, give us a nice taste of the Rock Island spur. There are trailheads spaced here and there along the whole 46.4 miles. Parking and a portable restroom are at the Pleasant Hill trailhead, but there’s no water. Downtown is within sight of the trail. There’s a cafe, museum and several shops in the quaint downtown area.
Big plans are on the board for the Rock Island Trail by Missouri State Parks. Eventually more of the rail bed will be converted to trail to create a route similar to the Katy Trail, but farther south. If it’s completed, adventurous bike riders can enjoy a 450-mile journey along the Katy and Rock Island trails.
A ride on either route works up an appetite for some of that KC barbecue.
Flip Putthoff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NWAFlip
Sports on 05/30/2017