Katy trail tour reflections - Show me MO! - CycleBlaze

September 8, 2020

Katy trail tour reflections

Summarizing my week on Missouri's Katy Trail

My touring group at our finish line, the Lewis and Clark monument in St. Charles
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Laundry is done. Lawn mowed. I am in post-tour mode. Cleaning the bike and organizing my touring gear remain on my to-do list. It is time to relax with a cup of coffee and write my tour reflections.

COVID-19 disclaimer

I would be remiss without mentioning the impact that COVID-19 had on touring by bike in September 2020. Bicycle touring is not solely about the time on the bike. A larger part of touring is interacting with people and exploring the local culture. COVID-19 limited interactions and local experiences.

Tour summary

The Katy s a scenic rail-trail with a taste of the Midwest. The villages and cities along the trail were nice and spaced for a variety of touring distances. Dining options were limited by COVID-19 but sufficient. There would be more full menu sit-down restaurants during “normal” times. The crushed limestone trail surface with a sandy base made for a nice ride but was a more challenging pedal in the rain and when wet. Two trail closures did not have marked detours but were easy to safely detour around. The Katy Trail warrants a ride for any rail-trail cyclist.

Grain mill and silos at the Trelor Trailhead
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The trail

  • The Katy is a rail trail with a finely crushed limestone surface and sandy base. This surface was challenging when wet.
  • Maintenance of the trail surface was rougher in the western region from Clinton to Boonville.
  • There is a railroad grade incline of less than 2% that makes for a climb from Clinton to Boonville. Doable but noticeable.
  • The trail largely follows the Missouri River from Boonville to St. Charles and is generally flat.
  • The tail is mostly shaded with some open areas crossing farmland.
  • Missouri State Parks did an excellent job on the trail-heads with restroom facilities, shelters with information panels, and bicycle repair stations.

Cities, towns, and villages

  • The trail passed through rural Missouri with a mixture of crossroad towns, villages, and metropolitan cities.
  • Sedalia, Boonville, Columbia, Jefferson City, and St. Charles offer more options near the trail.
  • Classic train depots were particularly photogenic in Sedalia, Boonville, and St. Charles.
  • Columbia and Jefferson City were bike-friendly.
  • Columbia, Jefferson City, and Hermann were a few miles off the trail but provided a safe, well-marked route into the cities.
  • The distance between towns and cities requires some attention when planning overnight stays.

Mu route across the trail

  • I chose to cycle west-to-east to make my drive home shorter after a day of cycling.
  • Touring the trail east-to-west is better for those who do not like a elevation gain and climbing. The Boonville to Clinton section would be downhill.
  • I opted for a 7-day tour of 30-50 mile days that allowed me to experience the trail, cities, and towns. I included a ride on the MKT connector trail into Columbia.
  • The trail is doable as a 6-day 40-50-mile daily tour that includes Columbia or a 5-day 40-50 miles daily ride without the detour into Columbia.
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Food and dining

  • Some sort of bars, diners, or restaurants are available every 20 miles.
  • Don’t discount dining by appearance. Several small unassuming places were quite good.
  • The mid-section of the trail was more remote with fewer options.
  • Carry energy bars, trail mix, fruit, or snacks for breaks along the way.
  • COVID-19 restrictions had days, hours, and menu options limited.
  • Rural Missouri have some local dining options closed or on shortened hours on Sunday and Monday.
Boonville Depot
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Memorable places

  • The Sedalia depot was classic and had many pieces of bike and railroad art.
  • Hotel Bothwell is a classic downtown hotel that is restored with an excellent location close to the trail and near downtown dining. The rooms were perfect.
  • Hotel Frederick was my favorite hotel. It is a temple of oak and days gone by. It is across from the trail on the edge of downtown. The owners were top-notch accommodating.
  • The Boonville depot had interesting architecture with beautiful grounds. Check out the neighboring visitor center for Katy souvenirs.
  • Katarina’s Home-style Café had amazing food in Pilot Grove.
  • Mokane Bar and Grill was a pure small-town bar with an excellent fried catfish sandwich.
  • Flat Branch Brewing in Columbia was the perfect end-of-day beer and food stop.
  • Towne Diner in Jefferson City is what I look for on tours, small-town mom and pop diners with a super breakfast.
  • City Diner in Boonville was convenient across from the trail and Hotel Frederick. The breakfast was suburb. I should have eaten dinner there.
  • St. Charles's historic district was quite nice. I wish I had left more time to explore.
Boathenge along the trail east of the MKT to Columbia
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My shuttling and SAG experience

  • There are several shuttle services to transport cyclists, bikes, and gear from the trail end to the start. I was unable to secure their services for my party of 8.
  • I opted to rent a 15' U-Haul. The truck pickup was close to St. Charles in St. Peters. Drop-off was convenient in Clinton. The cost of rental and gas was about $475 or $60/person.
  • The U-Haul gave my group more flexibility in departure time.
  • I rented a van to transport luggage and serve as our SAG vehicle. This is a nice option for a credit-card tour. I opted to rent and return near my home. The cost was about $900 or $125/person.  
  • Our group shared SAG duties switching drivers mid-day. The driver did pick-up Subway for lunch on one remote cycling day.

Parting Thoughts

Feel free to share your thoughts and comments on this post and others in my tour journal. Feel free to ask me any question about my tour and tour planning. 

Enjoy every minute on your bike. The world is yours to discover from behind your handlebars.

Start of tour group photo at the Clinton Trailhead
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Al BurnardHey Tom. I made note of your comment that the KATY warrants a ride by any RT cyclist. I take that as a recommendation the trail should be on my bucket list for a future ride. I've talked to some people who raved about the KATY and others who said it was kind of meh! I'm assuming it's worth riding once and then moving on to other adventures, unlike your annual GAPCO ride. Thoughts!!!
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4 months ago
Tom BilczeTo Al BurnardYou should ride it post-COVID-19. The experience would be better. So many things were closed or operating on limited schedules. The scenery was OK but not spectacular. It's a one time ride for me. Just a little too far to do again. The GAP and C&O is more convenient and more scenic.
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4 months ago