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The 37.6-mile, partially paved Frisco Highline Trail connects Bolivar and Springfield with plenty to see along the way. If you travel from north to south, you’ll find that the corridor rises at about a 3% grade, so you’ll have a bit of a workout. If you prefer to ride downhill, take the trip in reverse by starting at the Springfield end.
Parking can be found at both ends of the trail. The northern terminus, located just past an art-covered bridge, provides access to bathroom facilities and a water fountain. Be sure to fill up with plenty of water as additional fountains are sparse until about mile 20.
From Bolivar, the first 4 miles are nicely paved and maintained. However, about 2 miles into the trip, trail users will need to take a short on-road detour around busy MO 13, which will add a couple of miles to your adventure but make for a much safer journey to the rest of the trail. Brave locals look for a break in traffic and hurry across this road, but this is not recommended. See detour directions below.
The paved portion of the trail picks back up on the other side of MO 13 and, for the next 3 miles, you will travel through rural farmland and see cows and horses grazing and lounging in the shade on the nearby farms. The landscape is dotted with hundreds of wildflowers and inhabited by a variety of birds, chipmunks, and rabbits.
After mile 4, and for the next 22 miles to Willard, the trail is not paved and the surface is much rougher with medium-size gravel and sporadic potholes. Keep an eye out for the cattle guards that run along the path as well; they could be a hazard if you step into them or accidentally get a bike tire caught between the bars. On the bright side, this segment of the Frisco Highline Trail has very nice, shady tree cover, and is dotted with many small bridges that run over babbling creeks and larger streams. At mile 20, you will arrive at the Walnut Grove trailhead. You’ll find a gravel parking lot here, and it’s a good spot to take a break, have lunch, or exit the trail.
Continue on from Walnut Grove for 8 miles toward the town of Willard. At Willard, the trail becomes paved and the surrounding area is much more commercialized and dotted with trailside convenience stores, ice-cream shops, and bike depots that provide free water and air for tires. This last stretch of the trail runs through a suburban landscape, and you’ll be pedaling past homes and schools. The trail ends in a paved parking lot near a hotel and commercial district in Springfield.
To reach the Bolivar trailhead, from the intersection of MO 13 and W. Broadway St., turn onto W. Broadway St. toward the center of town, and follow it for 1.6 miles. Take a left onto W. Fair Play St. and follow signs to the Frisco Highline Trail. The trailhead is just past an art-covered bridge.
To reach the Springfield trailhead, from the intersection of US 160 and I-44, heading away from town, follow US 160 south for 0.2 mile to W. Kearney St. and turn right. Stay on W. Kearney St. for 0.2 mile, and the trailhead parking lot will be on your right.
To take the on-road detour about 2 miles from the north terminus in Bolivar, take a right onto W. Aldrich Road. Follow this road for about a mile and take a left onto S. 107th Road and then take the first left onto Prairie Lane. In a half mile, Prairie Lane meets back up with the trail.
If only the trail was maintained as well as the signs for it are. It starts out in Springfield as a beautiful paved trail for 8 miles, and then the trail deteriorates from there. I wanted to be sure to ride the whole trail, but it was terribly disappointing. Trail went from paved, to crushed limestone, to rocks, to sand, to single track with grass and weeds growing up to your knees. The markings for the mileage were good, but there are no restroom facilities at any of the trail heads where there is parking. When you get to Boliver, there are no markings telling you which way to head to get to food, etc. On the sign it says it's a premier trail. That is just not true. We had to clean our bikes and ourselves of spider webs. Nasty. I will say that there weren't mosquitoes at all, and maybe that's because of all of the spider webs. This trail is in need of maintenance big time.
I rode this trail last summer from Springfield to Walnut Grove and back and really enjoyed it. This summer I stopped to ride the Northern section from Bolivar to Walnut Grove to see all the bridges. Ended up turning around just before Wishart due to all the low hanging tree branches and the spider webs that were hanging down between the tree branches on both sides of the path. After a couple of miles of plowing through them, I gave up especially after noticing a few dozen spiders crawling around my legs, arms, bike, helmet and across my glasses. I don't give up very easily but enough is enough. What a beautiful ride this trail would be if, like other trails, (especially the Katy Trail that I rode next), the towns along the trail would pitch in and trim it back.
The Rusty Chain Gang went from Bolivar to Springfield and spent the night at the Courtyard and went back the next day.
No need to go into great detail as Emily's review was spot on. A mower and tree trimming is much needed on all sections of the trail. Some areas worse than others.
A reminder to everyone there is no water on the trail and pack extra water with you. I had 3 water bottles but needed the 4th.
I am looking forward in going back when I see some more positive feedback.
It is a shame that a trail through such a gorgeous, natural area is so inconsistently maintained. My husband and I rode from south of Bolivar (MM 31) north into Bolivar one day, and the second day rode from MM 31 south on the unpaved portion of the trail down to around MM 21.
The paved portion of the trail was average; some roots, but overall decent. The road detour around Hwy 13 in Bolivar is rather long and a bit confusing if you don't know the area due to inadequate signage, but we figured it out.
Parts of the unpaved section south of Bolivar were smoothly packed limestone and very easy to ride on our road bikes, which are equipped with wide tires (1.35"). However, a good mowing and branch trimming was needed as the grass and weeds were high, and occasionally the trail would almost disappear in the weeds. But this was tolerable compared to the conditions we encountered the farther south we got.
We had hoped to make it to Walnut Grove at MM 16, but ended up turning around early due to the gravel conditions, mostly from the Little Sac River bridge (MM 23) to MM 21 (and probably farther south). This section appeared to have been relatively recently re-graveled, and not well. The gravel was larger and deeper than ideal (up to 3" deep in some places), leading to fish-tailing and difficulties controlling our bikes. I would recommend this section for mountain bikes only. It was nice to see that some maintenance had been done on this section, but unfortunately, it was not done well; the gravel was not spread evenly or thinly enough, making it somewhat hazardous and not fun to ride.
The bridge conditions were also inconsistent. Some appeared in dire need of maintenance. One wooden bridge had a large hole where a plank was missing, a very hazardous situation.
With more consistent and careful maintenance, this rail-trail could be the gem it should be, but it was a disappointing trail for us, especially compared to numerous other rail-trails we have ridden across the US.
The bolivar portion can be hard to ride on a street bike. We have a tandem and it was pretty hard. We came back with mountian bikes. And it was great!!
From the trailhead at Springfield, the trail is paved and flat for the first 9 miles. Not much scenery to see along this stretch. But this is misleading as the remainder of the trail has many low hanging branches and dangerous ruts as you make your way down the trail. I was riding my hybrid and got a flat tire as did another cyclist we encountered along our 35 mile ride. As we saw only 6-7 cyclists all day long, the odds of getting a flat are pretty high. If you must ride this trail, start from Boliviar as it is much more scenic. Bring all the water you can carry and bring extra tubes!!
I did this trail mid-July following several weeks of no-rain hot weather. The trail showed signs of drought, but it was still interesting and fun to ride. I started at the trailhead in Bolivar, and rode south to near Willard and back. I didn’t go into Springfield because I had a long drive back home afterwards. The Bolivar trailhead is well-equipped. It has paved parking, a new brick building having a large covered picnic area and clean restrooms (open from 8-am to 3-pm) plus information bulletin boards and service outlets nearby. From there, the trail is paved southward to within ½-mile north of busy Hwy-13. I missed the westward detour sign at Aldrich Road before arriving there. This detour gives riders a fairly short safe route across Hwy-13 and back to the trail on the paved roads. After missing that detour, I plowed straight ahead southward on a gravelly unfinished ½-mile section to 13. Once there, the medians between the highway and its service roads are fairly deep grassy ditches with bike-hewn pathways through them. Walking/running your bike across them seems the safest way. Once on the south side of 13, the trail is paved for another mile or two south where it becomes limestone chat near the La Petite Prairie. This prairie was mostly green tallgrass for lack of rain. Most of the trail’s surface is fine limestone with only a few gravelly spots where washouts and other wear have occurred. It’s smooth and easy to ride. Its dual track narrows and widens depending on the density of the green well-treed corridor itself. Some of the trail’s 16 bridges were lengthy and tall. Most had wood-plank surfaces. But others had thick metal plates, probably from original railroad stuff with the rails removed. The bridge over the Little-Sac-River had a concrete surface. I saw ducks and a Great Blue Heron there. Overall, I saw much wildlife along this trail despite the dryness: deer, fox, gobs of bunnies and squirrels, chipmunks, skinks, birds, insects, and butterflies. The white mules (in one field) and the varied barn structures were interesting too. The trailheads are simple with sizeable parking lots. The one in Wishart has a small roofed bench shelter plus a chemical toilet. This shelter was installed by the Polk County Bike Club as were others along the trail no doubt. A half-block west of it, a closed mechanic’s shop has an open-to-the-public pop-machine out front. I got a 20-oz cola there on my return trip for $1.25. It also contained cold bottled water. Outside of that, any real services are in the towns near the trailheads; e.g., at Walnut Grove (1-mile west of it to a market) and at Willard (across the street to several outlets). Also, 2-miles north of Willard, a Bulleye Service Station w/convenience store and a separate café are adjacent to the trail just across two-lane Rt-123. So, air-conditioning, restrooms, food, and water exist near the trail and most of its trailheads. This 35-mile trail is worth doing more than once
My wife and I rode the complete trail on Thursday, 06/03/10. I rode an old Fisher Hoo Koo E Koo mountain bike while my wife rode her new Scott Sportster P3 Hybrid. This was our first trip on the FH. We left at 8:00 A.M. and arrived at the Bolivar trail head at 1:00 P.M. We took our time, stopping a lot and had our lunch on the trail. We brought all of our water and food with us.
For those who have never rode the trail here it is in a nutshell. Starting in Springfield there is about a mile to a mile and a half of gravel before it turns to pavement. You will stay on pavement all the way to Willard until you reach the intersection of 160 and 123. Say goodbye to pavement until you are almost to Bolivar. You stay on a relatively flat gravel section until you reach Walnut Grove. After Walnut Grove the trail really gets fun. From approx. mile marker 17 to the Sac River bridge you are on a downhill stretch. Keep in mind you are gradually dropping down into the Sac River bottom. I kept telling my wife that we were eventually going to have to climb out of this river bottom to reach Bolivar.
After the Sac River, mile 23, you began to see the gradual climb. I would say that from mile marker 27 to 31 was the hardest part of the climb, but this was still a nice gradual slope. This can be a little difficult for a beginner, my wife for example, who has just rode 27 miles so take your time. At about mile 31 the trail turns back to pavement. At about mile 33 the trail suddenly comes to a stop at HWY 13 in Bolivar. You have to make a choice here. The map shows that you need to ride on the road and cross 13 over a highway bridge about a mile northwest. We decided on the shorter and more dangerous route by crossing 13 right there. You can see the trail across Hwy 13 and can ride straight across the Hwy to pick up the trail again. This is what we did. Be careful crossing the highway because traffic is really flying.
On the other side of the HWY you hit the trail again that turns into a gravel single track but is real easy to ride. You eventually hit the paved trail again and ride a short distance to the Bolivar trail head.
Overall we really enjoyed the entire trip. The trail was great but yet not a totally flat easy ride like in a city park. You will ride on a variety of surfaces from pavement, pea gravel, coarser gravel, mud and grass. Some parts of the trail were groomed well while other parts hadn't seen a mower or a trimmer in a while. We both felt that the under groomed portions of trail gave a very remote, out there feel that we enjoyed. For the entire trip we saw 10 people, and four of them were horseback riders. I highly recommend the entire trip to everyone.
"A notice is on the trail website, but not on this site. I went to the trail this morining and mile 17 to 23 is closed due to recent heavy rains, they arew working on it but it will take some time to get back in rideaable condition. There are some rough spots past mile 23, but I did not go past mile 24 and do not know the conditions past that point. "
"The long-awaited section of the Frisco Highline Trail between the Greene-Polk County line and Bolivar opened last September (2005), and riders who like a little wild with their ride are in luck. The surface is tame enough--I rode the compressed base rock trail on a road bike, which wasn't optimal but worked fine. The wildness comes in the scenery--a mix of forests, pastures, unplowed native prairie (at Mile Marker 32), and fifteen bridges (compared to zero on the Greene County stretch). Several of the trestles are pretty impressive, a couple hundred feet long and high enough to make me glad of the railing. I don't think the map is wrong (as another reviewer writes)--it just isn't detailed enough to follow successfully. When you reach the point where the trail surface ends at the Highway 13 frontage road just outside Bolivar (headed north), go left and keep following the bike rider symbols painted on the pavement. It's the safest way into town. You can cross Highway 13 as the other writer suggests, but it's a divided four-lane with 60 mph traffic . . . and the first quarter mile of the trail on the other side is unimproved ballast gravel.
Or don't go into Bolivar at all. A mile and a quarter due east of the trail on Highway U, just a couple miles south of town, is Smith's Restaurant. Their menu describes the $5.99 pork tenderloin sandwich as ""a meal by itself."" It's actually two meals by itself. Add an order of sweet potato fries, and feed a friend, too.
I'm looking forward to another ride later this spring. The flowers should be great!"
"In October, 2005 my wife and I rode from Willard to Walnut Grove and back on a Penninger tandem (two recumbent trikes hitched together) while pulling our handicapped son in a large special needs trailer. This was the last of several rail trails we rode on our vacation. Some were paved and some were not and this one seemed to be the most difficult to ride due to the gravel surface. It felt like we were riding mostly uphill in both directions. Mountain bikes would be best for riding this trail. There was a nice mix of farm land and forest along the trail and we saw some nice fall colors and a couple of turtles (see trail photos). We wished for a restroom of some kind at the Walnut Grove trailhead."
"The trail was very good. (11/2/05) The up-dated map is incorrect. At Bolivar, it shows you cross 13 on T Hwy, mile marker 34 and go on down to mile marker 33 to connect up with the trail -- but DISREGARD THE MAP. If you're leaving Bolivar, just stay on the trail until you reach 13, get off your bicycles, cross 13 very carefully - head for the elevator on the south side of 13 and pick up the trail and have a good ride from there -- where the map is very good."
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