MKT Nature and Fitness Trail


MKT Nature and Fitness Trail Facts

States: Missouri
Counties: Boone
Length: 8.9 miles
Trail end points: Flat Branch Park at S. 4th St. and Cherry St. (Columbia) and Katy Trail State Park northwest of Perche Creek (McBaine)
Trail surfaces: Concrete, Crushed Stone
Trail category: Rail-Trail
ID: 6016357
Trail activities: Bike, Walking, Cross Country Skiing

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MKT Nature and Fitness Trail Description

Once the site of a spur line of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas (MKT) Railroad, the MKT Nature and Fitness Trail now whisks cyclists and pedestrians (instead of trains) between Columbia and the small town of McBaine. The City of Columbia had the foresight to purchase the former rail corridor upon its abandonment in 1977 in an early undertaking in the growing rail-trail movement, although the final piece of trail wasn’t completed until 2001.

In Columbia, the largest city in Mid-Missouri, the MKT Trail begins at Flat Branch Park. The park offers a playground and picnic area and is only a stone’s throw away from the University of Missouri’s historic campus centered on the Francis Quadrangle. The primarily brick academic buildings surrounding the quad are collectively listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Due to its proximity to the large university, the MKT Trail is extremely popular with students, many of whom use it to access housing southwest of campus. The trail facilitates this use by offering a number of connector paths to adjacent neighborhoods and apartment buildings along much of its route.

The short northern stretch of trail between Flat Branch Park and Providence Road has a concrete surface but transitions to well-maintained crushed gravel after that point. Coursing southwest, the trail has a slight downhill slope all the way to the Missouri River bottoms. Capital improvement projects carried out since the trail’s original opening have eliminated all at-grade crossings in favor of underpasses: it is now possible to travel the MKT Trail’s entire 8.9-mile distance without crossing a street.

Highlights along the scenic route include the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial at Battle Garden and the Forum Nature Area. The former features a bucolic landscaped backdrop for a memorial dedicated to the venerable civil rights leader, while the latter offers a wetlands trail and opportunities for bird watching. To the north of the Forum Nature Area, the County House Trail provides access to the Twin Lakes Recreation Area, which allows boating, fishing and swimming.

The MKT Trail also connects to Hinkson Creek Trail, which reaches the recreational gems of Grindstone Nature Area and Stephens Lake Park.

The MKT Trail’s southern end in rural Boone County emerges into open fields and wetlands. After hugging Perche Creek for a short distance, the trail meets the 238-mile Katy Trail State Park north of McBaine. This is undeniably the best part of the MKT Trail: it links the United States’ second longest rail-trail—which was built on the former MKT mainline—and the Missouri River with downtown Columbia (and vice versa). Continue west on the Katy Trail to travel to Boonville, Sedalia, Windsor and Clinton, and east to reach the edge of Jefferson City and the heart of St. Charles.

Parking and Trail Access

There is a parking lot off Elm Street. There is also parking available at Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial; Battle Garden (800 W. Stadium Boulevard); the Forum Nature Area (2701 Forum Boulevard); and a dedicated parking lot at 3662 Scott Boulevard.

MKT Nature and Fitness Trail Reviews

Love this trail!! Beautiful area. I will be back to ride it again.

My wife and I spend the day biking taking pictures and just enjoying a beautiful spring day. The trail was immaculate full of smiling and friendly bikers and walkers. We drove in from the St. Louis area just to ride this trail and were not disappointed. I didn't read the reviews before driving there and was surprised to find the trail head parking was all metered. A stop into the Chamber of Commerce another smiling face and we found the free parking. We are planning another trip to ride one of the other trails in Columbia.

The MKT is a really good, relatively flat and shaded trail running from downtown Colimbia to the Missouri River. This is a favorite for runners, walkers and bikers. The trail is crushed stone and is in generally very good condition although it can flood when the Flat Branch Creek floods or runs high. Parking downtown is good with a small lot near the trailhead. I've always enjoyed this trail.


Suggest that you park downtown at the lot near the corner of Elm and Providence. It is a small lot but designed for biker/hiker use. There wasn't a map at the parking lot, so it can be confusing, which way to go, but facing the trail from the parking lot - go left (not over small bridge).

Trail winds out of town with no stops and has some beautiful scenery. Seemed down hill going out and uphill coming back - isn't that the way it always seems? Most heavily used toward town and most walkers don't move over for bikes, not intentional but oblivious. There are nice benches along the way if you want to stop and sit and enjoy the birds/nature.

About half way to the Katy Trail the county takes over care of the trail and there is a subtle change, but the trail from beginning to end is well maintained.

Would love to ride this trail again and bet it is gorgeous in the fall - recommend you try it if you are in the area.

"If you are staying the evening in Columbia, be sure to check out the Flat Branch Brewing Co. and Eatery. It is on 5th Street, exactly five blocks east and a bit north of where the MKT drops you off (Providence and Stewart). While there you can check out the Katy Trail Pale Ale, although I would recommend the Brown Ale or Smithton Mild or one of the seasonal brews (mmm..pumpkin ale).

The food is also very good, although I am told they no longer offer Bangers & Mash like they did when I lived in Missouri . . . sigh."

This trail is a spur off the MKT leading into the beautiful college town of Columbia. It is well used by joggers and walkers and of course bicyclists. It is mostly ridden under a beatiful canopy of trees. Plenty of restaurants in Columbia for a quick break.

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