We just covered the 170 miles of Katy Trail & (new) Rock Island spur that took us Jefferson City to Lee’s Summit over 3 days. I’ll offer some insights and details for you to use if you want to repeat it.
We are 4 old guys in our mid-60’s to early 70’s who ride frequently, but are just average riders. We have touring bikes and cross bikes. All with a rear wheel rack and light luggage to carry a change to street clothes and any extra bike gear. We had 32 mm tires (which are perfect) and our lightest member had 28 mm and did fine. We comfortably ride at 12 mph on the trail, but with stops, average about 10 mph.
Along the trail we met couples from England, Ohio, Colorado and a lady from California who all had made riding the Katy Trail a destination vacation. Some were going a very leisurely 35 miles a day.
Start point for us was Jefferson City Amtrak station. 2 of us drove a car from St. Louis and parked it at the station. The other 2 took the morning train from Lee’s Summit and left our cars there. The St. Louis guys bought a one-way afternoon ticket back from Lee’s Summit to Jefferson City for 3 days later. We all arrived at noon in Jefferson City.
Getting on the Amtrak train with your bike is easy. You leave your luggage on the bike if you can physically hoist it up the stairs. As you stand on the station platform, the conductor will point you to the car you will be getting on and where to put your bike once on the train. - They only have room for 4 bikes on the train, so you need to buy your ticket for you and your bike well in advance as a first step to make this trip. - The bikes are parked side by side behind some seats on a coach car. – When you get to the destination station, you should be ready to move with your bike in advance of the stop. The conductor will usually offer to stand at the bottom of the steps and take the front of your bike as you descend the stairs carrying the back. – They leave the restroom open at Jefferson City station, but we all arrived dressed to ride.
Day One – 53 miles to Boonville
We grabbed a quick bite to eat and a beer at “Arris’ Pizza” on High Street at the top of the hill above the Jefferson City Amtrak. It’s across the street from the capitol.
We rode northwest on High a couple of blocks, then down the ramp past Mulberry, turned right on Missouri and then left on Main. When you get to Clay (just before the highway), you will see the “Pat Jones bike path” on the right, that takes you on the bridge across the Missouri River and puts you on the path to the Katy Trailhead.
We went left or west on the Katy Trail. That’s milepost 143. - Our first stop was “Coopers Landing” at milepost 163.5. This is campground and restaurant on the river bank. It’s a wooded area near houses on stilts. Some of the campers are long-term, living in houseboats on blocks. It’s a great place to grab a beer on their back deck on the river bank. - Our next stop was Rocheport at milepost 178 where we stopped at the “General Store” located at the far end of town and just a couple of blocks off the trail. We had another round of beers and some chips. – Then we set off for the “Hotel Frederick” in Boonville which is milepost 191. The Frederick is located at the south end of the bridge over the Missouri River so is convenient and easy to find. They lock your bikes in a basement room that is accessed off the street. In the morning, they will loan you a pump for your tires. – It’s a historic hotel which has been restored. We stayed in a couple of suites that had twin queen beds and two daybeds. They showers were terrific and the beds were very comfortable. They have a great restaurant in the lobby called “The Fred” which was very good. We had a round of beers in the pub room and then ate dinner on a second story outdoor patio that overlooked the bridge.
Only word of warning is to pace yourself to get off the trail before sunset. Since we started at noon in Jefferson City and ate first, we arrived at 6:30 with a 7:15 sunset.
Day Two – 57 miles to Windsor
The path to the Katy Trail begins on the far side of the street from the Frederick Hotel. - There is a 12 mile climb up a grade out of Boonville to Pilot Grove. It’s only a 220 foot climb, but you know it’s uphill. – Pilot Grove at milepost 203 is the last source of water before Sedalia 24 miles later, so be sure to fill up. – There is another uphill grade the last miles into Sedalia.
You travel on well-marked streets a couple of miles to get into Sedalia and return to the actual trail. We were tired from the ride in 90 degree heat. A block after you pass the big cemetery, there is a little Mexican restaurant called “Tacos Santa Cruz”. We ducked in there for some fruit drinks, tacos and tamales.
The Katy Trail continues at its old depot. One of our bikes had a broken shifter cable on the rear derailer. There is a great bike shop “Champion Bicycles” in the depot that set to work on the bike repair as we waited. Unlike my friends, I was “popped” from the ride and my friends were having to repeatedly wait for me. I asked the bike shop about a shuttle service for the next 19 miles to Windsor. The bike shop gave me the number of a lady named Laura who will haul up to 4 bikes and riders for $1/mile/round trip distance. I did that and it cost me $60 with tip.
Windsor is enjoying an increase of business activity because of the junction of the Katy Trail and the new Rock Island spur trail. Its milepost 248 on the Katy. We stayed at “Kim’s Cabins” which are brand new cabins featuring twin queen beds and a pullout coach. The showers have terrific water pressure. However, they don’t have TV’s, but do have a complete kitchen. You can get to Kim’s Cabins off a short access trail that is just south of the junction of the two trails. Kim's gives you access to a locking shed to stow your bikes overnight. – As the advance party, I got some beers at “G&L Package Liquor” southeast of the main intersection in town. – We had a terrific Mexican dinner at “Cinco De Mayo” which is next to G&L Liquor. You can get a beer there, too. Getting home from there is very easy on a bike, you go one block to the northeast to Florence, turn left and coast downhill back to Kim’s Cabins.
Day Three – 60 miles to Lee’s Summit (sort of)
Overnight a thunderstorm poured rain and it was continuing when we woke up. In a break in the rain we walked a few blocks over to a breakfast/lunch diner called the “Sidetrack Café”. (Google Maps still has it under the old owners “Nita’s”.) This place has a great breakfast menu and I recommend it. It was a Sunday at 7:30 AM and the place was full of older gentlemen who were the informal chamber of commerce. We were alien bicyclists and so we had a good time talking to them.
The weather radar had storms continuing to pound the area for the foreseeable future and two of our group needed to catch that train in Lee’s Summit at 4:30 PM. We couldn’t wait it out and it was miserable biking weather with lightening. From Kim’s Cabins, I called back the Sidetrack Café and identified myself as a bicyclist who was just there. I asked the waitress on the phone to ask the group of men in the place if any of them had a pickup truck and would be willing to take all 4 of us to Chilhowee, 20 miles up the Rock Island Spur for $50. We had several takers, but none had a club cab to haul us 4 passengers. The waitress offered that she had a pickup with a club cab and would if we could do it fast enough for her to get back for the church crowd. – So that worked great and turned out to be a terrific strategic move. We ended up getting to the train just one hour before the departure.
The prior posts talk of the trail bed problems just east of Chilhowee and we skipped over that with our truck ride. We also were prepared for no water access until Pleasant Hill in 28 miles. We put water bottles in our luggage and back pockets to supplement the water in the bike bottles. The trail is beautiful and mostly a tunnel of trees. The trail was finished at the very beginning of 2017 and it has low spots and washout areas that are soft spots, but overall we found the trail to be in good shape, especially considering after a heavy rain. We quickly rode out of the rain and into sunny weather. – At the end of the trail, we exited onto a path to the right and it took us to a road. We turned left and then left again onto Hwy 58/First Street that took us ¼ mile into town. The road delivers you to the front door of “Big Creek Café”, which is a great place for a hearty lunch.
Directions to safely get to Amtrak in Lee’s Summit (15 miles – 90 minutes ride):
*From Big Creek Café go NE ½ block across tracks to Broadway.
*Turn left and go ½ block to Cedar – You will then see an entrance to a bike path to your left.
*The path runs for 2.2 miles. – Parts of it have soft silt/sand and puddles that bog your tires, so be careful.
*Path crosses 175th Street and ends at 167th and Smart (gravel road). Go straight ahead north onto Smart and climb the gentle grade.
* In less than ¼ mile, bear right at fork to stay on Smart.
*Smart will zig zag to the left twice over the next mile and half, then it continues straight north and finally becomes a paved road.
*Cross 150 Highway and continue on Smart one mile after crossing 150 Highway.
*Turn left on Browning (paved) at bottom of a hill and go into woods.
*After 2.1 miles turn right on Ronson.
*Continue on Ronson and cross 50 Highway on overpass bike path. Road become Todd George Parkway.
*Get on bike path on east side of road and continue north for about a mile to the light a Langsford.
*Turn left on Langsford and ride in street one mile to Highway 291.
*Continue across Highway 291 and road becomes 2nd street. We got on the protected sidewalk where 2nd bends to left and then re-entered the street in a bike lane after that bend to the left. (The street reduces traffic to a single lane while it goes through that bend to left.)
*After ¾ mile you will see the rail road overpass over 2nd Street. Turn left just before the overpass onto SE Main Street. There is a restaurant/pub there called “The Peanut”. You can change out of your bike clothes in the bathroom and have something to eat and drink as you wait for the 4:30 PM train. The actual train station platform is across the street, but you have to go south ½ block and go around the fence to get to the station platform. It’s on the other side of the caboose. Be ready for the train a few minutes early.