Mountain biking is the holy grail of cyclers. The one thing everyone who has ever ridden a bicycle aspires to do. If you are a seasoned mountain biker or just hoping to start your journey and are in or around Missouri or planning to visit, here is a rundown of the best places to visit.
Located in the heart of Midwest USA, Missouri has 114 counties, and the big municipality is St. Louis. Missouri happens to be the 18th most populous state in the country and the 21st largest in landmass. The majority of the population dwells in St. Louis, Springfield, Columbus, Kansas City, and the capital Jefferson City.
Landlocked, the state is bordered by 8 other states. For the mountain biker, Missouri represents rolling hills, undulating plains, and scenic riverside rides by the Mississippi, Meramec, and Missouri rivers. The Ozark Mountain area contains some of the most grueling rides.
Missouri is a great place for mountain biking. Nicknamed the “show me state,” Missouri has got loads of opportunities for outdoor freaks to stretch their feet. The range of mountain biking trails on display here is simply mind-blowing. So come on a ride, let’s show you the best ten mountain biking trails in the “show me state”.
1. Katy Trail State Park
Taking its pride of place in this list, Katy State Trail is officially the longest Rail to Trail conversion in the whole of the United States of America. This rail-trail is top of the list for obvious reasons. Popular among hikers, nature lovers, hikers, and those merely looking to take a walk, the state park is heavily trafficked all year round. It also serves a good dose of history.
Carved out on the old passage of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad, also known as MKT or simply Katy, this trail starts from Clinton to Machens and has an astonishing length of 240 miles, with over 20 trailheads. As wide as a one-lane highway, the route is extremely flat, and the gravel-paved trail is so straightforward for riding within minutes with your eyes closed without bumping into anything. In 2008, it was added to the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy Hall of Fame.
Katy Trails not only delivers on the fitness front, but the scenery here also reflects the colorful history of Missouri. The path passes through the rural towns that were the mainstay of the former railroad passage. The trails follow the Missouri river for most of the ride. Alternatively, you can take short rides. It can only be as long as you make it. Perfect for bikers of all levels, the trail should be at the top of your to-do list while in Missouri.
2. Two Rivers Bike Park
Situated in Highlandville, Missouri, the Two Rivers Bike Park has continuously attracted bikers from all over the country and every part of the globe. It occupies a 400-acre expanse of land that borders both the Finley River and the James River.
This park was purpose-built with bikers in mind. Every kind of biker would find something just right for them. The park has 15 miles of trails comprising a single track and a thrilling downhill that strong beginners and intermediate riders would find challenging. There is a skills area to showcase your technique, two different slope styles for beginners and intermediate bikers, and more trails are being added.
The trails here contain rugged terrains and natural surfaces. Rock formations, drop sections, and jumps are some of the features you can expect to get here.
There is a 1.5-mile trail that is tailor-made for beginners and families. A 5-mile trail is available for intermediate bikers, and finally, the pick of the bunch, a 7-mile trail filled with technical spots that accomplished riders should only attempt, grace the park.
3. Sac River Mountain Trails
Sitting on a 300-acre park, another trail designed by mountain bikers for mountain biking on this list is the Sac River Mountain Trail. The trail is over 10 miles long and occupies a relatively compacted area compared to the others on this list. It makes for a short, exciting ride and is designated as a trail for intermediate bikers.
The terrain is rocky with dirt single-track, and there are a few climbs, but overall, it is not too difficult. The trail is prone to get muddy during rainfall or snow, so if you happen to visit during any of these periods, be prepared to get your feet wet. The trail passes through wooded areas and is also used by runners and hikers. Some of the most interesting places to see in this park are the Sac River, located on the west side, the small picnic pavilion, and two ancient cemeteries.
With the tight and curvy trails, the rolling hills banked turns, and numerous jumps, the trail provides an interesting challenge for bikers of all skill statuses.
4. Chadwick Trail
The Chadwick Trail is located in Mark Twain National Forest. Boasting over 100 miles of trails, getting lost here is a real possibility. The trail is shared by dirt bikes, ATVs and motorcycles, so you might have to watch out and apply caution while riding.
This trail is not suitable for beginners, and even many intermediate riders would find it daunting. The routes are advanced-level, with large boulders, roots, and jumps littering almost every part of the trail. There are trails as lean as 1 foot and full-fledged jeep trails. The most interesting route, Trail 108, should be ridden at all costs. One mile of exhilarating downhill that will keep your lungs filled with air and your heart pumping like never before. Ensure to not ride this trail alone, for obvious reasons. A high-quality mountain bike with suspension would come in handy here as the trails can spring up surprises. Chadwick would be an excellent place to test your skills if you are an advanced rider.
5. Berryman Trail
Situated in the sleepy town of Steelville, Missouri, near Potosi, the Berryman Trail is a very well-known course, in fact, one of the most popular in Missouri. Just a three-hour drive southwest of St. Louis (Missouri’s Largest City), Berryman Trail is part of the Mark Twain National Forest situated in the area now known as Ozark Mountains.
The trail is purely singletrack and ranks among Missouri’s best for its unique scenery and challenging terrain. The trail subtly meanders through a section of the Mark Twain Forest and proves tricky. There are lots of challenging spots on the route, as the rocky hills and wooded creeks. An interesting catch is a cave that has been alleged to be the hideout of the infamous outlaw Jesse James and his gang. The trail combines very thin and demanding downhills with rocky ridgetops. Rock gardens, the curvy, narrow single track is also thrown into the mix for good measure.
Named the ‘Best singletrack East of the Rockies and West of the Appalachians’ by Bicycling Magazine and listed among the country’s best rides, Berryman Trail lives up to the hype. With fantastic view, rocky hills, energy-sapping descents, and a lengthy ride, what more could a mountain biker wish for?
6. Lakeview Trail
Located in Stockton State Park, the Lakeview Trail is a mountain biking and hiking trail that flows side by side with Stockton Lake. Some traits of the trail are the woodland and beach views. Lakeview Trail is essentially a dirt trail loop that encompasses the Stockton State Park Peninsula. The terrain is mostly flat and appropriately marked with orange flares.
Other trails litter this park, but Lakeview trail stands heads and shoulders above the rest. Not only is it the longest trail, with an 8-mile length, it is also a favorite of mountain bikers and hikers alike. It can be covered as one trail, or if you are seeking shorter distances, it is possible to ride it as two different loops.
Winter would be the best time to visit this trail, as along with the beautiful views of the lake it offers, there is an opportunity for bald eagle viewing
7. Castlewood State Park
St. Louis is the largest city in Missouri, and within it, you can find the best trails in the state. Castlewood Park is at the top of the pecking order for mountain biking rides in St. Louis. There are a total of 17 miles of uneven and forested trails.
This rich woodland park located in the Meramec River Valley has some of the most picturesque views on this list. The trails differ in length, terrain, and difficulty. There are straight and polished trails suitable for beginners and technical climbs that even advanced riders sometimes find hard to tackle. When you experience Castlewood Park, you may be forgiven for forgetting that you are still in the neighborhood of St. Louis.
The Rollercoaster Trail is accurately named as it provides a roller coaster of a ride. The 4-mile long Grotpeter Trail is the most frequented here and is suitable for intermediate riders. Advanced bikers can check out the Cardiac Hill Trail for an infamously tricky and steep climb. The River Scene Trail is an easy-going trail that has wonderful viewpoints from high bluffs and almost touches the Meramec River. Up next is the Cedar Bluff. It is a short ride, only 2.5 miles long, but one that would leave you gasping for breath. This trial is a workout session all by itself. When you are not dodging rocks and roots, you will be navigating incredible drops.
It has something for everyone. The trail is almost always busy, especially during weekends, so come prepared.
8. Sunbridge Hills Conservation Area
The Sunbridge Hills Conservation Area, located in northwest Missouri, is a beautiful place to bike, especially in the fall. The colors here are something to behold when the oaks and maples begin to turn. Whisper it quietly; this location is alleged to have a bizarre past.
These stories should not stop you from coming to appreciate the work that nature has put in this area. The route is gentle, with trails that will make the newbie grin from ear to ear. A majestic picture of the Missouri River also awaits you.
If your tires are not afraid of stroking the pavement, a handful of equally enthralling rides abound in this area. Krug Park is just two miles away with 7 miles of blissful trails. Another two miles further and the Girl Scout and Brownie trails are all yours with 6 more miles of trails. Just a short ride on gravel takes you to the easy Corby Combo trails. If that does not satisfy your craving, you can bike the five or so miles back to the parking lot.
SunBridge Hills Conservation Area has got it all from long rides, eerie stories, beautiful scenery, and the lot. Riders of all levels will enjoy the natural ambiance that is the trademark of this trail.
9. Riverfront Trail
The Riverfront Trail is easily accessible and stuck between Chouteau and the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge. The trail is aptly named Riverfront as it begins from downtown St. Louis to the Riverfront and stops at the Route 66 Bridge.
A part of the Mississippi, this trail is paved and smooth, and it provides minimal shade. The trail runs alongside the Mississippi River and courses through both sides of the protective St. Louis flood wall. The 15-mile long trail can be ridden as one long loop divided into shorter sections. Suitable for families and beginners, the trail gives a good view of the Mississippi River.
While riding this trail, it is advisable to be alert and keep a lookout for vehicles as parts of the trail are designated levee roads, where approved vehicles can drive.
10. Swope State Park
Located within one of Missouri’s big cities, Kansas, Swope State Park provides a unique challenge to the seasoned biker. Rated as a black diamond trail, this excellently built trail system courses through rocky and wooded environs. The trails are difficult in a good way.
Advanced bikers can be found here in drives trying to outdo themselves and working towards competitions or simply keeping fit. The park would question your dexterity and bike handling prowess irrespective of your skill level. The terrain is mostly natural, with extremely steep hills that would surely leave your quads taut and test your resilience. The reward for steep climbs like every biker knows is flowing descents. Swope Park Trail does not lack in that department either. Throughout this course, expect to dodge and jump many obstacles as jutting rocks, jumps, human-made obstacles, and rock gardens litter the trail.
In keeping with the tradition of Missouri’s trails, gorgeous forest scenes can also be found here. It would be best if you went in late spring or early summer to experience a plethora of colors.
Whether you are seeking an adventure-filled weekend, a comfortable ride along the river, or the nerve-wracking and adrenaline-pumping kind of ride, or you are simply exploring trails, Missouri’s varied biking trails have got you covered. Bikers of all skill levels would discover a unique collection of trails, ranging from woodlands to trails purpose-built for the mountain bike. Whatever your reasons are, get your helmets ready and bike away.