The Katy Trail got its start in the late 1800s as the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad (MKT). The nickname “Katy” comes from the phonetic pronunciation of “K-T” in the railroad’s abbreviated name. The names of passenger trains traveling the Katy included “Katy Flyer” and “Bluebonnet.”
By 1970, “The Katy” was comprised of 3765 miles of track. Fortunately for us, Missouri’s Katy Trail, the longest Rails to Trails system in the USA, measures a mere 237 miles of crushed, compacted limestone--basically a smooth gravel road.
The western end of the Katy Trail currently begins in Clinton and ends in Machens, Missouri. The trail generally runs through mid-Missouri passing by farmland, Amish country, and prairie lands.
So, you want to plan a trip on the Katy Trail? We're here to help you think through all of the details. Read below for the three most important first steps in planning your adventure.
Decide When to Ride the Katy
The best season for a tour of the Katy Trail is any time the temperatures are within your comfort zone or cooler. Our favorite season is fall, specifically September and October because of the mild temperatures, fall colors, and many festivals happening along the route.
You can absolutely plan a trip during other seasons, though each presents its own challenge. Summer weather can be miserably hot, the Missouri River valley occasionally floods in early spring causing detours, and winter rides require more planning and clothing appropriate for the colder temperatures.
Figure out how far you can ride (hint: it may be fewer miles than you think)
When planning a trip, one of the first things to think about is how far you can ride each day. Most riders average about 10 miles per hour on the trail. If you’re a strong cyclist who is able to ride 50 to 100 paved miles per day on your road bike, we recommend cutting those numbers in half for the Katy since the unpaved surface requires more effort than a smooth road. For most folks, 30 to 50 miles for the day is plenty of pedaling on the Katy.
Plan what to see and do and (most importantly) where to stay
Traveling east toward Historic St. Charles, riders enter the scenic Missouri River Valley country near Booneville. River and bluff views, wine country, and some of the best historic towns can all be found east of Booneville.
It’s not just about the ride on the Katy. Make sure to allow yourself time to explore all the beautiful and interesting towns along the way. Everything from historic tours, wineries, breweries, restaurants, shopping, mountain biking, kayaking, scenic overviews, and even a couple casinos and nightlife can be found on a Katy Tour.
Be sure to check out these towns:
We recommend the following resources for planning your trip:
Keep an eye on our website or email newsletter for more tips on planning for the Katy Trail. Remember that we're here year-round to help you with trip planning, gear selection, outfitting, and more. We love to talk about the Katy Trail, so stop in anytime to chat.