Katy Trail Thoughts and Information
April 25, 2021
I figured I would write up some thoughts and information about the Katy Trail based on our recent bicycle riding trip on the trail in hopes that it will help others looking to ride this beautiful trail.
* What is a realistic distance to do each day?
We had a gentleman stop and ask us this question as he was getting ready to ride from Clinton to St Charles in a few weeks. I would say it depends on what your goal is and how far you usually ride. Our goal for a ride such as this is to enjoy the sights along the way and not kill ourselves physically. Also, my passion is photography and video so I tend to stop and take pictures and video as we ride. We typically ride about 30 miles regularly and will go 40 miles in a day if we are doing a multi-day ride. Our original itinerary was to ride the trail in 6 days and take a rest day in Herman to enjoy the town and wineries.
Day 1 Clinton to Sedelia (40 miles)
Day 2 Sedalia to Boonville (37 miles)
Day 3 Boonville to Jefferson City (55 miles)
Day 4 Jefferson City to Herman (50 miles)
Day 5 Rest Day, Herman (wineries)
Day 6 Herman to Augusta (40 miles)
Day 7 Augusta to St Charles (30 miles, maybe more)
We knew the two 50 mile days would be a stretch and they would have been for us. As it turned out, day 3 was an all day rain day so we decided to only do 18 miles from Boonville to Rocheport as we did not want to sit in the Holiday Inn Express in Boonville all day. We were able to get a room at the Katy Trail Bed and Breakfast and move our hotel reservations in Jefferson City to the next day and cut our stay in Herman to one night. This turned out to be a very wise decision as riding 50+ miles on a very soft trail in a cold and driving rain would have been no fun. It also allowed us to enjoy the beautiful section of the trail between Rocheport and Jefferson City on a sunny clear day.
I would recommend being realistic on your mileage and having some flexibility in your schedule for weather or other issues. The gentleman we talked to was planning on doing it in 4 days which would mean 60 mile days. The only issue I thought he might have is finding a place to stay on day one between Sedalia and Boonville. Also, remember this is a crushed limestone trail and your speed will be reduced from a paved trail.
* What is the trail like?
The Katy trail for most of the trail is crushed limestone and we found it to be in very good condition for most of the trail. Some trail sections are more of a packed rock base that was a bit harder to ride (e.g. northeast of Sedalia heading out of town). Interestingly, the section of the trail between Jefferson City and McKittrick (Herman) seemed to be the least maintained and least traveled. The trail does get soft when it rains and can make for hard going. The section between Windsor and the highest point of the trail was very soft from a lot of rain the day before we rode and just maintaining a 6-7 MPH pace was very hard and grueling. We found the trail recovered from rain quickly and waiting until 10 am the day after a substantial rain was usually enough for the trail to be firm and rolling nicely. Just beware that you will take about a 20% speed reduction on a crushed limestone/rock trail from a paved trail. I would say the Katy is the best maintained crushed limestone trail we have biked on.
* Any detours or bad trail sections?
We had to detour twice on our trip. The first was west of Rocheport and required almost 3 miles of nerve wracking riding on Highway 40. It was raining pretty hard when we did that detour and while almost all the cars were courteous and moved over to give us some room we had one big white pickup truck move closer to us, even though there was no oncoming traffic, and almost hit my wife’s pannier. If Salt Creek is low people say you can wade and push your bike across a cement path. The creek was pretty swollen with the days of rain when we went through. The second detour is west of Portland and requires about 1 mile of riding on Highway 94. I am happy to report we did not even see a car and the detour is flat and has good sightlines. The Highway 40 detour requires you to go across a very narrow bridge and climb a fairly steep incline to start the detour coming from the west. Here are the Ride with GPS routes for the days we did detours.
I cannot remember any really bad trail sections from our ride and the trail was in good condition.
* What are some sights that are worth seeing on or near the trail?
We did not venture too far from the trail except when our lodging was away from the trail. The nice thing about the Katy Trail is that there are many signs and information about history and points of interest to keep you busy. There is so much on the trail to see and learn about. The town of Rocheport is definitely worth a stop and ride through, and a meal. The spur into Jefferson City is quite the ride over the bridge and you get a very nice view of the capitol building. We had to do that anyway as we were spending the night in Jefferson City. I would say a detour into Herman is a must do. Herman is a very quaint and nice town with drinking and eating for every taste. We stayed in Herman and our first stop after a 49 mile ride was the beautiful Hermannhof Winery. The rides into both Jefferson City and Herman are safe and mostly on pavement. We enjoyed the Augusta Winery in Augusta. Our last night on the trail was in Augusta. There is quite a climb up from the trail to the town of Augusta itself.
Many of the town areas are away from the trail so we did not do much looking around. Driving back to Clinton we did see that the towns of Windsor and Calhoun were much bigger than they seemed from the trail.
* Where did you stay?
We stayed in hotels and Bed and Breakfasts during our trip. We like having a comfortable room and bed to enjoy after a day of riding.
Clinton: Hampton Inn. This was a very nice hotel and the staff was very helpful and friendly. They let us park our car there for the week which was nice and reassuring. The hotel is about 2 miles from the trailhead which added to our mileage for the day. We took our bicycles into the room.
Sedalia: Hampton Inn. Newly remodeled, the rooms were very nice. The staff was somewhat helpful, but the breakfast was sparse. The location is a bit from the trail but the roads there are more residential unless you miss a turn and end up on Highway 50 as we did. Drivers were very courteous of us. The location is also a bit from most of the restaurants in town. Took our bicycles into the room.
Boonville: Holiday Inn Express. Good but could use some updating. The staff was very helpful and we were able to do laundry there. I did not really see anything else for lodging that might have been better. The location is devoid of eating places besides Arbys and Wendys so we settled for take out from Arbys and beer from the gas station. Took our bicycles into the room.
Rocheport: Katy Trail Bed and Breakfast. Rocheport is a great little town to stay in and this Bed and Breakfast was wonderful. The owner, Susan, allowed us to check in early when we arrived at 1 looking like wet dogs and also let us use the dryer to dry our clothes. The location is right in town and easy access to dining. They have a very nice bicycle shed with bike racks that we locked our bikes up to.
Jefferson City: Marriott Courtyard. A brand new hotel that is very nice. We ended up with a room that had a view of the capitol building when the TV in our first room did not work (critical as the final round of the Masters was underway). They stored our bikes for us and had them ready at the front desk the next morning for us. We ate at the bistro there on the patio with a view of the capital building. Just beware, there is no free breakfast. The breakfast at the hotel was very good and reasonably priced.
Herman: Herman Crown Suites. A nice big room that was good but not great. Seems like renovation is still ongoing. We enjoyed the basement bar area after dinner out. They have a locking room to store bikes in. Just beware that Herman does not have much open on Mondays and Tuesdays and the places that are open close up pretty early.
Augusta: Red Brick Inn. What a treat, this is a beautiful place to stay. The room was huge and we had the whole inn to ourselves. They stored our bikes in the garage. Breakfast was wonderful and sitting on the back deck drinking some Augusta winery wine was relaxing. Just beware that during the early week Monday-Thursday there is really no place to eat dinner in Augusta. We ended up getting to Augusta a bit before 3 to find out the place we were planning on eating had closed down a week earlier. Luckily, we were able to get some cheese, salami, crackers, and a bottle of white wine at the August winery. That ended up being our late lunch/early dinner for the day.
St Charles: Drury Inn. We love staying at Drury Inns when we travel and this one is 0.8 miles from the Bike Stop Cafe and Katy Trailhead. A very nice place and the Streets of St Charles area next to it was a good place for a trip end dinner. An easy ride or walk from Old St Charles.
* Where did you eat?
Sedalia: Colton's Steak House. Since it was raining and we could see Colton’s across the way from our hotel we decided to have take out. The food was really good and we demolished it after a hard day of riding in the cold rain. When I called in the order, they said I could not order a bottle of wine take-out (or beer). To get around this I went early to pick up the order and went to the bar and ordered a bottle of wine and had the bartender pour me a small glass to enjoy while I waited. The cork was put back in and I took the bottle with me, there is always a way!
Pilot Grove: Katarina's Homestyle Cafe. Good basic fare. The only issue was no beer! I had been dreaming of an egg sandwich as I was riding. They did not have an egg sandwich on the menu but the cook was nice enough to make me one.
Rocheport: We ate at two wonderful places here, the Meriwether Cafe and the Rocheport General Store.
Hartsburg: Hitching Post. Not a lot to choose from here but they had frozen cheese pizza and tap beer so it was good. We ate outside as the inside smelt like a smoker’s paradise. The pizza was pretty good and the beer refreshing. Just glad to find a place open on a Sunday and we only wanted a light lunch and some beer.
Jefferson City: Marriott Courtyard Bistro. Amazing food, small plates on the patio around the fire pit. The breakfast sandwich was really good also. Nice to not have to walk to find a good place to relax and eat.
Herman: Downtown Deli and Custard Shoppe. Really good Ruebens. On a Monday night, your choices are limited in Herman. Google showed that Tin Mill Brewing was open until 7, but when we went there a little after 6 we were informed that the kitchen had closed at 6. The bartender was nice enough to recommend the Deli and said we could come back and get some beer (which was good) and eat on their patio. We found the mask compliance in Herman to nonexistent so eating inside was not an option for us.
Augusta: Augusta Winery: During the week in Augusta the two wineries are the only options. Since we were at the Augusta Winery and the winery that had cooked food (frozen pizza, Mount Pleasant Estates) was more up the hill we opted for salami, cheese, crackers, and a bottle of wine that ended up being an early dinner. Glad we stayed as they had really good wine, their Norton is amazing.
St Charles: Lunch at the Bike Stop Cafe, good food and a pounder can of Fat Tire was a good way to celebrate the finish of our Katy Trail adventure. Dinner was at Prasino St. Charles by our hotel, a nice celebration dinner.
I am sure there are many other good places to eat. Just beware of places in the smaller towns being closed.
* How hard is it to get food and water along the trail?
There are sections of the trail that are pretty remote and it is a good idea to carry a good supply of water and some snacks. We would make a peanut butter bagel or sandwich and take a few pieces of fruit from the breakfast at most of our lodgings. The small towns on the Katy Trail tend to be away from the trail and the depots. I think you could ride into town and find a convenience store in some towns, but it would be a pain. Also, remember that on Monday and Tuesdays many of the small town places are closed.
* What about parking and/or shuttles?
We parked our car at the Clinton Hampton Inn and that worked out very well. To get back to Clinton from St Charles we rented a minivan for $200 from the St Louis Airport and the Uber ride from the Drury Inn to the rental lot was $18 plus tip. We dropped the rental at the Kansas City Airport as we were heading back to Minnesota. From looking at Google Maps it seems you could ride your bike to the rental lot if you so desired. Amtrak seemed like a bit of a hassle and you still had to get from Sedalia to Clinton. There is a shuttle from St Charles to Clinton that would have worked, but with COVID we were not comfortable being in a van with others for 4+ hours. The cost of the shuttle looks like it would be a minimum of $150 for the two of us up to a maximum of $350 depending on how many people besides us were taking the shuttle on a particular day.
Technically you can park at one of the depot parking lots. You need to inform the state park system you are doing it. Most of the parking lots, like Clinton, are away from town and a bit remote which seems like asking for trouble.
* What type of bike is good for the Katy Trail?
First of all, I would say a road bike with narrow wheels would not be good. We have older, metal frame hybrid bikes. Mine is an old (2002) Trek 7200 and Julie’s is a Gary Fisher women’s bike (Gary Fisher was bought by Trek) that is dimensioned like a men’s bike and rides more comfortably for her as she is 5’ 10”. Our bikes worked well and felt sturdy with the extra load of our gear. A few days before we left I switched our tires from the 28mm Kenda tires we use to 35mm Michelin Protek Max tires. This proved to be a good decision and I think we would have had problems with the narrower tires. I had read and heard many people talk about getting flats on the Katy Trail so that is why I got the Max tires, and we also always use Sunlite thorn resistant tubes. No problems for us with flats. We run with 80 PSI in the tires.
From what I could see, the bike of choice seems to be a gravel bike which makes sense. Having never ridden one and I am not sure how they would do with a rack and load on them. I could see that a mountain bike with more of a road tire on it might be a good choice. On our first day when the trail was soft I was wishing I had my fat tire bike. A fat tire would be overkill, but I could see one working if you had road tires that were pumped up in pressure.
We also have fenders on our bikes by planet bike, they are plastic and lightweight. It is nice to have fenders on a trail like the Katy to keep from getting covered in dirt and mud especially when it is raining. The only issue was having rocks ride up on the tire and make a racket when stuck between the tire and fender. It certainly got your attention and woke you up!
* What planning resources did you use?
Were useful, the bikekatytrail very much so.
The Facebook group “KATY Trail Rider Group” was very useful.
Other than that, we watched YouTube videos of others riding the Katy Trail. Interestingly, these videos did not capture the incredible beauty of the trail. Not sure why, but I am hoping my videos are able to capture the beauty we saw.
I also rely heavily on Ride with GPS for preroute planning and Google Maps with Satellite data to check our roads and towns. It is nice to walk your planned path with the street view feature, especially for bigger cities.
* When is a good time to bike the Katy?
Being from Minnesota we like to find places we can kick off our biking season early and enjoy some warmer weather. Our April trip (9-14) turned out to be a good window. We had two days of rain and low 50 temperatures but the other days were sunny beautiful days in the high 60s to low 70s. Interestingly, the week after we rode the weather was considerably colder and they had snow along the Katy. For flowers and trees, we were a bit early but we were still treated to flowers and very green grass. The nice thing was that the brush had not filled in with leaves so we were able to see much more than you would in the summer. I would think early May would be a good target if you wanted a good spring experience. Summer was not an option as we both do not enjoy biking in hot, humid weather. I could imagine fall is a nice time, but it seems to be a popular time on the trail. No matter when you go, you will most likely have some rain so be prepared.
* What gear did you take? (https://youtu.be/-uotaz5kzwA)
Eddie Bauer Rainfoil Jacket (truly waterproof but a bit bulky, amber color is bright for riding)
Waterproof Helmet Cover (great for riding in the rain)
Giro Register MIPS Helmet (comfortable and fit my big head)
Carhartt Carbondale Safety Sunglasses (comfortable and also fit my big head)
Cheap Neck Balaclava (for ears and head in cold weather, Julie as a Marmot one)
Grease Monkey Automotive Work Gloves (for riding in the rain, keeps your fingers warm)
HTZPLOO Bike Gloves (my goto gloves)
Eddie Bauer Guide Pro Shorts (2x best cycling shorts ever! Even repel the rain to a point)
Pearl Izumi Elite Thermal Leg Warmer (nice for keeping your legs warm and rain resistant)
Souke Sports Men's Cycling Liner Shorts (2x best I have found so far)
jeansian Quick Dry Short Sleeves Polo (2x nice looking for going out and good for biking)
Vapor Apparel Sun Protection Long Sleeve (good shirts for cool/warm day riding)
Amazon Essentials Performance Tech Long-Sleeve (good underlayer)
SOLAX Men's Coolmax Cotton Sock (3x nice, thick, fairly quick dry)
Eddie Bauer Guide Pro Pants (for going out after riding, but can ride in them if needed)
Banjo Brothers Waterproof Pannier (3x, thought I had 4 but only found 3, truly waterproof if you do not over pack and roll the top when closing. A bit small maybe but that helps to keep you from overpacking)
Banjo Brothers Rack Top Bag (Our regular biking bags, not totally waterproof)
8x10 and 10x12 blue plastic tarps (more for protecting the rental when transporting our bikes, we ended up putting them on top of our rack bags to shed the rain)
10L Waterproof Dry Bag (Last minute add to attach to my handlebar, worked well although I will search for a true handlebar bag)
Bondi Headband (to catch the sweat, can also be used to keep ears warm)
Rhinowalk Bike Handlebar Bag (nice but not totally waterproof even with cover)
Teva Forebay Sandals (for biking in the rain, worked much better than getting your shoes wet. I wore socks with them to help keep my feet warm)
Waterproof Reusable Shoe Cover (wore over our sandals, worked out pretty well and kept our feet warm. A bit slippery)
Skechers Men's Bounder Oxford (slip on and comfortable for biking with regular pedals)
Toiletry kit and first aid kit.
11 inch Chromebook computer (old acer)
GoPro HERO 2018 and Osmo Action cameras, Lumix ZS60 camera, cell phones (I carry two. An older one that is used for GPS tracking (Ride with GPS) and as a potential backup)
Zip lock bags for waterproofing personal items and electronics.
Rope and bungee cords of course!
Looking at the list it is hard to believe it all fit, but it did. I could have gotten away with a couple of less shirts and maybe only one set of padded liners and shorts since we were able to do laundry along the way.
* What bike accessories and tools? (https://youtu.be/-uotaz5kzwA)
Ibera Bike Rack (nice heavier duty racks)
Mirrycle MTB Bar End Mountain Bicycle Mirror (a must for safety)
Cygolite Streak– 450 Lumen Bike Light (again a must for safety, super bright)
Handheld tire pump
Crankbrothers Mini Bike Tool (2x I have one and Julie has one in our rack bags)
Generic leatherman tool and another older bike tool
XLC Freewheel Cog Remover Tool (brought in case of a broken rear spoke)
Park Tool FR-1 Freewheel Remover (ditto, a friend who had done the trail mentioned the lack of bike repair resources on the trail)
2 - 14G spokes and 2 x 16G spokes (our back wheels have heavier duty 14 G spokes)
Finish Line 1-Step Bicycle Chain Cleaner and Lubricant (came in useful after riding in the rain)
SRAM PC 830 P-Link Bicycle Chain (I always carry an extra chain in my bike bag)
KMC Missing Link Bicycle Chain Link (2x for fixing chains)
Generic tubes (2x we each carry a spare tube in our rack bags)
Michelin Protek Max tires (4x best decision was to switch tires)
Sunlite Thorn Resistant Bicycle Tube (4x since running these tubes 5-6 years ago, no flats)
An old extra tire (did a figure 8 and cable tied the tire and put if on top of my rack bag)
I did not bring my crank puller and bottom bracket tools at the last minute and I should have as Julie’s bike started to clank halfway through the trip. Not a performance issue but just annoying for her.
My tendency is to bring quite a bit in case of emergency and given the remoteness of the Katy Trail I do think it best to be prepared. Of course, if you don’t know how to work on a bike the tools are a bit worthless.
Copyright 2021, Richard J. Moore
Keywords: Katy Trail Information, Katy Bike Trail, Missouri
description: Some thoughts and information about the Katy Bike Trail based on our 7 day ride of the Katy in 2021