Cycling Missouri's Historic Katy Trail

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 14185A, Bicycle


  • Cycle America's longest Rails-to-Trails pathway
  • Enjoy a winery tour & the opportunity to savor some of the Midwest’s best wine
  • Take a guided van tour to Arrow Rock State Historic Site


  • Many premier B&Bs / all lodging
  • All shuttles
  • Local guides & historians


DatesMay 11–17, 2014
StaffDonna Kurtz

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Trip Overview

The Trip

Following the path of Lewis and Clark and accompanied by talented local historians and interpreters, our cycling trip on the Katy Trail will be a passageway into the history and scenery of Central Missouri. We'll parallel the Missouri River on our bicycles, pedaling beneath towering bluffs, through backwoods, and across the gently rolling farmland of the countryside. Moderate cycling distances will provide ample time for the exploration and interpretation of local history, culture, and ecology. We will also spend a day on a guided van side-trip to the Arrow Rock State Historic Site, where we will see art work of famous early American artists and learn about Daniel Boone and his nearby family settlement. We'll enjoy local restaurants and wineries, and stay nightly in comfortable motels and bed & breakfasts, some with exceptional history.

The Katy Trail is the longest completed Rails-to-Trails project in the country. It is built on the former rail bed of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad, better known as the Katy, which ceased operating in 1986. The National Trail Systems Act provided the State of Missouri with the legal basis to acquire the right-of-way along the corridor and utilize it as a recreational trail system. Now, the Katy is a unique hiking and cycling trail nestled in rural seclusion, extending for 225 miles across the heart of Missouri. It is operated as a unit of the Missouri State Park System.


We'll meet as a group at 6 a.m. on day one at the Katy Trail depot and parking lot in St. Charles, Missouri. After loading up our gear, we will proceed by van to Clinton, Missouri, the current western terminus of the Katy Trail. A local tour company will provide our shuttle service. Conveniently, our outing will finish at the same place it began, in the afternoon on our last day.

Day 1: The group will meet in St. Charles, Missouri. After loading up our gear, we will proceed at 6:30 a.m. by van for the four-hour excursion to Clinton, Missouri. This is the western terminus of the Katy Trail. There will be a comprehensive trip orientation in the van while en route. When we arrive in Clinton, we will tour the wonderful Henry County Historical Center. We will eat lunch at the center before riding 38 miles northeast toward Sedalia. This portion of the trail follows the oldest section of the M.K.T. (Missouri.Kansas.Texas) rail bed. Unlike the majority of the Katy -- which hugs the Missouri River -- this is a hillier, more secluded, and wooded portion of the trail. The group will tour the refurbished Katy depot and museum in Sedalia before lodging at an historic hotel in downtown Sedalia.

Day 2: After breakfast, the group will continue 38 miles northeast across the rolling Osage prairie, toward a rendezvous with the mighty river at Boonville. Our interpreter, Florence "Winky" Friedrichs, will meet us midway in the tiny hamlet of Pleasant Green. We'll spend the remainder of the afternoon touring historic Boonville and its many pre-Civil War buildings and structures. The group will then cycle across the Missouri River to the National Landmark Rivercene Bed and Breakfast. After a relaxing break on the porch of the old mansion, we will walk back to Boonville for dinner.

Day 3: After breakfast, and a tour of the Rivercene Mansion, we will leave Rivercene and proceed toward the town of Rocheport (at 17 miles, it's the shortest ride on our itinerary). Along the way, we will stop at the site of the famous riverside community of Franklin, the eastern terminus of the Santa Fe Trail. Passage through a 243-foot-long railroad tunnel will bring us into Rocheport. Brett Dufur, the author of The Katy Trail Guidebook, will join us and explain history and landscapes along the trail. After lunch, we will take a van to the nearby historic town of Arrow Rock (named by The National Trust for Historic Preservation as one of its 12 distinctive destinations for 2006). A guide from the Friends of Arrow Rock will accompany our group on a tour of the town's attractions and lead a discussion on its many prominent citizens. After our side trip, our van will take us to the Les Bourgeois winery, located on the bluffs overlooking the Mighty Missouri, to enjoy wine and cheese while we watch the sun drop over the river. Following a private dinner at the Rocheport General Store, the group will stay at Katy Trail Bed & Bikefest.

Day 4: We'll continue our journey, heading 37 miles downriver toward the state capital in Jefferson City. This section of trail is memorable for the towering sandstone bluffs, long sacred to local tribes, which stand as sentinels all along the trail. We will enjoy lunch in Hartsburg before crossing the river into Jefferson City. A tour of the state capital is highlighted by viewing the renowned Thomas Hart Benton capital murals. At our downtown hotel, Ken Midkiff of the Sierra Club will make a brief presentation and answer questions concerning the region's conservation issues.

Day 5: Today we'll cycle 45 miles downriver through dense woods that support rich bird and wildlife populations. Our destination, the historic city of Hermann, is the centerpiece of the mid-state German immigrant heritage and its vineyard region. We will visit the Deutschheim State Historic Site and tour the celebrated Stonehill Winery. In the evening, we will dine at the winery and stay at an intimate local bed & breakfast.

Day 6: We will enjoy some free time to stroll the expansive historic district near our lodging. We will also visit the Hermann Old Schoolhouse Museum before re-crossing the river and continuing on to the scenic town of Augusta, founded in 1836 by followers of Daniel Boone. Anita Malinkrodt, a popular town historian and noted author, will be our guide. We will visit the Augusta Historical Society before dinner at favorite local restaurant in town and enjoy the sumptuous hospitality a local bed and breakfast.

Day 7: We'll spend some time enjoying a walk through time in Augusta with Anita Malinkrodt before hitting the trail one last time together. It's only 25 miles to the end of the Katy Trail in St. Charles. We should arrive there in mid-afternoon.



Getting There

The starting and ending point for this outing is the Katy Trail depot in St. Charles, on the outskirts of St. Louis, Missouri. Vehicle parking is free and unrestricted. Lambert International Airport in St. Louis is located only a few miles by interstate from the starting point. All airlines will ship properly boxed bicycles, although there is often a fee for this service. St. Louis is also a busy rail hub with extensive daily regional and transcontinental service provided by Amtrak. Most trains allow assembled or boxed bicycles to be carried aboard for a fee.

The leader will furnish roster information so participants may contact each other. Detailed departure bulletins -- including directions to the starting point -- will also be sent prior to meeting in Missouri. Ultimately, it is the sole responsibility of each participant to arrive at the starting point at the specified time.

Accommodations and Food

We will all be sharing the accommodations at bed and breakfasts. The configuration of space, rooms, and beds at these rural lodges is highly variable, and since the make-up of the group is unpredictable, we may have to be flexible! Leader approval may be subject to accommodation restrictions. Breakfasts will be provided every morning by our hosts. Lunches, tours, and some dinners are included in the trip price. Most dinners and beverages are the responsibility of each participant, and there is an expectation that participants eat together during all meals.

Trip Difficulty

Most cyclists will find the difficulty of this outing to be moderate. The longest day will be 45 miles. The Katy Trail is clearly marked and has a durable, finely crushed limestone surface. The trail is not hilly, as the grade seldom exceeds five percent. Although the vast majority of our travel is off-road on the Katy Trail, on occasion we have to negotiate short sections on rural highways and city streets.

This is a self-contained tour. There will be no support vehicle. However, there are local shuttle services that specialize in picking up injured or stranded cyclists. Participants will need to carry only their clothing and personal items along with them on their bicycles.

Those who apply for this outing should be self-confident in their abilities. A regular fitness program is recommended for all participants. The minimum age for trip acceptance is 16.

Equipment and Clothing

Participants will need a bicycle and bike packs (panniers) to carry their gear on the Katy Trail. Bicycles must be mechanically sound and in very reliable condition. Rental bikes can be arranged at a moderate price and will be delivered to the trailhead. Boxed bicycles can also be shipped via U.P.S. to the starting point, or transported by participants (see "Getting There," above). Bulletins explaining all equipment requirements will be sent to registered participants.



  • Dufur, Brett, The Complete Katy Trail Guidebook.
  • Beatte, Brian, and Brett Dufur, The River Companion: A Nature Guide.



The Missouri River has been repeatedly named as "America's Most Threatened River" by the Organization of American Rivers. Pollution, dam operations, channelization for barge traffic, and disputes over seasonal rises are just a few of the problems the river faces. Currently, the Army Corps of Engineers is working on a plan for an ill-advised levee across the river from Jefferson City. On a positive note, there are active plans to purchase the remainder of the rail bed to complete the Katy Trail all the way to Kansas City.

In 2014 America celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. The Sierra Club, various other organizations with a wilderness focus, and the four federal wilderness management agencies are vigorously planning this celebration. The goal of the effort is to assure that a broader public knows about the concept and benefits of wilderness. Sierra Club Outings is a vital part of the celebrations for wilderness.
While the Act was far in the future when our outings program started, we were already promoting the principle behind it: to forever set aside from human developments certain special places, by civic agreement. This is the basic principle on which the Sierra Club was founded. The wilderness anniversary gives us an opportunity to highlight our organization’s leading role—in publicizing this principle, in passing the 1964 Act, and in achieving more designated wilderness since then.



Donna Kurtz takes advantage of every opportunity for outdoor pursuits with her husband, fellow Sierra Club leader Paul Minkus. Although Donna's career in business development and as an elected public official keeps her busy, she still finds time to bike, run, swim, hike, and cross-country ski as much as possible. Donna is certified in wilderness first aid and in her 11th year of outing leadership. Donna has been an assistant leader on eight previous National Outing bicycle tours.

Assistant Leader:

Melinda Goodwater has been leading trips for Sierra Club Outings for over 20 years and has over 100 outings under her belt. She quit her full-time job when it got in the way of her trips and has been leading adventures ever since. She leads treks from Nepal to the Rockies and Sierra to the desert southwest. Melinda is a very amateur naturalist and particularly enjoys finding unique places off the beaten track. Along with years of experience leading remote and high-elevation outings, Melinda has training in CPR and is a wilderness first responder with 80 hours of first aid training. She welcomes you to join her and share her love of the wilderness.

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