We did it!
We cycled the Katy Trail from Clinton, Missouri to St. Charles, Missouri. Six days, 255 miles, and a great way to celebrate feeling 60 years young!
Why the Katy Trail?
For my 60th birthday I wanted to challenge myself to do something big, something I’d never done before, something fun and exciting. Since we were doing more and more cycling, I thought it would be fun to complete a cycling challenge.
That challenge presented itself in the Katy Trail. I’d never cycled more that 30 miles in a single day so cycling up to 60 miles a day for 6 days in a row would be an enormous undertaking. After sharing my idea with Carl, it was decided we would celebrate my turning 60 by cycling the Katy Trail from end to end!
The plan was to ride the 237 miles in 6 days, staying at B&B’s along the way. Since cycling this many miles was something we’d never done, I relied on the input from others to plan our trip. I picked our daily start and stop points based on miles between towns and availability of food and lodging (not all towns along the Katy Trail offer lodging or restaurants near the trail).
For more information on our preparations for the Katy Trail, check out our first post, Riding the Katy Trail – at 60!
To keep organized for the trip, I bought a travel journal and divided it up into sections to record information we would need for the trip. This was probably one of the most important things we took on this trip. It made for an easy and quick way for us to keep up with what we needed to know for each day of the trip. The sections of the journal included:
- Packing list (which included everything we needed to pack; from food, to clothes, to incidentals).
- “Need to buy” list (for items we would need to buy for the trip).
- Daily schedule (including start and stop locations, mileage for the day, and a list of towns we would pass through along the way).
- Lodging information (the name, address, and phone number of where we were staying each night).
- Needs and stops (lists of where we’d find groceries, wineries, water, restrooms, and shuttles)
- Notables (interesting things we’d encounter along the trail as well as information gained from Brett Dufur’s book on when we’d encounter stretches without services, water, or restrooms).
- Day-by-Day (a daily summary of our lodging reservations, locations for food, water, restrooms and bike shops, and sights to see on each day.
- Lodging Reservations (I taped a copy of reservations for our lodging reservations on a separate page for each night – although I never had to use them when checking in).
- Daily Journaling (I reserved the back section of the journal for a daily journal to record our thoughts and happenings of the day).
The Adventure Begins
We drove to Missouri in Happy which gave us plenty of room for our bikes and all our supplies. It also allowed us to take our time as we could stop whenever we were ready. It took us 3 days to get to Missouri as we chose to follow a more scenic route rather than follow the interstate.
We made it to Clinton on Sunday afternoon. Since we weren’t going to start on the trail until Tuesday, that gave us Monday to stretch our legs and explore Clinton.
Luckily, the Clinton Community Center provides free parking for anyone riding the Katy so we were able to park (and camp) in the parking lot.
If our story inspires you to cycle the Katy Trail yourself, be sure to visit the Primitive Olde Crow and Winery in Clinton before (or after) the ride. They make awesome made-to-order brick oven pizza.
- Type of Bike: Not knowing how smooth the trail was, we took our cross-country bikes to ride on the trail. If we do the trail again, we will probably invest in gravel bikes as they seemed perfect for the trail (not counting the 2 miles of sand) and folks riding gravel bikes were able to travel at a much faster pace (i.e. they flew past us!)
- Lodging location: When I made reservations, 3 miles from the trail didn’t sound too far to go for lodging. BUT, after riding 37 miles, 3 additional miles added to our fatigue. Next time, I would definitely try to get lodging as close to the trail as possible. (In addition to adding 3 additional miles to our day, the hotel we stayed at required us to ride through the town on a extremely busy road with a very small bike lane – It took the “zen” we had from the ride.
- Type of lodging: I let the perceived cost of staying at a historic hotel in Sedalia sway me away from making reservations there. Next time, we would absolutely stay at the Hotel Bothwell. Not only is it a beautiful historic hotel, but it was located just blocks from the Katy Trail and within the Sedalia Historic District and the rates are quite reasonable.
- Time of year: October was a great time of the year to ride the trail. Although the leaves had not started to change when we rode, the temperatures were perfect (not freezing cold and not too hot). Most days we started in light-weight jackets that we were able to take off after a few hours of riding.
Day 1 – Clinton to Sedalia
It’s 37.5 miles from Clinton to Sedalia. We ended up riding an additional 3 miles to our hotel. It took us 6 hours from the start of the trail to our hotel (noting that we weren’t rushing and stopped quite often to take photos).
Although Monday was overcast and rainy, we were greeted with a beautiful sunny morning for our first day on the trail. This section of the trail was one of our favorite parts. For most of the trail, we were under a canopy of trees. With the exception of about 2 miles of deep sand, the trail was a smooth surface and easy to ride.
Not all towns have depots so there can be considerable miles between them. We took advantage of every depot to take a break, refill our water (if possible), and fuel up with a snack.
TIP: Not all depots have water or restrooms. It’s advisable to note in your travel journal which ones do.
The Highest Point on the Katy Trail
The highest point of the Katy Trail (at 955 ft elevation) was a welcome stop as it was immediately prior to this point that we cycled through 2 miles of deep sand.
Sedalia has the largest depot on the trail (although St. Charles is also quite large). Definitely worth taking the time to stop and see.
Day 2 – Sedalia to Rocheport
It is 49 miles from Sedalia to Rocheport. We ended up riding 62 miles due to a mishap and detour. It took us 10 hours (due to a storm, the mishap, and the detour).
Our longest, hardest day on the trail
If any day was going to break me, it would have been the this day. It was the longest and most challenging day of the entire week. Mind you, it wasn’t supposed to be the longest and most challenging. And despite the forecast calling for rain, it was still supposed to be 49 miles of beautiful scenery and smooth riding….at least that was the plan.
An Early Start
Since we had to ride 3 miles through town to get back to the trail, we decided to start at first light. We waited patiently for just enough light to shine over the horizon that we weren’t starting in total darkness. Luckily, Carl found a less traveled route to take that would keep us off the busy 4 lane road that we had cycled in on. We met up with the Katy Trail at the Sedalia Depot (something we had missed the day before due to having to take Broadway to our hotel).
Although it was overcast, it wasn’t raining. The ride to the trail had gone smoothly AND we were on the trail early (which, we thought, meant we would arrive early in Rocheport). Again, that was the plan.
We were making great time….until The Mishap
The Katy Trail winds it’s way through a residential part of Sedalia and they have these awesome Katy Trail signs showing the way. I thought it would be great to get a photo of Carl by one of these signs so (while on the move), I took my phone out of the holder that is attached to my bike a snapped a photo. I put my phone back in the case and zipped it up…… or at least I THOUGHT I zipped it up all the way.
About 2 miles down the trail, I decided to take another photo when I discovered that my phone was gone. After making sure I didn’t put it in my handlebar pack, we turned around and headed back towards town.
Around 10 minutes later, we found it on the opposite side of the road from where I had taken the photo! So, note to self…. no more photos on the move and I moved the zippers from the bottom of the holder to the top!
We were back on the trail and enjoying the beautiful overcast morning. All was going smoothly when we pulled into the Clifton City Depot for a rest and a snack. We weren’t there 2 minutes when a storm, complete with thunder, lightning, and heavy rain hit.
The 20 minutes we lost going back and looking for my phone seemed lucky now. Had we been 20 minutes further up the trail, we would have been caught out in the open with nowhere to hide (although I don’t recommend losing your phone as a way of “getting lucky”).
We waited out the storm with a couple of other cyclists and then, when the rain turned into a light drizzle, we donned our rain gear and continued on our way.
Friendships Made on the Trail
One of the best things about the trip was the amazing people we met along the way, both on the trail and in the towns. We met Brian at the Clifton City Depot and ended up having breakfast with him at the B&B that we stayed at in Rocheport. We met Cory and Tom, two of the folks that we waited out the storm with, at the Clinton Depot. Tom took the photo of us in front of the Clinton Depot at the beginning of our ride.
And, speaking of Cori, since she was riding the trail alone, we exchanged numbers in case she ran into problems in-between the locations where her husband could support her. We lost track of her once we got back on the trail after the storm (she outpaced us by quite a bit on her beautiful gravel bike), so I was delighted when she sent us a photo of herself upon completing the trail.
Even though we rode in the rain for the next few hours, it wasn’t that noticeable as the trees formed a canopy above the trail, blocking much of the rain. That said, we were still happy when we came upon another depot or one of these cool huge metal tunnels.
Finally some sunshine
The rain stopped somewhere along the trail and by the time we hit Boonville, we had sunshine. It’s exciting to arrive in Boonville, for two reasons. First, this is where the trail meets up with the Missouri River (the Katy Trail follows a bridge across the river here) and second, the rest of the trail would follow a slight down-hill grade.
Word of warning here. There is a slight detour due to construction to get across the bridge. However, there are signs through town that make the detour easy to follow and the bridge does have a bike lane separate from the traffic. This detour, although unexpected, was nothing compared to the detour yet to come.
After we crossed the bridge in Boonville, we enjoyed about 10 miles of beautiful scenery and comfortable cycling. Then, we came to THE DETOUR. This detour was required as a bridge on the Katy Trail one mile from Rocheport was damaged.
The detour took us out onto Hwy 40 (a two-lane hwy with NO bike lane and cars flying past us at 50 to 60 mph). To make matters worse, we had to cycle up a steep, and I do mean steep, hill. After approximately 54 miles and 9+ hours on our bikes, I wasn’t sure I would make it to Rocheport.
Thank goodness for the Hammer Gel that I packed as my legs were like spaghetti peddling up that hill and I desperately needed help. I’ve never used performance gel before and can’t say I honestly thought it would make a difference. But, boy oh boy, did it!
Also, a note on the folks that drove past us. Thankfully, they were hugely respectful and got over as much as they could to give us plenty of room.
After the nasty uphill and, I will admit, fun downhill, we turned off the highway onto a county road that took us into Rocheport. We estimated that the detour added about 6 additional miles to our day.
A note on Hammer Nutrition Products
Since there aren’t many places to eat along the trail, I packed us 6 bags of Hammer products for each day of the ride. Each bag contained 2 energy bars, electrolytes, a gel packet, a Phood meal replacement, and a Recoverite for the end of the day. I was impressed with how we felt and performed each day and am convinced it was due to our daily packs.
Dealing with Dirt, Mud and Gravel:
Dirt happens, generally no problem. But, if you use clip-less pedals on your bike, as we do, it can pose a problem with clipping in and out. Thanks to the advice of our good friend, Loren, we packed a toothbrush which was a lifesaver as we ended up having dirt and gravel lodged in our clips on several locations.
School House B&B
Once we reached Rocheport, it was just a short ride to our lodging for the night. To say it was a sight for sore eyes (I mean legs) is an understatement. Not only was I excited to finally get to stop but the B&B that I had selected for our stay in Rocheport was amazing.
The School House B&B was built in 1914, was an elementary school until 1972, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The owners, Chandrika Collins and Andy Hickman, were so amazing sweet and helpful. If you take on this adventure and decide to stop in Rocheport, we highly recommend staying here. The rooms are amazing, the atmosphere extremely relaxing and Andy will send you off in the morning with a mouth-watering gourmet breakfast.
The B&B was just what we needed after such an unexpectedly long day. They even have a shed just for bikes (which was great since our bikes were a muddy mess).
One thing to note about Rocheport. There are very few locations to eat there. By the time we arrived there was only one place still open. Luckily for us, it was just what we needed.
Les Bourgeois Vineyards A-Frame Winegarden
The A-Frame, as it is called by locals, is approximately 1/4 of a mile up the Katy Trail. It requires a .3 mile hike up a winding path to get to it, but they have bike racks at the bottom of the hill.
There was NO WAY I was getting back on my bike, and we decided the walk would be good for our legs, so we set off down the trail in search of food (and wine). The path was easy to find and to follow. At the top, climb the grassy hill, cross the driveway, follow the paved road until it ends and turn left. You’ll see the A-Frame.
The A-Frame sits directly on the Missouri River and they have tons of outdoor seating. Inside the small store they offer picnic fair, wine and beer. We lucked out as there was only one other couple there so we had our choice of seating. The couple said it’s usually packed on the weekend but being a Wednesday (and a rainy Wednesday at that), we had the place to ourselves.
We enjoyed our meal and wine while watching the sunset then headed back to our B&B. Luckily we brought our headlamps with us as there is no lighting on the path or the Katy Trail (note to anyone who, like us, finds themselves getting there towards evening).
Day 3 – Rocheport to Jefferson City
It’s 35 miles from Rocheport to Jefferson City. We added and extra 1/2 mile by backtracking to the tunnel that we missed the day before by having to take the detour outside Rocheport. It was well worth it. As the guidebook states, “you haven’t ridden the Katy unless you’ve ridden through the one and only natural tunnel on the ride”.
For the most part, day 3 was uneventful and a pleasant ride with nice weather where we were able to maintain a constant pace.
Along the way we made two more friends, Lenny and Wanda. They were also riding from end to end. Although we were traveling at a different pace, we ran into them at several depots along the way and then met up again outside of Jefferson City (more on Lenny and Wanda later).
Sites Along the Way
Although the ride today was uneventful, it wasn’t boring. We passed fun displays, beautiful views, and historic buildings. We were especially tickled by Boathenge and marveled at what it took to create it.
And, of course, we made sure to take the time to enjoy the awesome views of the Missouri River at the many benches along the way.
The ride into Jefferson City took us off the Katy Trail and through N. Jefferson. Luckily the road is clearly marked and easy riding. Remember Lenny and Wanda? We ran into them again at the N. Jefferson Depot, found out they were also staying in Jefferson City, and rode into Jefferson City with them. Since we were off trail and had to depend on following signs, it was nice riding in with other folks.
That Amazing Corkscrew
One of the most amazing things along the trail was the corkscrew pedestrian bridge that leads up to the bridge that crosses the Missouri before Jefferson City. Check out the video Pedestrian Bridge Connects KATY Trail to Jefferson City to see it in all its glory (fast forward to 22:06).
In Jefferson City, we separated from Wanda and Larry as we headed toward our respective lodgings. After checking in to our hotel, we walked over to Big Whiskey’s for dinner. We could see the historic building from our hotel and just couldn’t resist the call of a delicious hamburger and beer.
A Note on Saddles
Carl took special care before our trip to make sure my saddle fit me just right and would be comfortable throughout the ride. Unfortunately, he didn’t do the same for his bike and ended up experiencing some discomfort and chafing. He tried making his saddle more comfortable using an extra tire tube which turned out to be a bad idea (it actually made things worse).
Thankfully, we passed a bike shop in Jefferson City that had a better saddle, making the rest of the ride better for him. Our advice, make sure your saddle is comfortable for long, long rides.
Day 4 – Jefferson City to McKittrick
It is 45.5 miles from Jefferson City to McKittrick (and we got to go back through the corkscrew pedestrian bridge).
Since we were going to have to ride through town to get to the pedestrian bridge, we decided to get on the road at first light. It was a wet morning with a light drizzle, so we were once again glad we packed rain gear. We had not planned to be on the road so early, so were also glad that we packed our head lamps.
We made back to the Katy Trail in time to turn off our headlamps and enjoy the morning ride. The drizzle only lasted a short time and was hardly noticeable as we were once again riding under a canopy of trees that served as a giant umbrella. That said, we were excited when we came upon these huge pipes that allowed us to get out of the drizzle for a while.
Although we met a few folks along the way, we mostly had the trail to ourselves. Thankfully, the rain didn’t last too long, giving way to overcast skies, and allowing us to stop and enjoy scenic and historic locations along the way. The rock below has a marking that shows how high the Missouri river got during a flood back in the 80’s.
We made great time and arrived in McKittrick around 3:00. The B&B that awaited us was so cute and quaint that we were glad we got there early. It is also only a few yards from the Katy Trail, which was especially nice. Joey, the owner of Joey’s Birdhouse, had everything ready for us (including our name and a welcome message attached to our door).
Before I go any further, I have to brag on Joey. She greeted us with the warmest smile I’ve ever seen, had a welcome basket in our room that included home-made banana bread and fruit, provided contact information for a share-ride service in case we wanted to go into Hermann, and all while getting ready for her son’s wedding that was to be held at the Bird House the following day.
McKittrick is a small, quiet community (we actually had to go into Hermann for dinner) and we enjoyed the best night sleep that we had the entire trip.
Speaking of Hermann
Hermann is the county seat of Gasconade County and a quaint German town. It’s less than 3 miles from McKittrick so we could have taken our bikes, but we didn’t want to have to worry about getting back before dark.
Luckily, we didn’t have to ride our bikes as Joey provided us with the number of a wonderful lady who provides a share-ride service called Lyft You Up Rides. She drove us to Hermann and told us to call her when we were ready to be picked up.
In Hermann, we enjoyed authentic German brats and beer for dinner then walked around the town. We finished out our evening at a piano bar then called for a ride back to McKittrick. We only had to wait a few minutes before we were picked up and returned to our B&B, where I enjoyed a relaxing bubble bath in that wonderful clawfoot tub (the bubble bath was one of the wonderful “extras” that Joey outfitted the room with).
Day 5 – McKittrick to Augusta
It is 37.8 miles from McKittrick to Augusta. After a few longer days, it was nice to have a shorter day toward the end of the week.
We started out our day with a delicious, home-made quiche and home-made biscuits. Joey had made the quiche the day before and left it in the refrigerator for us to heat and enjoy at our leisure (did I mention she was preparing for a wedding at the same time?!).
The morning was the chilliest we’d had on the trail (41o) and knowing we had a lighter day, we waited until 9:00 before getting on the trail. Luckily, we checked the forecast the day before and were able to get Carl some mittens while we were in Hermann (he forgot to pack gloves).
Despite the early chill, it was a beautiful day on the trail, sunny and cool.
Up to today, we had had no problems along the trail. But, outside Treloar, Carl’s front tire blew out. Thankfully we prepared for a possible event and Carl had his tire fixed in no time and we were back on our way. Ironically, as Carl was fixing his tire, Lenny and Wanda rode up and offered assistance (they had spent the night in Hermann).
NOTE ON BEING PREPARED: We followed the advice from Brett’s book and packed an extra tube, bike pump, and several CO2 cartridges. So glad we did!
The sign for Blumenhof Winery is on the Katy Trail. It advertises that the winery is 1000 ft. up the hill. They are not kidding! It is1000 ft. up a STEEP hill. We had to push our bikes up the hill as it was too steep and rough to ride. That said, we were glad we did it as the live music, wine and meat and cheese tray made the steep hill worth it and a great way to break up the day.
Kickstand Bike Shop
After enjoying a glass of wine, a snack, and some music, we loaded up the remaining wine and headed back down the hill. Only 7 miles later, we rode into Augusta and discovered there was a new bike shop right at the Augusta Depot called Kickstand Bike Shop.
The folks at the bike shop were super nice. The mechanic took Carl’s bike right in and put Stan’s in his tire. We were able to re-stock our supply of CO2 cartridges and I bought one of their t-shirts.
Swan Haven Inn
We stayed at the Swan Haven Inn in Augusta. It was only 1/2 mile from the trailhead, but it was uphill 1/2 a mile. But then, it seems most everything is uphill from the trail.
The Inn is the private home of Jackie and Gene. They have 3 or 4 rooms on the first and second floor and have their private quarters on the lower level. They have a beautiful home, very comfortable, and designed well as a B&B.
Since there were no restaurants nearby, Gene offered to drive to one of the local wineries where Carl picked up dinner for us. We enjoyed our dinner in the dining area then went out back and enjoyed the rest of the wine from the winery on the back porch. Gene and Jackie have a beautiful and relaxing backyard.
Day 6 – Augusta to St. Charles
Our last day was our shortest day of the week. It is only 27 miles from Augusta to St. Charles, so we were able to have a relaxing morning with a 9:00 start. Gene and Jackie sent us off in style with a beautifully laid table and a delicious breakfast of fruit, eggs, juice, coffee and crumpets.
We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day to end our week. The day was sunny and cool, just perfect for a bike ride.
Up until this leg of the trip, we pretty much had the trail to ourselves. The section between Augusta and St. Charles is much heavier used by both cyclists and pedestrians.
I purchased Sena Bluetooth helmets for the trip, thinking we’d need them to communicate along the trail. The previous 5 days, we’d been able to ride side by side and could communicate easily without the helmets. But as traffic on the trail increased, we ended up riding single-file more and more and found the helmets extremely helpful.
Four hours after getting on the trail, we rode into St. Charles.
Country Inn & Suites
We stayed at the historic Country Inn and Suites directly off the Katy Trail. The picture of the hotel was taken while standing on the trail. The Picture of Carl on the trail is from our room.
The outside of the building is rather plain, but the inside was beautiful and the everyone we met very nice and helpful. It was so nice inside that we were hesitant about taking our bikes in but the front desk assured us it was not only ok, but the elevator was longer than most to accommodate bikes.
We spotted the Bike Stop Cafe, (where we’d catch our shuttle back to Clinton the following day), across street from the depot and decided to enjoy our first latte since hitting the trail. Afterwards, we checked in, cleaned up and headed over to Llywelyn’s Pub for beer and a snack.
We were excited to see that a there was a fall festival being held in the historic downtown. There were characters on every corner, street performers, and horse and buggy hayrides.
After enjoying the downtown for a while, we headed over to the BBQ restaurant next to our hotel and who should we run into? Lenny and Wanda! After a dinner together, we said our goodbyes for the final time.
Shuttle back to Clinton
One of the great things about the Katy Trail is the number of shuttle services that offer rides up and down the trail. Due to these services, it’s possible to ride the trail from most any depot to another depot and get a ride back to your start point (as we did).
I made reservations with the Bike Stop Cafe (located on the Katy Trail in St. Charles) at the same time that I made reservations for our lodging. They only require a $50.00 deposit to reserve a shuttle.
NOTE ON THE SHUTTLE SERVICES:
Most of the shuttles offer seating for 4 to 6 individuals enough room for their bikes in a trailer. The cost of the shuttle is the same whether you are the only one on the shuttle or it is full. After making our reservations, I listed our date and time on the Katy Trail website letting others know we had a shuttle reserved with space for two additional passengers.
Folks at the Bike Stop Cafe contacted us before our trip and asked if we’d mind sharing the shuttle with two others (awesome news as that meant we’d only pay for 1/2 of the shuttle price), so of course we agreed.
We shared the ride with Kim and Charity, two friends who were taking the shuttle to Clinton to begin their journey on the Katy Trail. As with everyone else we met on the trail, it was nice sharing stories and learning about other adventures from them.
The driver dropped us at our van in the Clinton Community Center where I promptly added the stickers that we had picked up along the way on our van.
This brings us to a close on our Katy Trail adventure. Thanks for riding along. It was an amazing 6-day, 255-mile adventure that was everything I hoped it’d be.
If you think you’d like to ride the Katy, check out our post Riding the Katy Trail – at 60! for resources and tips that we found helpful in planning and preparing for our trip.
A Few Fun Things From the Trip
Some fun things we encountered along the way that we just had to share.