From track to trail: Converted railway shows off small-town Missouri

CR Rae
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Grab a bite to eat and rent a bike at the Meriwether Cafe and Bike Shop.

Grab your hiking boots or best walking shoes, load the bikes and saddle up the horses for an adventure on the Katy Trail, where outdoor and history enthusiasts will find a variety of things to pique their interest.

The Katy Trail in Missouri is the longest developed rail-trail in the United States. Its 240 miles of former railroad passage and more than 30 access points mean the trail can offer a different experience each time you visit.

The Katy is part of the American Discovery Trail and has been designated as a Millennium Legacy Trail. In 2008 it was slated as a Rails-to-Trails Conservancy Hall of Fame trail.

The trail was built on what was the corridor of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad, nicknamed the K-T. It runs west to east between Clinton and Machens, Missouri. A portion of the trail between Cooper County and St. Charles County is a part of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail. Also along the Katy are four restored railroad depots. The trail is flat and made from crushed limestone.

Those following the trail will be treated to some of the best scenic areas of Missouri as it winds along the Missouri River. The Katy leads visitors through a rich excursion of small-town America.

It is open throughout the year, and soon the spring will bring the blooms of the dogwood and redbud trees. Visiting in the summer travelers will find beautiful views of America’s farmlands and in the fall, the trees burst into a variety of colors. The trail offers visitors a chance to do as much or as little as they like, whether trying to conquer the entire trail over a few days or doing a mile for the scenery and fresh air.

Along the way:

• Marthasville is one of the oldest owns in the state, an area once traveled by the Lewis and Clark expedition and Daniel Boone. Visitors find restaurants, vineyards and B&Bs here.

• The more than 120-year-old tunnel at Rocheport is a popular place for photographs. The small town is a favorite of trail users, a place to take a breath and enjoy some tranquility. Here travelers find a host of bed and breakfasts, quaint and unique shops, galleries and artisans. Adjacent to the trail is Meriwether Café and Bike Shop. It makes for a great spot for a bite to eat, has outdoor dining and offers some of the best pancakes, including an all you can eat pancake breakfast. Need a bike? Meriwether has bikes to fit all sizes, including some tandems. Each bike rental includes a helmet. The Meriwether is closed in the winter but reopens in the spring. Visit the Facebook page and meriwethercafeandbikeshop.com for opening dates.

• A visit to the Les Bourgeois Vineyard close to the Katy Trail will have you thinking you are not in Missouri anymore. The lush winery has well-known world-class wines, offers wine tastings, and has a gift shop and restaurants with views from the banks of the Missouri River. Three facilities make up LBV: the scenic A-Frame Winegarden, the tasting room and gift shop, and the Bistro, with indoor and outdoor dining areas for brunch, lunch and dinner. The A-Frame restaurant serves American picnic fare and offers live music. It is like having a picnic, but you don’t have to pack it.

For a map of the trail and access points and a list of trails that are accessible for those with disabilities, visit mostateparks.com. For trail conditions, closures and detours visit katytrailmo.com. For information on places to stay and more go to visitmo.com.