Find A Trail
Search Site
Tell Us About...
Your Family's Rail-Trail Vacation: A vacation on a rail-trail means more than a good time. It's a positive economic endeavor, both for you and for the community the rail-trail serves.  Tell us about how your family vacationed on a rail-trail.

Tips for Biking
Trips with Kids
  • Look for attractions that everyone will enjoy.  The bed and breakfast offered a neat loft and 5 acres for exploring which sustained the boys' interest so that my husband and I could kick back with a glass of wine on the front porch.
  • Make arrangements to cover special needs.  The B&B owners drove us to pick up our car from the drop-off point, and prepared a vegetarian breakfast in the morning;  All we had to do was ask.
  • Remember, it's not a race.  The goal is to have fun on the journey.  Pace yourselves and take a break from cycling before the kids get too tired.  We stopped to climb trees, pick wild berries, and check out some cool land formations during water breaks.

If You Visit the Katy Trail 

Check out www.mostateparks.com for information about the trail and links to services such as bike shops, lodging, and food available at each trailhead. 

Lodging and Food:
Heaven on Earth B&B.  Deer Mountain Road, Marthasville; (636) 433-2511; www.heavenonearth.ws.

Peers Store.  19 Concord Hill Rd., Peers; (636) 932-4655.

Dutzow Deli & Restaurant.  An inexpensive eatery offering subs, burgers, pizza, pasta, and a special breakfast menu.  Also sells cold beer and selected wines from local wineries. (11861 East State Hwy 94, Marthasville; (636) 433-2309.

Attractions:
Thierback Orchards & Berry Farm.  Limited hours from May-June (open Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturday and Sunday) Open daily July-mid November.  Check on-line for ripening information.  (85 Town Branch Road, Marthasville; (636) 433-2299; www.thierbachorchards.com)

La Charrette Cabin.  Near the intersection of One Street & Depot, across the road from the Marthasville trailhead.

Sugar Creek Winery, 125 Boone County Lane, Defiance; (636) 987-2400; www.sugarcreekwines.com

Augusta Winery, High & Jackson Streets, Augusta; (888) MOR-WINE / (636) 228-4301; www.augustawinery.com

Montelle Winery, Hwy. 94; Augusta; (636) 228-4464; www.montelle.com

Trailing the Kids

Don't think that you can do a long-distance bicycle ride with your kids? Think again! With proper planning and a flexible mind-set, the whole family can experience the fun of biking on rail-trails.

Last spring, my husband, two boys (ages 10 and 6) and I set out for Missouri wine country to resume a family goal—biking the entire 225-mile Katy Trail, the longest developed rail-trail in the country built on the former corridor of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad. Already, our family had bicycled 21 miles of the Katy, beginning at the eastern start point in St. Charles, Missouri. For this excursion, our first of the spring season, we planned to cover a 25-mile section over two days with an overnight at a bed-and-breakfast along the way. 

Our children are good cyclists, having ridden on two-wheelers without trainers since age four, and riding an average of 10–15 miles per week.  Knowing that the kids could handle the terrain, a flat path of finely crushed, packed limestone, it was mainly a question of enduring the heat in sun-exposed sections.  After an hour's drive from our home in St. Louis and armed with sunscreen, a supply of water and a willingness to stop at restaurants at nearly every trail head, we arrived at the Matson trailhead.  My husband, determined that flat tires would not slow us down, had stuffed the panniers with every imaginable spare part. Indeed, we managed the day's 17-mile course with relative ease as we meandered past miles of farms, vineyards and bluffs along the Missouri River.

The section of trail that we biked is known as "Missouri's Rhineland" because of the large German population that settled the region in the early nineteenth century. Historic towns like Defiance and Augusta that thrived because of the railroad now offer tourists opportunities to sample some of Missouri's finest wines from atop the bluffs with panoramic vistas of the valley and hillsides below.

The view from the trail is equally impressive. We frequently found ourselves wedged between the Missouri river on one side and massive bluffs of the other. Halfway between Matson and Augusta we encountered a towering bluff; our widest camera lens could only capture a fraction of this natural wonder. Periodically, we passed through dense forest areas that sheltered us from the hot sun, and we put on the brakes to devour plump mulberries that birds had missed (staining our hands and faces in the process).

At one point, we stopped at a bridge to check out the creek below when the kids began shouting and pointing wildly toward a water snake moving near the foot of the bridge.  We could clearly make-out its black scales as it slowly slithered up the bank. Undaunted, the boys clamored to the wooden railings to watch the black outline slide along the dirt under the planks, a mere two feet separating us from the three-foot-long reptile below. The kids begged to capture a close-up shot of the snake and I practically threw them my camera as I ran for safety on the far side of the bridge. It was all snake-talk for the next five miles.

We made our way to Marthasville, a small town just outside of Union, Mo., where we were greeted by Judy Jones and Steven Spaner, our B&B hosts at the aptly named Heaven on Earth Bed & Breakfast. As previously arranged they graciously drove us the 17 miles back to Matson to collect our car later that afternoon. After being shown to our rustic cabin, my ravenous brood devoured the half-dozen home-baked cookies left for us. And while B&Bs may spark romance for some, it was my kids who heartily enjoyed the jacuzzi and sleeping loft, not to mention the frogs, snakes and lizards they spotted near the creek on this five-acre hideaway. The owners were quite accommodating, even preparing separate breakfasts (eggs for some, oatmeal for others) per an e-mail request we made before leaving town.

The following day, we had to pry the kids away from the creek and tree-swing to explore some local attractions. Our first stop was the Thierback Orchards & Berry Farm. The blueberries we'd hoped to pick weren't yet ripe, but the strawberry patch didn't disappoint!  We also got a glimpse of La Charrette Cabin, a replica of the French settlement log cabins in La Charrette (present-day Marthasville) of the early 19th century.  This historic site was visited by Lewis and Clark in 1804 on their journey westward through the territory bought in the Louisiana Purchase.  In 1806, the expedition team re-visited La Charrette, firing a salute for having made it back safely to this "settlement of whites" after miles of trekking through Indian Territory. Daniel Boone made his home in Marthasville toward the end of his life and his original gravesite lies about a mile off of the trail. Indeed, the Katy offers recreation and education.

We resumed our cycling in the afternoon, logging in seven miles before stopping at the trailside Peers Store to enjoy an ice cream under the shade of a breezy outdoor tent set up for trail goers. Photos that chronicle more than 100 years of Missouri River floods line the walls of this quaint country store. The owner gave us a quick tour of the upstairs bedrooms, which she rents out to weary bikers at a bargain rate of $50 a night.

We completed the last three miles without incident. Despite temperatures in the upper 80s and Missouri's infamous high humidity, my sons peddled fast over the level trail, racing past open pastureland and farm fields to be the first to spot the red-roofed Treloar trailhead shelter. We had made arrangements with friends to pick up our car in Marthasville and bring it to the finish point in Treloar, eliminating the need to double-back on the trail. (We would progress along the trail at a snail's pace if we had to backtrack every section).  As we loaded up the bikes and headed for home, we were satisfied that not only that we had pedaled another 25 miles of the Katy, but we completed it with happy—albeit sweaty—faces.  We knew the trip was a success when the kids eagerly asked, "When are we going again?"

Ligaya Figueras is a freelance editor and writer.  She has contributed to numerous newspapers, consumer magazines and trade journals, and recently edited the novel Crumbs. When she's not writing or biking, she can be found in the vegetable patch or foraging for berries.

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy
1100 17th Street, NW 10th Floor
Washington, D.C. 20036
+1-202-331-9696