Spectacular bike rides in the Midwest

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of August 27 — September 2, 1998
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Spectacular bike rides in the Midwest
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Spectacular bike rides in the Midwest
Question: Hi, I need help in finding some great bike trails in southeast Missouri and southern Illinois. Any suggestions? Thanks!

Mark Burks
St. Louis, Missouri

Adventure Adviser: Okay, here are two rides that fit your criteria. Starting from Frontier Park in St. Charles, Missouri — just on the outskirts of St. Louis — and stretching 185 miles west to Sedalia is the magnificent Katy Trail. This crushed-limestone bike path runs beneath craggy bluffs, along rivers, and weaves through sumac and sugar maples. With the grade never exceeding five percent, it’s also a leisurely ride. If the Katy is longer than you bargained for, make it the length of choice by doing an out-and-back. The trail is suitable for both road and mountain bikes. For details, call the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (800-334-6946).

Next door in Illinois, there’s some mighty nice riding in the Shawnee National Forest, which fills in the southeastern corner of the state. Here you and your mountain bike will find the Midwest’s best slickrock. Okay, it’s not quite like Moab, but there are still some short, steep and yes, slippery, rides to enjoy. I’d suggest heading out on the Cedar Lake Trail, a 10-mile out-and-back from the trailhead near the Pomona boat ramp, just off Illinois 127. In addition to slickrock, the Shawnee also has much to offer in the way of gorgeous, long and leafy singletrack along the shores of Cedar Lake and into the forest.

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