I admit it. Growing up in St. Louis, I took the Katy Trail for granted. “A gravel path for people to ride bikes between wineries. Yippie.” And that remained my general attitude until another gig had me pedaling the entirety of the trail several years ago. During that trip, my perspective changed as I realized what an incredible outdoor asset the 240-mile path is to the state of Missouri. 

Whether we locals realize it or not, the Katy has become a major draw. Rated the No. 2 recreational trail in the country by USA Today, its popularity continues to expand beyond the reaches of the Midwest. From Seattle to Boston, cruising the Katy has become a bucket list item.

So, how to do it? The Katy spans the entire state of Missouri, and while a choice few have ridden the entire thing in one go, that method is not recommended (at least not by this author). While there are plenty of historic inns, bed and breakfasts, and hotels along the way, many choose to bikepack the trail, opting to camp instead. Of course, this necessitates a bike that can haul the requisite gear — but that’s another article. As for the campsites, we’ve handpicked seven spots where riders can park their bikes, pitch their tents, and enjoy sleeping under the stars.

Sedalia: Lazy Liz Horse & RV Campground (21701 Sacajawea Road; 816-935-2357). Located less than a half mile from the trail on the southwest side of Sedalia, this campground provides ease of access to many local sights and attractions. Check out the Katy Depot, a restored railway building that now doubles as the main Katy Trail Visitors Center. For tent campers, sites are first come, first served. (There’s also a large barn where campers can take refuge in case of bad weather.) To maximize your fun, time your trip to attend the Missouri State Fair or the Scott Joplin Ragtime Festival. 

The Katy Depot near Lazy Liz Horse & RV Campground in Sedalia.

The Katy Depot near Lazy Liz Horse & RV Campground in Sedalia. (Nick Tilley)

New Franklin: Katy Roundhouse (1894 Katy Drive; 660-848-2232). Mere steps off the crushed limestone path at Mile Marker #189 (between Boonville and Rocheport), the Katy Roundhouse is a 45-acre park that caters to riders and campers alike. Its tree-lined campsites feature bike racks, cook-top fire rings, and picnic tables — perfect for a night under the stars in New Franklin. Call ahead for reservations.

Easley: Cooper’s Landing (11505 Smith Hatchery Road; 573-657-1299). A Katy Trail mainstay just north of Easley on the banks of the Missouri River, Cooper’s Landing is a must-stop. Plenty of wooded campsites, great views, RV hookups, a marina, general store, live music, food trucks — this place has it all. Be sure to check out Boathenge on the west side of the bridge leading into the campground. Call ahead to check on entertainment and site availability. 

Cooper's Landing in Easley, Mo.

Cooper’s Landing in Easley, Mo.

Portland: River’s Edge RV Park & Campground (10512 Main Cross Street; 573-676-3540). This campground is right off the trail in the small town of Portland. Offering sites along the Missouri River and a clean shower and bathhouse, River’s Edge is a viable stop between the Easley/Jefferson City area to the west and Hermann to the east. It’s a small place, so call ahead for availability.

Hermann: Hermann City Park Campground (118 13th Street; 573-486-5400). Hermann is a popular stop along the Katy for good reason. Oozing with German charm and located in the heart of Missouri’s wine country, the town always has something going on. Hermann City Park is near the middle of the action, providing convenient access to wineries, museums, restaurants, shops, and more. Be aware of Oktoberfest crowds, as the campground typically fills to capacity every weekend in October.

Augusta: Klondike Park (4600 Highway 94 South; 636-949-7535). Managed by the St. Charles County Parks Department, Klondike Park offers access to 250 acres of wilderness along the Missouri River. More than 4 miles of hiking and biking trails meander through the park, and a lookout provides great views over the river and the Katy Trail below. Forty-three tent sites are dispersed throughout the park, along with cabins for rent. Register online or call 636-949-7535 for availability and reservations.

St. Charles: Riverside Farmhouse and Bikepackers Camp (5016 Weedy Road; 760-519-3446). This trail-side farmhouse is on the northeast side of St. Charles. Just a 30-minute ride from the Katy Trail’s eastern terminus in Machens, it’s a perfect spot for starting or ending your trip. A spacious yard under cottonwood trees provides an ideal place for camping. Additionally, the property owner can help facilitate airport and/or train station pick-ups and drop offs — and often has fresh farm eggs for breakfast. The host’s preferred booking method is Airbnb; search “Bikepackers Camp along Katy Trail” to find the listing.

Author: Nick Tilley is a regular contributor to Terrain Magazine.
Top Image: Riverside Farmhouse and Bikepackers Camp in St. Charles. (Nick Tilley)