Moab, Sedona, Fruita, Pisgah… and Kansas City? Not as preposterous a lineup as you might think. Unbeknownst to those outside the area, KC has some of the most entertaining and challenging singletrack to be found. If you can clean everything here, you can ride just about anywhere. Despite assumptions to the contrary, it would be a big mistake to pass through the Heartland without knobbies… and some suspension. Besides, you’ll want to burn some calories to compensate for all that excellent barbecue you’re going to slam. Here’s the five best mountain bike trails around KC to work up that appetite.
Stretching over 10 miles through a green corridor in the middle of the city, the Blue River Parkway provides a fantastic respite from city life, complete with a surprisingly-varied trail surface. While overall elevation change isn’t significant, there are lots of sharp ups and downs, and a nice mix of flowy trail and more traditional natural trail. Blue River Parkway offers both fun and challenge for riders of all levels, and with multiple access points along the route, the accessibility can’t be beat.
“A little something for everyone. Serengeti and the River trail are flat, fast trails along the flood [plain] of the river. Ox Bow Run kicks it up a notch with a little more flow and curve to the trail. Basement and Bo Ho Ca start out nice enough, but both start to get a little tough and technical with some big rocks and tight sections. The more technical sections of Bo Ho Ca probably reflects Wagon Wheel and Bager. High Line is a tough advanced line. The High Line express has some big drops, nice double jumps, and is not for the faint of heart. Overall a great trail system.” -Raindogs
To the first time visitor, Landahl can be a shock. After miles of driving across the prairie, pulling into the parking area shows little promise–just some trees on more seemingly-flat terrain, hardly anything to get a skilled biker excited. But once on the right trail segments, the rocks come out… and they don’t relent. Landahl provides constant, ledgy riding that demands confidence and, sometimes, trials-like skills. There are easy segments as well, but Landahl’s fame, which now extends well beyond KC, rests with its challenge, which often humbles riders from more famous mountain biking locales.
“A midwest classic. A rocky, deep woods, XC-style trail system. It lacks the polish of Swope or Shawnee Mission Park but feels more secluded and raw. Plenty of intermediate trails but, if you’re feeling cocky, the black-level offshoots and 10/11 will put you in your place. A must-stop on your way down I-70.” -breed007
Over on the Kansas side of the border sits quiet, unassuming Sawnee Mission Park, which just happens to have over 10 miles of excellent-quality singletrack. While not as challenging as Landahl, it does have plenty of roots and rocky spots, but mostly makes for a great spin in some attractive woods on the edge of the city.
“Shawnee Mission Park Trails [were] a blast. Great combo of technical roots and rocks with some fast dirt singletrack. Well maintained and smooth flow. Great layout and use of the area. After riding through a challenging section you get to relax and let off some steam cruising some downhill or burning through the dirt before meeting your next challenge.” -Schmo
Another shocker to those not from the area, Swope Park surprises with its natural challenge situated in an urban environment. But when you’re focused on keeping your bike upright on the rocks and drops in the dense woods, you completely forget you’re surrounded by a major city. Swope has some of the most challenging rock gardens–not only in the Midwest, but anywhere–along with some positively scary drops (with ride-arounds, so fear not). The challenge offered here keeps even die hards coming back.
“What a blast! Like others have mentioned I have been lucky enough to ride all over the country and who knew there was a technical masterpiece in KC? Rocky with plenty of twists and turns–makes for a white-knuckle ride.” -nahoride
By now, you’re probably wondering if KC has trails that aren’t gnar-strewn tech fests. Fear not, fair rider, as the area is full of more mellow offerings, chief among them the Wyandotte County Lake trail. This is a fast and flowy cross country ride for those just wanting to hammer in the woods or newer riders looking for a pleasant experience on the bike.
“My favorite trails to ride in Kansas City. The trails are marked very well!!! Don’t worry about what trail you are riding, because they all are awesome. In my opinion these are the closest to real XC. . .trails I have been on in KC.” -Matthewjhigg
For an excellent video delving deep into Kansas City’s top trails, be sure to watch this episode of Trail TV: