Once upon a time, way back in my trail snob days, I thought of Missouri as part of a massive mountain biking void comprising the core of our continent. But while on a road trip, desperate to ride, I tossed aside my prejudice and looked for the best mountain bike trails I could hit within a few miles of I-70. Well, shut my mouth; the Show Me State showed me some serious singletrack challenge and fun.
Since then, I have schemed and maneuvered to have to travel to, or pass through, Missouri whenever possible just to sink my knobbies into the wonderful singletrack, ranging from ledgy and technical to fast and flowy. This “middle” state is anything but middling with its fat tire offerings; here’s a fab five that provide an excellent cross section of Missouri mountain biking:
Berryman Trail (Steelville)
An original IMBA epic, the Berryman Trail serves up 24 miles of fast and furious singletrack for hammering cranks through a beautiful hardwood forest. There are no huge climbs, but all the smaller ups and downs add up, and completing the entire loop will be both refreshing and satisfying. It can get hot, humid, and buggy, so avoid midsummer and bring plenty of water.
“This is an incredible trail! Take plenty of water and snacks because it is a hefty workout, especially on a hot day, and has no stops for water refills. It is great fun, fast in many spots, banked curves, rocky climbs (some washout), has lots of water crossings and fantastic scenery.” – cycleforfun
Binder Lake (Jefferson City)
The wonderful Binder Lake trails sit within a few easy miles of Missouri’s state capitol, Jefferson City. There’s lots of flow with a bit of tech thrown in across four individually marked loops totaling 14 miles.
“Great trails with a little bit of everything! Mostly flowy, with some rock gardens, roots, loose descents, bridges and log piles mixed in. Mostly rolling, with a couple short, steeper ascents and descents. I stopped on my way through on a road trip and got a good 2-hour ride in. Despite no actual trail signs, trails were well-marked with arrows and I had no trouble finding my way. I took a picture of the map at the trailhead just in case but never needed to use it. Trails were very well-maintained–thanks guys!” – Helena Kotala
Landahl Park Reserve (Blue Spring)
For those in the know, Landahl Park Reserve is the place to go to test yourself on miles of ledgy steps. While there are easy trail segments to be had, the real appeal here is the segments that have the rider constantly managing roots, stepping up, rolling down, and maneuvering tight lines between the rocks and the trees. For those venturing into the more challenging trails at Landahl, average speed may be low, but the interest level will definitely be high!
“Landahl is an outstanding trail system. There is a huge variety for all kinds of riders. I love the technical stuff, but I also like to hit the trails that really flow. This system has all of that. You can’t get bored at Landahl. It’s worth the trip from just about anywhere.” – Barheet
Swope Park (Kansas City)
Swope Park is one of the most amazing venues in mountain biking. Even though it is surrounded by the Kansas City metropolis, it is chock-full of incredible, technical singletrack. That this area was preserved in the first place is fantastic; that it was subsequently filled with some of the best biking between the Rockies and Pisgah is exquisite. The area’s ledgy sandstone is on full display here and there are even opportunities for huge air. If you think you got game, it’s time to swoop in on Swope.
“Swope Park is a great track that combines sections of trail that flow well with other sections that test your technical prowess with rocks and roots. 8 Pin Alley and Sweet Luv are both located on the east end of the park and are a blast to ride. Sweet Luv has a DH-only line with a succession of 3-4 foot drops. The locals reference 8 Pin Alley as a section that left one of the original builders with 8 pins in his arm after a crash.” – cspargen
Two Rivers Bike Park (HIghlandville)
The Two Rivers Bike Park is really a two-for-one. Yes, it’s a bike park, with progressive manmade features, but it’s also a backcountry riding area in the Missouri Ozarks, with over 14 miles of purpose-built trail. Whether you want to pound out some miles, or play on some planks, Two Rivers will give you what you want.
“What a fantastic set of trails! XC trails with an initial gradual climb, but after a mile or so, more short bursts up and down to keep you working. Tricky trails to test your technical skills are available (Bluff). There is a skills course area right by the parking lot, as well as a downhill course. This was clearly the most popular part of the park the day I went, as I barely saw anyone else on the XC loops.” – hollyanne99