Four must-ride bike trails around Kansas City

Photo by Kim Horgan

Kansas City is a wonderful place to explore by bike — it’s full of unique neighborhoods, street art and interesting architecture, and with the city changing so much, you’re always going to notice something new.

Luckily, the city also has hundreds of miles of paved bike trails spanning the metro area and crisscrossing the Missouri-Kansas state line.

Here are four great rides to get you going by bike:

1. The Gary Haller Trail

The Gary Haller Trail follows Mill Creek on a 17-mile paved route on the west side of the Kansas City metro area. The trail starts at Nelson Island on the Kansas River, then goes south through the cities of Shawnee and Lenexa before ending in Olathe. There are many access points to the trail, several with restrooms and water fountains. For a great day on the trails, start at Shawnee Mission Park. Access the trail entrance near the dam.

Route: When you start at Shawnee Mission Park the trail goes both north and south; both options are scenic and offer shady, winding paths. Most of the trail is fairly flat but there are a few brief climbs. If you ride to the north, you will end up on a tree-covered trail that runs along the river. There is a covered shelter at the end of this section that is quiet and secluded, with only the sounds of birds chirping and trains going by in the distance. Riding south from the lake will take you through the trees over several hilly sections and into open farmland. Don’t be surprised if you see deer grazing alongside the trail and cows in the pasture.

Connect to: The Gary Haller Trail intersects with a half dozen other short regional trails, most a mile or so long.

Break spot: If you time your ride just right you can catch the sunset on Shawnee Mission Park lake as you finish. It’s definitely one of the best views around.

2. Indian Creek Trail

The Indian Creek Trail crosses two states and four cities, making it a popular trail for cyclists, runners and those looking to enjoy a convenient escape while still in the city. The trail begins in the east near the confluence of Indian Creek and Blue River in Missouri. As it goes west, it passes through Leawood before heading into Overland Park, where it features 17 miles of paved trail, much of it shaded, and mostly flat. There are some steep grades for short sections, but overall the trail is suitable for the casual rider. It is a beautiful trail, cutting through small areas of trees, foliage and creeks.

Route: A great place to get on the trail is at Leawood Park (10601 Lee Blvd.). Here you will find plenty of parking, as well as a bike station with a tire pump and tools. From this central location, you can pick a trail that fits your plan for the day. If you take the Missouri side of Indian Creek you will find it much less crowded.

Break spot: Ride east under State Line Road and through the woods to connect to the Blue River Greenway, and you’ll reach Alex George Lake. This is a nice spot to stop, as there are several picnic tables hidden in the trees next to the lake. Out and back to the lake is approximately 14 miles of quiet, easy riding. If you ride on the Kansas side you will experience the same tree-filled trails, but be prepared to announce your presence as you navigate your way around other riders and walkers.

Connect to: The nine-mile Tomahawk Creek Trail is a similar trail, a paved path that also goes through Leawood and Overland Park. The two trails connect in Leawood Park, just south of Interstate 435 on the western side of State Line Road.

3. Heritage Riverfront Trail

The 15-mile Heritage Riverfront Trail isn’t one that takes you from point A to B. This trail on the south bank of the Missouri River at downtown Kansas City’s edge branches in various directions, allowing you to hop on and off as desired. Riders can explore an area and then jump back on the trail again to continue the adventure.

Route: Start in the West Bottoms at the Riverfront Heritage Trailhead (Eighth Street), where you will find ample parking. In this area, ride around to appreciate the architecture, check out amazing street art and, on the weekends, shop at one of the many antique stores. Then take the trail east to the River Market to enjoy a panoramic view of the river from the Town of Kansas Bridge. From here you can take the stairs or elevator down to the Riverfront West segment and ride over to the Bond Bridge. Signage in this area tells the story of the Kansas City Riverfront. The key to enjoying this area is to just wander and explore.

Break spot: For a drink or lunch near the River Market, try Freestyle Poke, where you can get delicious, fresh poke bowls (509 Delaware St., Local Pig’s new space, Pigwich (20 E. Fith St.), features a variety of sandwiches and burgers.

Connect to: The Riverfront Trail was designed to be the downtown hub of a planned regional network of bike trails. Right now, it doesn’t connect to the others, but, in time, it might be the cloverleaf of Kansas City cycling routes.

4. The Trolley Track Trail

This crushed limestone trail runs along a former trolley way that passes through many of the city’s most charming neighborhoods. The trail is busy almost every day of the year as runners and cyclists use it for exercise. Parks, patio bars and people watching abound. The northern end of the trail, which runs alongside the fence line of stately Brookside homes, is heavily shaded. The trail then gets a wider berth as it passes through a parklike setting before hitting several gaps, where you’ll have to traverse a parking lot before resuming on the trail.

Route: The trail runs six miles from the Country Club Plaza to the southern edge of the Waldo neighborhood before jogging east to the intersection of 85th Street and Prospect Avenue.

Break spot: You’ve got countless options in Brookside and Waldo. Two of the best are Betty Rae’s Ice Cream at 72nd Street and KC Bier Co. at 79th Street. The brewery has a huge patio overlooking the trail, and it packs up with cyclists on a sunny summer day.

Connect to: The southern end of the Trolley Track Trail is just a few miles north of the Indian Creek Trail on the southeastern edge of the city. There’s a plan in the works to link them, but for now, the route is dicey and not recommended.

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