If you haven’t been paying attention over the last few years, this might surprise you: Kansas City is earning a growing reputation as a mountain biking town.
In fact, when current plans come to fruition, KC may well have more urban singletrack than any other city in the nation.
From the Kansas City Star (Volunteers create miles of surprises):
Kansas City always seems to be searching for an identity. How about this one: urban mountain biking capital?
What if KC were home to the country’s longest middle-of-the-city trail system for mountain biking and hiking, a spectacular series of paths that squeeze through limestone outcroppings, skirt native glades and follow a twisting river route?
Working on it. Volunteer trail builders — with no fanfare and lots of sweat equity — just completed a phase of the planned trail inside Swope Park.
The total project is an urban mountain biking and hiking trail system more than 50 miles long. With perhaps no peer in the United States, it would surpass urban trails in cities considered far more outdoorsy than Kansas City.
These are not greenway-type trails paved or covered with gravel or wood chips. These are natural, “single-track” trails built to the standards of the International Mountain Bicycling Association.
While many urban areas have developed mountain bike trails, the scope of the Kansas City project sets it apart, said Ryan Schutz, director of field programs at the International Mountain Bicycling Association in Boulder, Colo. He said the Kansas City area already was well-regarded for its mountain bike trails.
Years ago, mountain biking and city parks often were considered a bad mix. Trails were sometimes haphazard and not built to last. Easily eroded, they could be more of a scar on park property than an amenity. And mountain bikers, typically young, could be an unpredictable lot.
Times have changed, and many park land managers are working enthusiastically with mountain bikers, who themselves are maturing, to develop trails. Hikers and trail runners also get involved.
The trails envisioned are:
- 20 miles planned in the Swope Park system; seven are done
- 20 miles planned in the connector from Swope to Red Bridge Road; work just begun
- 16 existing miles along the Blue River from Red Bridge to 137th Street
And in addition to the Swope and Blue River trails, there are numerous other mountain bike trails in the Kansas City area, on both sides of the state line:
- Shawnee Mission Park – Five miles of some of the best technical singletrack in the Kansas City area, along with paved multi-use trails and a challenging road loop
- Kill Creek Park – 4+ miles of singletrack trails, plus multi-use paths, located in western Johnson County
- Hillsdale Lake – Over 50 miles of trails located just southwest of Kansas City
- Wyandotte County Lake – The park currently has 10 miles of bridle trails and a master plan to develop an additional 20 to 30 miles of sustainable mountain biking and hiking trails
- Landahl Park – Nine miles of singletrack located in Blue Springs, Missouri. Many experienced MTB’ers consider this one of the top trails in the midwest.
- Smithville Lake – Ten miles of singletrack located near Smithville, Missouri: “These trails are very beginner and singlespeed friendly trails”.
- Stocksdale and Walnut Woods – Several miles of well-regarded trails near Liberty, Missouri
Mountain biking groups and clubs in the Kansas City area include the Earth Riders Trails Association, the Earth Riders Mountain Bike Club, and the Trail Masons Association. If you’re interested in riding and volunteering, contact these groups to get involved.
KC already has a great network of trails, and it’s growing every year. Get out and explore!
Photo courtesy the Kansas City Star