- Uninterrupted FLOW! No, I’m not talking about prostate health… For me, what really sets these apart is, for the most part, you are able to ride at your desired pace without interruption from traffic, stop lights, stop signs, pedestrians, … You get to just ride for miles and miles.
- Flat! Hills are great and all for so many things but sometimes, it is really nice to not have to fight your way up hills for an entire ride. Our biggest climb for our 26 mile ride was 15 feet for a bridge over a highway.
- Smooth Pavement – Our 26 mile route was paved the entire length and for the vast majority, it was almost perfectly smooth pavement. No bumps, cracks, dips, …
- Nice range of distance options with loops so you aren’t stuck covering the same ground both ways.
- Convenience and Facilities – It’s an easy drive from most of St. Louis, there’s plenty of designated parking spots for the trails, and there were at least 4 nice bathrooms with water fountains along our route.
- The scenery was nice, farms, woods, creeks, towns, lakes, … but nothing spectacular. Which, in a way, is just another thing that contributes to the nice flow as you don’t have to stop and gawk at the breathtaking beauty for the most part.
- Could use some additional signage – While there are a lot of maps along the route, there were a few spots where better marking of trails would have been helpful. We missed one of our turns as the trail we were on (Goshen) went over the trail we were supposed to take (Ronald Foster Heritage Trail) and no one in our group of 7 noticed any sign or way to get to the other trail. Perhaps there was something but we never went back to check as we decided to just continue on to the next trail.
- Headwinds? – With the flatness and openness at many parts, I would guess on a windy day you could be dealing with some serious headwinds but I haven’t actually experienced that myself or heard anyone complain about it. (Comment at the bottom if you’d like to give feedback).
Getting ThereWe parked in Horseshoe Lake State Park which is only 11 minutes from downtown St. Louis and that worked great. But there are a variety of designated parking lots you can park safely and for free along the routes. If you go to the the maps page of the MCTTrails.org website and then hover over Points of Interest and click on Parking, it will highlight the parking options with the Google Map which should make it easy to navigate to.
- Official Site – MCTtrails.org
After requesting recommendations for a nice 20 mile route from friends who I knew had ridden the MCT trails, a friend pointed me to the 7 Loops section of the MCTTrails.org website that lets you pick a loop based on your desired mileage. I love the idea of loops over out-and-back trails as it lets me see more of the landscape. We decided to go with the 22.9 mile South/green loop as that seemed like a challenging but achievable distance for the kids we had along (10-14 years old).
We started out at Horseshoe Lake State Park, which was perfect as a start and end point. We first headed along the MCT Schoolhouse Trail which I had heard quite a few friends mention. It started out going through farms but after a mile or two it became more wooded and ran along a creek in what was clearly originally a railway corridor and now also had an underground gas pipeline running through it. I think this was my favorite section of our route as I love creeks and wooded trails and it was a completely smooth trail with very few road crossings.
Next, we turned/merged onto the MCT Goshen trail. Also a very nice trail though for this section of it, it went more through farmland and towns. But still smooth, flat, and nice riding. Goshen went up and over the next trail we were supposed to take, Ronald Foster Heritage Trail (aka Glen Carbon Trail) but no one in my party noticed the RFHT and I was behind a bit taking some pictures and by the time I chased the group down, they had gone quite a bit past our turn so we decided to just continue on to the next trail, rather than turn back.
So, Goshen took us to the Nickel Plate Trail which at first took us back South, but then angled Southwest. The first half of the Nickel Plate Trail ran along a really nice, deep creek with some great forest sections to the left and a narrow wooded section that separate us from suburban housing on the right. Again smooth pavement and very nice scenery. However, after it met up with the Glen Carbon trail, we got more into the town of Glen Carbon and ran parallel to W. Main Street. While it was still a totally safe on a path completely separate from the road, it wasn’t as scenic as the first half.
Our final trail was the MCT Nature Trail. Not necessarily aptly named. The least scenic trail in my eyes with trailer homes along the right and the worst pavement of the trip . They had recently very recently filled very small cracks with tar but it was still quite nice and quite smooth. There were a couple spots where the trail seemed to end but you just had to reroute about 50ft to find where the trail continued but it was the least flowy section of the trip.
The Nature Trail took us to a 0.4 mile connector trail that got us back to Horseshoe Lake State Park where we road East a bit back to our cars to load up and head back home.
Our planned 22.9 mile green route ended up turning into the 25.7 mile yellow route due to our missed turn. I was very proud of my 10-year old for riding 15 miles further than he had ever ridden before without the slightest complaint. Everyone enjoyed the trip. I’m not sure my boys are fully sold on road or trail biking yet (they prefer the pump track, the dirt jump track, and mountain biking) but I felt like this was a perfect place to introduce them to it, get some miles under their belts and see how they felt about it. Us older folks really enjoyed being able to just ride and ride without struggle or many interruptions. So if you love long, smooth flat rides or are just interested to try out biking on paved trails, the MCT trails are a perfect destination. Enjoy!