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KATY trail terrain


My husband and I are new bikers and want to try to KATY trail. His skill level is much higher than mine. Can someone tell me what the grade from Clinton to Sedalia is like? Little hills, big hills, gradual grade? Is there a section of the trail that would be best for the beginner who can't handle much in the way of hills?

Thanks for your advice.
posted Sep 20 2007 11:28AM - JANET, BALDWIN KS

It's mostly flat. Maybe slightly uphill from Clinton to Sedalia. My Husband & I rode from Clinton to St. Charles last summer and had a great time. It really doesn't take much conditioning. The main problem we had was a very sore bottom. I would suggest padded bike shorts and a padded seat.
posted Sep 20 2007 9:19PM - Julie, Lees Summit

There is nothing steep on the KATY anywhere.

That said - there is a general climb in elevation from Clinton to Sedalia.

Long grades, but nothing steep. Just find a comfortable gear and keep pedaling.

The thing that most folks don't understand when they are riding a trail - as compared to riding on the roads - is that is really no coasting. The rail beds are so flat and the grades are so gradual that you just pedal all of the time. If the grade is down - you pick up a couple miles per hour in speed - if the grade is up - you slow down a couple miles per hour. Either way - you're pedaling.

Go for it. It is a perfect time of year to be on the KATY in my opinion.
posted Sep 21 2007 8:56AM - El Toro

Go to the FAQ setion of this site, you will find information on how hilly is the trail with a link to a graph that gives you the elevations at all the trailheads.
posted Sep 22 2007 8:49AM - Gary, Near Tebbetts

We just rode the Clinton to Sedalia route yesterday and it is awesome! We got caught in a massive rain and lightning storm which made the trip interesting. There is a slight up hill grade and you will pass a sign that says "Highest Elevation" Katy Trail. It's really not that difficult though and it is very beautiful and scenic! The posting before mine really sums it up, just keep peddling and find a comfortable speed. You will have a ball! Take a light weight rain poncho!
posted Jun 16 2008 4:41PM - Dana Dunn, Kansas City


The elevation graph mentioned earlier needs to be stretched out sideways for 230-miles to get a better idea of what the gradual inclines on the western end of the trail are like, which are 1-to-2% at most. That's less than one rear gear shift for basic riding.
posted Jun 17 2008 8:10AM - jd, gkc

It's a nifty litte graph, but is very deceiving when the distance between towns is represented as the same. At best it shows the elevation at each town, but in no way represents angle or percent slope.
posted Jun 17 2008 10:15AM - Trek

Do you live in town in Baldwin? Riding the Trail is similar to riding around the main part of
town -- no hills as steep as going up through lovely downtown Baldwin City! I went to
college in Baldwin and have many fond memories of biking all over town and out to the Lake.
Both times I have been pulled over for speeding on my bike were in downtown Baldwin
City...Sharon
posted Jun 17 2008 9:48PM - sbikes, Kansas City

jd and trek, you are absolutely right about the graph. People will have to imagine the graph stretched out 230 miles to get and idea of the inclines, I just don't know how to pass a graph on to Ray that would be bigger than a standard page width. The reason I created the graph was in part to hearing all too often people pulling into the trail head at Rocheport and talking about how they thought the trail was suppose to be flat and that they had trouble on the Clifton to Pilot Grove stretch. If anyone knows how to make the graph a better representation of the inclines (I used Excel), I would give it a shot.
posted Jun 19 2008 9:01PM - Anonymous

Hey. Thanks for your last comment.

As you know, most bicycling elevation-maps are exaggerated because the map’s two axes are disproportionate. That is, the horizontal axis (distance) is done in miles (which is 5280 feet/mile) while the vertical axis (elevations)is done in feet only. Thus, the elevations appear much higher than they really are, and the inclines much steeper than they really are.

Of course, the purpose of the elevation map is merely to show where the inclines are, not how steep they are. Bicyclists know that. So the map isn't a problem. Yet, to make the elevations/inclines appear more accurate, both axes need to be done in miles. That could result in a fairly flat line. :) :) Chow.
posted Jun 20 2008 11:33AM - jd, gkc

But.....many people like Janet from Baldwin, KS, who started this thread, wanted to know "what the grade from Clinton to Sedalia is like?" El Toro in a reply spoke of "Long grades, but nothing steep." Most inquires here seem to be about the grade or slope. I think folks simply want to know how steep the hills are, not what the elevation of any given point is. Slope or grade is independent of elevation. A 20% incline is no steeper in the Rocky Mountains than it is in Missouri, but it is a much higher elevation.
posted Jun 20 2008 1:10PM - Trek

Riding west from Boonville to Pilot Grove certainly doesn't feel like a flat or gradual grade. That ride is brutal. Otherwise, the trail feels pretty flat throughout.
posted Jun 24 2008 1:30PM - Douglas Smith, Wentzville, Missouri

Good Afternoon my wife and I are also beginers and want to ride the katy trail, we are both in our second child hood and knees are now part of the ride. what would all of say is the flatest part of the katy ? I would have also asumed that Rochport was flat, driving by it looks to follow the river.
posted Jul 5 2008 3:49PM - MVC, Overland Park Ks

I updated the elevation graph and Ray has posted it on this site. I stretched it out as much as I could and flattened it out somewhat so now I think it more accurately represents the inclines one can expect between the trail heads.
posted Jul 14 2008 11:02PM - Gary near Tebbetts, Tebbetts

Nice job! This new graph makes a clear statement about where the elevations are. It is much better than having a less-than-1%- incline flat-line down close to the horizontal baseline that graphically says little or nothing. :) :)
posted Jul 15 2008 4:22PM - jd, gkc

I just finished the Clinton to Sedalia section. As one post mentioned it is slightly up hill from Clinton going East. No big hills as is true all along the trial. If you are a beginner, if you take your time you should be fine. When I road it the section from Clinton to Calhoun had some annoying tractor tire tracks embedded in the trail from DNR cutting brush along the sides, apparently while the trail was wet. They were not hazardous by any means but a little annoying due to the vibration in places. These cleared up after I got past Calhoun.
posted Sep 25 2008 6:40PM - Jeff M, Warrensburg, MO

I just finished the Clinton to Sedalia section. As one post mentioned it is slightly up hill from Clinton going East. No big hills as is true all along the trial. If you are a beginner, if you take your time you should be fine. When I road it the section from Clinton to Calhoun had some annoying tractor tire tracks embedded in the trail from DNR cutting brush along the sides, apparently while the trail was wet. They were not hazardous by any means but a little annoying due to the vibration in places. These cleared up after I got past Calhoun.
posted Sep 25 2008 6:40PM - Jeff M, Warrensburg, MO

Seriously, people - the steepest part westbound (Boonville to Pilot Grove) is only a rise of 220 feet over 11 miles - thats only 20 feet per mile, or about 0.38%. That's hardly brutal, as some as claimed.
posted Feb 9 2009 2:42PM - Top Shelf, Roundhead, Ohio

Fantastic work on the updated graph. Wow! 20 feet every mile. No wonder it feels so brutal!
posted Feb 9 2009 3:43PM - Biker, Farmington, MO

If you have biked at all you would refer to the trail as flat. As flat as one could possibly
imagine 230 miles being. I cant believe someone called it "brutal."

Maybe if you've spent the past 20 years eating bon bons and watching days of our lives!


posted Feb 12 2009 12:50AM - robert, columbia

"Maybe if you've spent the past 20 years eating bon bons and watching days of our lives!"

My, aren't we condescending. Pretend for a moment that not everyone riding the trail is as fine a physical specimen that you surely must be.
posted Feb 13 2009 11:42AM - Jim, St. Thomas

Anyone who tells you that the Katy Trail is flat hasn't ridden between Clinton and Pilot
Grove. While not the steepest hills in the world, there are definitely HILLS in between the
towns. Just looking at elevations from town to town doesn't tell you much of the story.
Now for some people, say a thin, lean rider, these hills aren't much of a deal. If you're
older, and heavy, and not used to riding on hills (like me) they could be a big deal. It's
been a couple years now, but I seem to recall 5-6% grades on those hills. And there are
more than a few of them. I've ridden the KT end to end several times, and what I mostly
remember on those days was going uphill all day long... yes, I am quite a slow rider, even
on real flats. (No it wasn't really uphill all day long, it just seemed like it...)
No, it's not the same as riding over the Rockies, but it sure isn't purely flat.

Robert from Columbia, I agree with Jim - no call for your being so rude and
condescending. Not all of us are perfect specimens like you.
posted Feb 13 2009 12:03PM - Ferdette, Missouri



Here is what this website says about the hills, "Honestly, most riders can't even feel the
slopes, except for the Boonville bridge."



posted Feb 13 2009 3:55PM - robert, columbia

It's flat, pancake flat. Hills are these things that actually go up, then back down again eventually. Sometimes you have to get out of the saddle on hills. There is no coasting when going up hills, and I can think of no place on the Katy proper where coasting cannot be implemented, albeit sparingly. Furthermore, trains don't do hills, unless it's on Looney Tunes (the Katy is an old rail line, after all).

Brutal? Come on.
posted Feb 13 2009 4:47PM - Jules, Lake Saint Louis, MO

Pancake flat! That's even worse! Pancakes slope down from the middle, toward the edges! This part of the pancake-flat Katy Trail slopes for MILES! Big-time brutal! ;)
posted Feb 17 2009 10:56AM - Biker, Farmington, MO

The gravel and the wind will be much, much, much bigger factors than the "hills."

I think you can only use "hills" in quotes in this situation!
posted Feb 18 2009 1:19PM - robert, columbia

The gravel, wind and hills are only brutal if you've spent the past 20 years eating bon bons and watching days of our lives, Robert from Columbia! (snark snark, wink wink) :)
posted Feb 18 2009 1:54PM - Biker, Farmington, MO

The section around pilot grove can be a real pain in the kiester when you're walking.
posted Feb 23 2009 8:56AM - DougK, Troy

Regarding the grades...One reader's comment about 5-6% grades might not be accurate. The Katy Trail is the railbed of the former Katy RR. As such, I can't imagine any grade more than 3% (3 ft rise in 100 ft). A steep grade for the Katy would have been 2%, and 3% is extremely rare. I'd guess 1-2% grades in hilly areas are the rule.
posted Sep 1 2009 12:46PM - SamD, Excelsior Springs, MO

Thanks to Ray for posting the elevation chart and the gentlemen who put the chart together! It was really helpful. Could I call on you to integrate into the elevation chart the mileage between each of the cities listed. I think that would be a great resource. I was looking at the elevation chart then flipping back and forth to calculate distances between cities from the other chart you have on your site. Just a thought and mostly me being lazy.
posted Sep 1 2009 3:34PM - John, Los Angeles

Thanks John, I used an excel spreadsheet to create the elevation graph because that is what I had available to use. Not really designed to create an elevation chart but I fiddled around with it to get it to "look about right". I have not found any cheap (key word is cheap) graphing software that would let me enter the elevations, distances and trail heads to generate a good graph. If anyone out there knows of one, let me know and I'll give it a shot.
posted Sep 2 2009 9:15PM - Gary near Tebbetts, Tebbetts, Missouri

Gary, I don't think he's talking about your elevation chart.....He used the term "gentleman" in his description.
posted Sep 3 2009 8:05AM - Jim, St. Thomas

I'm a CorelDraw user and could do one if you'd like. It wouldn't take too long and the hour rate is right....free beings John was so polite.

I'm kinda lazy too and I understand the confusion in trying to put info together when planning. Planning a trip to the Mickelson with their site and guidebook can sure make you appreciate what we have here! I've never seen such a mess of confusing foldout maps in the back of that guidebook in my life. It'll hit Ebay soon if anyone is interested in a South Dakota trip.
posted Sep 3 2009 4:48PM - Trek

Well bro, I must admit that "gentleman" thing did kind of throw me off balance a little, but then he doesn't know me like you do.

Trek, appreciate the offer, but Ray is really the one who decides what to include in his web site. So I say go for it, send it to Ray for him to review.
posted Sep 3 2009 7:50PM - Gary near, Tebbetts, MO

Absolutely, if you are up for adding the mileage numbers then I''ll be happy to put it on the website. The chart is a jpg file, so I would think you could just drop some numbers onto the image (I had thought about doing it myself after reading John''s note, but these things usually take a while to percolate to the top of my to-do list, so feel free to jump in).
posted Sep 3 2009 9:53PM - Ray (webmaster)

There are useful tools on the web that you can use to get an idea of what can be found, terrain-wise, on a route. In fact, I drew on data from one of these sites to have a look. This plots distance traveled versus acc. climb and descent distance. (I did notice someone graphed the whole Katy with this site.)

I find accumulated climb distance, or ascent, a good measure of how hilly a particular area is, at least in terms of riding difficulty. From the edge of Clinton to the fairgrounds in Sedalia measures out to be 373.36ft ascent, 288.71ft descent, over a total distance of 34.70 miles.

Now if you think that's "brutal", I can find you routes that are much worse than that over shorter distances within reasonable driving distance of the Katy Trail. For example, my last shorter ride was 13.5 miles, 295ft ascent, 289ft descent. My last ride before that was a 28.5 mile out-and-back, with 636ft of climbing.

For MO, the Katy computes as "flat".
posted Sep 8 2009 2:37AM - Glenn1234

My biking buddy and I rode from Clinton to Jeff City w/ overnights in Sedalia and Rocheport. We found that end of the Trail from Clinton to Pilot Grove to be a challenge. We are both retired so we didn't have 20something (or even 40 something) fresh legs to help us along. To us it felt like mostly steady climbing with a couple of long uphill grades. Pilot Grove to Boonville was pretty easy and then everything after pretty flat. We would like to ride the Trail East to West also just to see if it seems as difficult (at least for us).
posted Sep 10 2009 5:28PM - Kathy, Columbia, MO

I have a Droid phone, and will be running MyTracks during our trip. After the ride, I will gladly post Google Maps links to the forums to show the various elevation changes for anyone who wants to know how much of a slope there is at any point on the trail.
posted Sep 27 2010 1:03AM - Eric, Central NJ

I have a Droid phone, and will be running MyTracks during our trip. After the ride, I will gladly post Google Maps links to the forums to show the various elevation changes for anyone who wants to know how much of a slope there is at any point on the trail.
posted Sep 27 2010 1:12AM - Eric, Central NJ

Does MyTracks show elevation as well as slope between points? The elevation at the towns along the trail are on the elevation chart on this websit.
posted Sep 27 2010 1:07PM - Anonymous

OK - if the trail is so flat then how could that woman who's pig got killed by a train be so successfull in causing the trains to "skate" between Clifton City and Pilot Grove, where ever it was, by spreading the fat on the rails? Wow, yes, I do read the boards, it's a good way to rest between those 'flat spots.'
posted Sep 27 2010 2:13PM - Maggie, Kansas

Eric - one suggestion - you may want to save each trail head to trail head as a track as you go along so you don't lose everything if something goes wrong.
posted Sep 27 2010 3:27PM - Gary, Near Tebbetts

To the Anonymous 1:07PM poster --- It does store elevation and grade (slope) on the phone, anyhow. I'm doing some trial runs with it now to see what I have to do to capture all the information people will need.

To Gary: Good tip; I was planning on saving each day as a separate track, and simply tagging each stop as we went, but it'd probably be even better to save each trailhead stop as a separate track (in case the battery dies, for example.) I'll just have to take a quick breather at each major trailhead instead of pelting on through. ;D
posted Sep 27 2010 10:15PM - Eric, Central NJ

Yes, it does have an elevation graph on upload from MyTracks. It also puts up the highest downhill and uphill grades, so you can see how hard the steepest section will be.

Of course, a really short 15% grade isn't nearly as bad as a mile-long 10% one...
posted Sep 27 2010 11:26PM - Eric, Central NJ

Eric you might be able to go all day (with an extended battery) or half a day without saving your file. I have a droid eris and did a ride from my house to Hartsburg with a side trip down to see the new river path construction at Jeff City (about 24 miles) using MyTracks with just the standard battery that came with it. At the half way point I decided to turn off the music player though to conserve battery power and still had more than enough power to make a phone call and listen to some music at the end of the ride while waiting for the wife to pick me up. I had mine mounted on the handle bar to make sure it gets a good GPS signal.
posted Sep 28 2010 3:40PM - Gary, Near Tebbetts

We have 61 miles left on the trail for the year. Thanks for the information. We thought the roughest so far was Boonville to Pilot Grove. We have Pilot Grove to Clinton to go. We're trying to figure out which way to go Pilot Grove to Clinton or Clinton to Pilot Grove. I think we are doing a 2 day trip.
posted Sep 29 2010 11:13PM - Robin, Holts Summit

Robin - take a look at the elevation chart under the maps link above and decide if you want the Sedalia to Pilot Grove section at the beginning or at the end of you ride keeping in mind the wind direction and speed forecast for the day - also linked under either the maps or plan a ride above I forget which one has it.
posted Oct 1 2010 3:29PM - Gary, Near Tebbetts

Just checked the forecast is under both - linked to current weather.. I like the graphical forecast one that has everything on one nice page.
posted Oct 1 2010 3:38PM - Gary, Near Tebbetts

Frustratingly, MyTracks pushed an update on Wednesday night that broke the save functionality, and fixed it on Friday after we'd rolled into St. Charles.

I do have tracks from Clinton to McKittrick between each of the trailheads with a "station stop". I'll upload the raw tracks soon and link them here, though I have to do a bit of data quality work for a finished product (to fix the instances where it says a -10% grade, for example, probably from moving the phone from my hand to the top of my Camelbak.)
posted Oct 10 2010 5:37PM - Eric, Central NJ

Were the 10% grades between McBaine and Jefferson City? There are at least a couple of levees and their associated steep inclines /declines in that stretch.
posted Oct 10 2010 8:23PM - Jim, St. Thomas

They were scattered on the various parts, Jim. Here are the raw tracks for your perusal:

http://www.tinyurl.com/MKTPart1
http://www.tinyurl.com/MKTPart2
http://www.tinyurl.com/MKTPart3
posted Oct 11 2010 12:20PM - Eric, Central NJ

My local bike shop advertises group rides for all, beginners to advanced. I showed up for the one advertised as beginner and found a parking lot full of $2000 bikes with spandex clad snobs that didn't hide there disaproval of me, one actually made fun of my bike.

So, I've gotten use to riding by myself. I have alot of nerve damge to my legs due to ruptured disc in lower back. Disc are gone and vertibra fused and gradually regaining muscle strength. I have a Sun EZ Sport 26" rear wheel Semi Recumbent. Due to nerve damage legs, I can not do steep hills at all. We have a rails to trails here close to me, Tunnel Hill Trail at Vienna IL. Brochures state its never more than 2% grade, but that 2% grade is constant for 10 miles at a time. Easy for most but wears me down.

Thanks to all who made the elevation graph on this site, its helped me alot to decide what sections I'll try this year. Looks like I'll avoid anything west of Pilot Grove for this year. Prolly start west and head east and hope for wind at my back.
posted May 8 2011 1:24AM - Kevin, Paducah KY

here in pa you ride up or down heritage trail in york has a grade they had to use 2 engines to acend.its not a hard climb.i hope to be in warrensburg in june to do the katy not to worry i just turned 68 gross out at 240 and pass out a lot of those spandex snobs on rhe trail.but not on the roads.looking forward to it
posted May 10 2011 7:24PM - johnm, pottsville pa

My advice for a comfortable ride, is to be in good riding shape with cycling shorts and a good saddle. Some people like leather saddles or Terry saddles are good. I have rode a lot in Europe and they have a lot of paved trails. Paved trails are usually solid lines and dashed is gravel
posted May 17 2013 3:24PM - Terry Walsh, Toronto, ON

I think it's worth noting that the eastbound section of the Western trail, the section from Clinton to Prairie Lick/Pilot Grove feels in large parts like a long slog uphill, especially the section from Clifton City to Pilot Grove. Grades are not "steep" necessarily but they are long. You will, depending on your weight and fitness level, spend several hours climbing.
I rode this section of the trail when I was about 280 lbs (I've since lost weight), add all my touring/camping gear and I was probably pushing 315 pounds. I spent most of the time in the granny gear. For what it's worth I'd spent several weeks conditioning for the trail, riding about 11 miles 3 x a week on the Longview Lake trail in Lee's Summit/Kansas City. My cardio was decent but my legs struggled. For me that section was difficult. Maybe challenging is a better word. However, it was also rewarding and I'm glad I successfully did it. Downhill from Pilot Grove to Boonville was a treat after what felt like two full days of climbing.
posted Apr 28 2014 10:45AM - Allen, Kansas City, MO

Allen, I applaud your persistence and training for those small grades but I do believe the weight was more of the challenge than the grade. That Clifton City to Pilot Grove section going east does have some steady inclines but it is more psychological seeing the incline and not seeing the other sides for some time. I use music to keep a rhythm and distract my wondering mind to get through that section of the KT.
posted Apr 28 2014 8:29PM - Anonymous

Wow, there is a lot of comments about this elevation! I first rode the entire length of the Katy Trail last year, but had never rode more than 25 miles on a bike until a month before I set out to do it. I rode 50 miles one day, 2 weeks before I rode the whole way in 5 days. But because of poor planing on my part, I had to ride 70 miles to make it to make it to Boonville from Clinton. All along the way, I felt like I was going up hill, until I reached the higest point on the trail. I stopped a lot and then almost ran out of water before getting to Pilot Grove, then it rained and daylight turned to night and I got a cramp in my left leg and had to pedal with my right leg only, but I kept going. Riding the trail was on my Bucket List and if I had to climb up hill all the way, guess what? I was going to the top. The Katy Trail is a challenge, its not going to be easy, but like anything else, if you put your mind to it and have the time to do it, you will. By the way I am in my 50's and 270 lbs, but over a 6'5" stretch. I rode alone and I loved it. I am going on the DNR ride in June, UP HILL ALL THE WAY, east to west! And I am not going to even think about how many feet I am climbing, its the challenge and fun of the ride, the openess, the river, beauty and adventure along the way, not to mention all of the nice and friendly people I met while doing it. It's fun people, either way you go or look at it, Just Ride it and you will agree! I Now have the shirt and 237 sticker! Also, Also, this is the best bike riding trail in the country! Get out and ride it, you will like it no matter which part you are on or what direction you go!
posted Apr 30 2014 8:32AM - Will, Columbia

I have ridden the trail several times in both directions. While I am an experienced rider (now age 73, my last ride was when I was 71) and the incline going from Boonville to Pilot Grove is noticeable. There are no major climbs or declines but in the western portion it is noticeable whether you are going uphill or downhill. But all things are relative. One of my humorous events was the day I met a family that was going toward Boonville. The mother said to me, "at least your lucky, you are going downhill". I didn't have the heart to tell them that they were going downhill!

The highest elevation is at about mile marker 242.5 and is probably closer to 992 ft than the 995 indicated on the sign.
posted Jan 26 2015 6:01PM - Phil, Colorado Springs, CO

I misstated the max elevation - it is 952,not 992.
posted Jan 26 2015 6:18PM - Phil, Colorado Springs, CO

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