This article is presented in sponsorship with Columbia CVB.

The MKT Nature and Fitness Trail is the centerpiece of Columbia’s trail system. The 8.9 mile crushed limestone path winds through neighborhoods and under busy roadways, but you’ll feel miles away from the hustle and bustle. You’re surrounded by the beauty of nature as you share the 10-foot-wide trail with families, fitness enthusiasts, and unhurried ramblers. The MKT stretches from downtown’s Flat Branch Park, meanders through southwest Columbia, and connects with Katy Trail State Park, yet you can hike or bike the length of the trail without ever crossing a street.

At 240 miles long, Katy Trail State Park is the longest rail-trail in the United States. The Katy runs between the towns of Clinton and Machens, with 26 trailheads along the way. Look up and you might see bald eagles circling overhead as you follow the portion of the trail that parallels the Missouri River, including the section that runs nearest Columbia.

Bear Creek Trail connects two of Columbia’s largest, most popular parks: the Columbia Cosmopolitan Recreation Area (widely known as Cosmo Park), and Albert-Oakland Park. The 4.8 mile limestone trail was completed in 2001. Convenient access points along the way make it a walk in the park for north-siders to hit the trail.

Grindstone Creek Trail connects the 230-acre Grindstone Nature Area to one of the city’s employment hubs: the McGwire Boulevard industrial area, giving visitors and daily commuters a close-up view of some of the most beautiful natural vistas the city has to offer, including native prairie, bubbling creeks, and limestone cliffs. You’re apt to find a birdwatcher or two sharing this concrete path with you as you get back to nature in the heart of the city.

The City of Columbia partnered with the University of Missouri to create the Hinkson Creek Trail. The limestone trail stretches 4.25 miles through woodlands and cityscapes, from the Grindstone Nature Area to the Hinkson Creek Recreation Area on the Mizzou campus, then on to the MKT Trail at the 6.75 mile marker, near the Stadium MKT trailhead.

Rock Bridge Memorial State Park, just minutes from Columbia, lets your explore nature from above and below. The caves in the park are a favorite for visitors. The chilly Devil’s Icebox cave is currently closed to visitors, in an effort to protect the bats who call it home, but you can visit Connor’s Cave. Trails crisscross the park, putting you in the midst of woods, wildflowers, and fall foliage.

Photos courtesy of Missouri State Parks