Columbia offers several parks and trails near MU campus

Thursday, July 28, 2011 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 6:23 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 31, 2011
Maple leaves pattern the sky at Rock Bridge State Park on Tuesday.

Columbia and Boone County have a number of nearby parks for hiking, biking or simply getting away from the city.

All park hours: 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily

Clyde Wilson Memorial Park

Nestled in the East Campus neighborhood, this small park is perfect for a short afternoon hike. The hilly half-mile trail has two entry points, one at the end of Wilson Street and another just past the intersection of Rollins Street and Williams Street, near the College of Veterinary Medicine. Don’t bring your bike; the path is too rocky.

Capen Park

This wooded area is just south of campus off Rock Quarry Road. Once you park, take the south path to cross Hinkson Creek to link up with the Hinkson Creek Trail, or head north into Capen Park, where a flat half-mile nature trail follows Hinkson Creek in the opposite direction.

Hinkson Creek Trail/Grindstone Nature Area

A favorite of students who live off U.S. 63, the Grindstone Nature Area is a great place to bike, jog or hike. The park is located near the intersection of U.S. 63 and  Stadium Boulevard. The Hinkson Creek Trail has an entry point here, winding its way through the woods and over Hinkson Creek all the way to the MKT Nature and Fitness Trail on the west side of town, 4.2 miles away. Columbians have been known to flock the area after dinner; it can be quite busy near dusk.

MU Recreation Trail

The MU Recreation Trail starts on campus off Providence Road, heads south past Memorial Stadium and links up with Hinkson Creek Trail. At that point, pedestrians can choose to head east on the path toward the Grindstone Nature Area or west toward the MKT Trail.

MKT Nature and Fitness Trail

This 8.9 mile long trail is quite popular. It starts downtown in Flat Branch Park at Fourth and Cherry streets and extends southwest to link up with the Katy Trail. Thanks to updates in 2007, the trail passes underneath Elm Street, Providence Road and Stewart Road, allowing for passage to the Katy Trail without stops. Other entry points include 501 S. Providence Road, 800 W. Stadium Blvd., 2701 Forum Boulevard, and 3662 Scott Blvd. Each of these entry points has parking, except for 501 S. Providence Road.

Peace Park

Peace Park is often filled with students lounging under trees and on benches in between classes on sunny spring days. Adjacent to the MU School of Journalism buildings, Peace Park is located just northwest of Francis Quadrangle and across the street from Gannett Hall. The park also plays a prominent role in various downtown events, including the Roots 'N' Blues 'N' BBQ and Earth Day festivals.

Stephens Lake Park

Just east of downtown at Broadway and Old 63, this large park features an 11-acre lake with a swimming beach. There is a trail around the lake and another around the park's perimeter, and there are several large fields that are perfect for playing Frisbee. There is also a large sledding hill on the east side of the lake for  snowy winter afternoons.

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