1. Rock Bridge Memorial State Park, Pine Ridge Campground/Trailhead
Marked with gray diamonds, this part of the Mark Twain National Forest is also part of the Cedar Creek Trail and is only open to mountain bikes and foot traffic. The whole Cedar Creek trail, measuring 36 miles, has other spots for hiking and horseback riding.
2. Rock Bridge Memorial State Park, Shooting Star Trailhead/Trail
John Shannon, 37, manager of the outdoor department at Walt’s Bicycle Fitness and Wilderness Co., says this is the most scenic trail in the park. “Shooting Star and Pine Ridge are probably the two best,” he says. The trail leads to the Gans Creek Wild area, and the trailhead is named after the wildflower, shooting star, which blooms mid-April to mid-May. Kathryn DiFoxfire, interpretive resource technician at Rock Bridge, describes Shooting Star as a multi-use trail, depending upon the time of year. At times, it is a walking-only trail, but horses are allowed between June 1 and the end of October. The trail is sometimes closed to horses, however, because of weather. Call first to check on trail conditions.
(573) 442-2249, Bonne Femme Church road, off Highway 163.
3. Binder Lake, Jefferson City
“Probably one of the best places around is Jeff City,” says Thomas McDaniel, a Walt’s employee. “Binder Lake is a great place. They’ve got, I think, about 10 to 12 miles of single-track trail now.” The park includes a .7 mile nature trail and six other trail loops ranging from 1.19 to 3.61 miles along with other sports options: sand volleyball courts, softball fields, a disc golf course and boating and fishing in the lake.
5840 Rainbow Drive, Jefferson City. (573) 634-6482, jeffcitymo.org/parks/binderpark.html
4. Cosmo Park
Cosmo Park has multiple trails. “It’s a nice mix of quick, steep climbs and nice, long windy downhills. So, in essence, it’s kind of like a roller coaster,” says John Shannon. He says he also likes the 2.4-mile Rhett’s Run for mountain biking. The course was designed by the same people who designed the 1996 Olympic mountain biking course. Cosmo also includes part of Bear Creek Trail, which links the park with Oakland Park. In addition, there is the Cosmo Fitness Trail, which is a 1.25-mile asphalt trail for walking, biking and skating.
1615 Business Loop 70 West, (573) 874-7460, gocolumbiamo.com/ParksandRec/Parks/Cosmo_Park
5. Rock Bridge Memorial State Park, Devil’s Icebox Trail
The half-mile trail features the entrances to Devil’s Icebox Cave and Connor Spring. Throughout the trail there are informational displays.
5901 South Hwy. 163. (573) 449-7402,
Some more top sports spots
1) The Current River
Located southeast of Columbia, the Current is known as a great place for floating and trout fishing. It begins at Montauk State Park near Salem and, because it rarely freezes, it is usable almost all year.
2) Boone and surrounding counties
“It just doesn’t get a whole lot better from my perspective,” says Thomas McDainel, a Walt’s employee, with regard to road cycling in the county. “For consistent roads, where the people who live and work on these roads don’t seem to mind you being there, it’s probably one of the best places you can own a road bike.” He recommends beginning at New Haven and Rangeline for a good ride.
3) Big Tree Loop
“The Big Tree Loop is definitely a local favorite for a lot of people. It’s roughly 25 miles depending where you leave from,” says McDaniel. “As far as hills and such are concerned, depending on the route you take, it can be pretty challenging,” he says.
A good place to start, according to the Columbia Bike Club, is Wilson’s on Forum Boulevard and then continue south on Forum. This loop leads through Huntsdale. For more information on the Big Tree Loop, as well as other trails in the area, go to the Columbia Bike Club Web site at columbiabikeclub.com/frames/Great_Rides.htm.
4) Hercules Glades
Located in southwestern Missouri, near Branson, it is part of Mark Twain National Forest. “It’s got nice bald tops on the hills,” says Matt Bills, who works at the Alpine Shop. “It gives you the sense of being somewhere a little more out West. ” (573) 364-4621