How to connect from MO's Katy/Rock Island Trail to KS's Flint Hills Nature Trail using trails & low-stress routes

UPDATE: We've put the Katy-Rock Island-Flint Hills Nature Trail route outlined in this article together one  one hand route page.  Check it out here: Katy Trail to Flint Hills Nature Trail bicycle route

Recently one of our members contacted us with a very good question: How can a trail rider connect from Missouri's Katy /Rock Island Trail system to the Flint Hill Nature Trail in neighboring Kansas?

One reason we're so excited about our recent working in developing and promting gravel and bicycle touring routes across Missouri, is that when you put that together with our expanding local and statewide trails system, connections like this are VERY possible today--even for riders who prefer trails and low-stress roads.

Here is what I wrote to Todd--explaining both one nice way to connect the Katy/Rock Island and the Flint Hills Nature Trails, but also in general the resources and routes we have been developing recently:

We've got some  resources that should help, though you'll have to put a few things together. All of these routes and resources are designed with exactly your use case in mind--what if you are the kind of rider who prefers trails but would use a nice connection to between trails if it were lower traffic/backroads mostly.

Also the bicycle world's recent  discovery helps a lot:  The discovery that--with the right bike--gravel roads are ALMOST as good as trails and they already go to tons of places. 

So if you don't mind riding some gravel roads that opens up a lot more options.  You could probably connect the Rock Island Trail near Pleasant Hill with the east end of the Flint Hills Trail with an almost 100% gravel route.  Our Missouri Gravel and Bikepacking Page has routes and resources to get you started with that.

The Santa Fe Trail Bicycle Route (gravel option, in red) and Flint Hills Nature
The Santa Fe Trail Bicycle Route (gravel option, in red) and Flint Hills Nature Trail (green) in eastern Kansas

Here are my specific suggestions for routes that will help connect the Katy/Rock Island the Flint Hills Trails:

Putting all that together, if it were me, I would take the State Parks Katy/Rock Island Trails to Pleasant Hill, then the Greenwood Gap Connector to Lee's Summit, then the Rock Island Trail northwesterly to its current end point, then Rock Island-Indian Creek Trail connector west or east, then at MILE 10 of that route you take the Blue River Trail south a couple of miles, where you jump on the SFE-03.01P Santa Fe Trail through KC area, joining it around mile 26.  Take that to the end of the route at Gardner Junction, then jump on the Santa Fe Trail mostly-gravel option (or paved, if you prefer), taking that west to near Council Grove, KS, where it meets the Flint Hills Trail.

That might not be the shortest route but it would be an AMAZING ride linking those two major trail system.

General bicycle tour and route  planning resources


How to get to the Rock Island Trail from (almost) anywhere in the Kansas City area

Developing and promoting better bicycle routes, trails, bikepacking options, bicycle route systems, and bicycle  touring systems helps with several of the major goals in our Vision for Bicycling and Walking in Missouri:

  • Encouraging more bicycling and walking
  • Building a statewide movement in support of bicycling and walking
  • Creating a world-class bicycle, pedestrian, and trails network across Missouri.

Your ongoing membership and generous financial support makes projects like this possible and helps turn our Vision into reality?