The Butterfield Stage Experience - New 250-mile Gravel Bicycle Route

The Butterfield Stage Experience - Mostly Gravel Bicycle Route

The new Butterfield Stage Experience bicycle route is a historic experience along back country roads that leaves you with smiles for miles across Missouri. A mostly gravel/bikepacking route across some of the most beautiful, peaceful, and historic places in rural Missouri, you’ll re-experience an 1858 Butterfield Stagecoach trip across Missouri. 

The Butterfield Stage Experience - 250 miles through the historic rural Missouri landscape
The Butterfield Stage Experience - 250 miles through the historic rural Missouri landscape

If you like the Katy Trail, Rock Island Trail, Frisco Highline Trail, or similar trails in your area, but are ready to take one more step towards adventure and history--the Butterfield Stage Experience is for you!


About the Butterfield Stage Experience 

The Butterfield Stage Experience is a new mostly gravel bicycle touring route consisting of county gravel roads and multi-use trails using/paralleling the historic Butterfield Stage Route in Missouri

 Currently over 250 miles in length, the route is low-traffic trail-like experience that leads you straight to the heart of rural Missouri and visits many of the historic Butterfield Stage sites and monuments across the state. The route is accessible to most who enjoy natural-surface routes like the Katy Trail and Rock Island Trail--and are ready to take the next step towards adventure.

The route is mostly on well-maintained county gravel roads and multi-use trails, with a few mountain bike trail routes and paved "country road" or rural city street sections as needed for connectivity.

By the numbers: 50% gravel, 16% multi-use trail (mostly soft-surface), 34% paved (mostly low-traffic "country lanes" or city streets in small rural communities), 0.6% (1.5 miles) easy single track (old gravel road converted to mountain bike trail system connector, road bike-able).

The historic Butterfield Overland Stage route was one of the major intercontinental routes across North America--in the same class as the Oregon Trail, California Trail, and Santa Fe Trail. At over 2500 miles, the Butterfield was the longest regularly scheduled overland stage route ever operated--anywhere in the world.

Along the Butterfield you will find many historic stations, buildings, monuments, and communities--and you'll be able to find them all via Points of Interest in our GPS route guides.

GPS routes also include Points of Interest for available camping, lodging, re-supply points, restaurants, convenience stores, and other practical information you'll need to complete your trip along the historic route.

Great for day trips, weekend get-aways, or a few days of bike camping or bikepacking.

Connect to the Katy, Rock Island, and Frisco Highline Trails.

Go explore Missouri in a whole new way.

The Butterfield Stage Experience Partners have scoped out the entire released primary route and have found every segment to be an amazing and enjoyable experience. Route and surface conditions vary, of course--ride at your own risk!

We hope you enjoy the experience as well--and give us any needed feedback for improvement in the routes, mapping, or current route conditions.

The Butterfield Stage Experience route is being developed in partnership with many partners across the state--including you, the users.


The Butterfield Stage Experience Maps & GPS Tracks


How to use RideWithGPS tracks with RideWithGPS and other devices


===> NOTE: See this separate article for more details about how to use the routes with OR without RideWithGPS

On the Butterfield State Experience RideWithGPS map pages, you can

  • Save each individual segment to your own RideWithGPS account, edit or change routes as you wish (ie, to reverse it),
  • Download the routes in various formats (FIT, GPX, TCX, etc) for use with various devices
  • Download the routes to the (free) RideWithGPS app in your smart phone
  • Print maps and cue sheets, and various other useful things. 

Note: You may need to sign up for a (free) RideWithGPS account to do certain of the above actions.

  • Note that many of the useful RideWithGPS Points of Interest will not export to most GPS devices. This includes historic sites, markers, monuments, nearby points of interest, lodging, camping, shopping, restaurants, bike shops, and so on. So, even if you export the route to FIT, GPX, or TCX to use with your main navigation device, you may wish to also consult RideWithGPS for those points of interest and services.
  • We are working now on making routes more easily available to everyone in different electronic formats--stay tuned.
  • For now, some regional connector routes are available in one direction only.  You can use RideWithGPS or your own wayfinding software to reverse routes as needed. More bi-directional routes coming soon . . .

Downloading files from RideWithGPS for any GPS unit

Even if you don't have a RideWithGPS account, you can use these routes on RideWithGPS or download them for other devices. Instructions:

  1. View one of the master maps (primary route master map - options & connections master map), click the route you want on the master map, then click GO TO ROUTE.
  2. Click "..." next to "Send to Device".
  3. Then choose FIT, TCX, GPX, or other format as desired, and download.
  4. For some advanced options you may need to sign up for a RideWithGPS account.

Conditions - Preparation - Ride suggestions

Routes are generally on remote county gravel roads. Roads are generally well maintained by county highway departments, but be aware of conditions and weather, carry all needed supplies including basic first aid supplies, food, and water, be prepared, and travel at your own risk.

This is a NEW ROUTE so there are bound to be unforeseen problems with routes, maps, GPS tracks, and every other aspect of the project. We invite your feedback as we work to make the routes and support materials better.  Visit our contact page or the project Facebook page to give comments or feedback.

  • Remote areas - be prepared

    You are traveling far from population centers, communication, and emergency services. Bring any needed navigation and communication aids. Bring extra batteries or portable charges for cell phones and other devices. Consider bringing printed maps or cue sheets as a backup. Much of the route may have cell service and data, depending on your provider, but much may not.

    Tip: Put cell phones into airplane mode to prevent battery drain when in remote areas.

  • Respect private property

    Roads are public rights-of-way but most land you pass by will be private land--fenced and marked. Please do not trespass--local residents do not take kindly to trespassing.

  • Farms and homes dot the route - and road conditions vary
    Farms and homes dot the route - and road conditions vary

    Small towns and rural areas

    Most of the route is remote and rural, with services available only at population centers. Note, however, that many small rural towns have few services. Shops, restaurants, and attractions may have very limited hours or days of operation.

    Though the route passes through rural areas, nearly every road on the route is in fact lightly populated with homes and farms--you'll rarely go more than a mile without seeing a home or farmstead.

  • Be self-sufficient

    Be self-sufficient and carry the food, water, supplies, and wayfinding equipment you need. But if you do find yourself in a very difficult or life-threatening situation, you can generally find someone reasonably nearby who will help.



Which bicycle?

  • Surface condition and bicycle type
    Butterfield Stage Experience cross-state gravel bicycle route, near Syracuse, MO
    Butterfield Stage Experience cross-state gravel bicycle route, near Syracuse, MO

    Most roads are well maintained gravel.  You will want a bicycle capable of comfortably handling these conditions.  If you have a bicycle your are comfortable riding on a soft-surface road or trail like the Katy Trail or Rock Island Trail, it will likely work fine for this route.

    Gravel road conditions and smoothness are generally just a notch lower than very highly-maintained soft-surface trails like the Katy Trail. Road conditions and surface do vary considerably depending on exact materials, location, weather conditions, maintenance, and other factors. 
  • What bicycle should I use?

    Most riders will use a mountain bike, a cyclocross bike, a dedicated gravel/adventure bike, a fat bike, or a hybrid bike or touring bike (as long as outfitted with reasonably wide tires). Generally speaking, wider tires with more grip will give a better experience.

    Just for example, the route has been successfully navigated--with care--by a short wheel-base recumbent with with 1.5 inch tires.

    Weather conditions like rain and frost heave can lead to soft surface conditions, much as they do with soft surface trails like the Katy Trail. However, roads lead to numerous farms, homes, and businesses meaning that there is regular travel and maintenance to keep access available for those local residents. Regular automobile travel keeps at the lead the tire track portion of the road reasonably smooth and compacted. 

 Road conditions do vary - but usually roads are manageable--with proper caution!--even in fairly wet weather 

See MoBikeFed News articles related to the development of USBR 51 and the Butterfield Stage Experience cross-state gravel route.


Creating a world-class bicycle, pedestrian, and trails transportation network across Missouri is one of the four major goals of MoBikeFed's Vision for Bicycling and Walking in Missouri. Creating, promoting, and encouraging the implementation of the statewide trails vision along with major trails like the Katy Trail and Rock Island Trail along with developing and maintaining statewide bicycle touring routes like the Birthplace of the Santa Fe Trail Bicycle Route, Butterfield Stage Experience, and many others--which often create connections between our major trail and existing bicycle route systems--are vitally important parts of that plan.

Your ongoing membership and generous financial support help turn our Vision into reality!

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