5 ATV Opportunities in Central Missouri


Go on a hike to stay healthy and experience nature this summer.

The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) is encouraging Missourians to find ways to connect with nature as the weather warms, in accordance with COVID-19 health guidelines.

Careful use of conservation areas and mountain biking on Missouri’s public trails can provide excellent opportunities to embrace physical distancing, improve physical and mental health, and experience nature.

Mountain biking is an exciting way to experience the outdoors, and MDC and our partners have trails for cyclists of all skill levels,” said AJ Campbell, MDC Recreational Use Specialist.

Mountain bikes provide trail users with the ability to cover more distance than hiking and experience more of Missouri’s diverse geography and ecological communities. Mountain biking also presents unique challenges and requires some preparation and planning to stay safe.

Always Ride Safe on Missouri Trails:

• Make a plan and tell someone where you are going and when you plan to return.

• To wear a helmet.

• Stay on the trail.

• Be careful, manage your speed and anticipate obstacles on the trails.

• Share the trail, announce the passage of hikers, riders and other trail users.

• Prepare for bicycle repairs and other emergencies; Pack food, water, sanitizer, lights, and whatever else you might need if your trip takes longer than expected.

• Maintain a physical distance, wear a mask if necessary, protect yourself and others from disease by following health guidelines on the trail and when traveling to and from your destination.

The MDC allows bicycles to be used on roads and trails in the conservation area open to vehicular traffic, and on designated trails, except where posted. The conservation areas offer many opportunities for mountain biking in central Missouri, a short drive from the house. Learn more about this and other mountain biking possibilities at nature.mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/places, and download the MO Outdoors app for mobile devices.

Little Dixie Lake Conservation Area

• Uses: Hiking and mountain biking

• Length: approximately 6 miles; loop around the lake

• Surface: Earth and gravel

• Difficulty: Easy

• Unique features: view of Little Dixie Lake

Located in Callaway County, midway between Columbia and Fulton. This network of trails, marked with red markers, is accessible from each of the five car parks in the area. This generally wide and gentle trail is ideal for beginners and families. The north side features tight bends and ravine crossings best suited to experienced cyclists. The area also offers access for fishing and toilets accessible to people with reduced mobility. The COMO Trail Association is helping the MDC to maintain this trail.

Three streams conservation area

• Uses: hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding

• Length: Approximately 5 miles in total; several loops

• Surface: Earth, rock and gravel

• Difficulty: easy to difficult

• Unique features: rocky stream crossings and views of the cliffs

Located south of Columbia in Boone County, accessible from several points on US Highway 63. Approximately 5 miles of multi-use trails cross grassy fields, wooded hills and ridges, and shallows along streams Bass, Turkey and Bonne Femme. Access the starting points of each of the three car parks in the region. Trails are open year round, but users should exercise caution and wear Hunter Orange during gun hunting seasons. The area also offers primitive camping in several places along the trails. The COMO Trail Association is helping the MDC to maintain this trail.

Rudolf Bennitt Conservation Area

• Uses: hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding

• Length: Approximately 12 miles in total; several loops

• Surface: chat

• Difficulty: easy to moderate

• Unique features: Lake Bennitt, restored forests and savannas

Located northwest of Columbia in Boone, Howard and Randolph counties. About 12 miles of multi-use trails crisscross the woods and savannahs. This gently sloping cat surface trail system is ideal for beginners. Cyclists can access various loops of trails of varying lengths from several locations in the region. Part of the trail passes near the area’s 48-acre lake. Trails are closed to bikes and horses during the deer hunting seasons with firearms and before 1:00 p.m. during the spring turkey hunting season. The area also offers access to fishing, primitive camping, a shooting range and toilets accessible to people with reduced mobility. The Heartland Chapter of the Missouri Back Country Horsemen helps the MDC maintain these trails.

Hart Creek Conservation Area

• Uses: Hiking and mountain biking

• Length: 2.25 miles; one way

• Surface: Dirt

• Difficulty: moderate to difficult

• Unique features: long, steep hills and an observation deck over the Missouri River

Located northwest of Hartsburg in southwestern Boone County. A 2.25 mile trail begins at a bridge across Hart Creek, crossing a field and climbing a long, steep hill into the woods. After climbing the hill, users will follow a ridge that offers excellent views of the Missouri River valley. A 0.25 mile trail spur leads to an observation deck overlooking the river. From this junction, the main trail descends a steep hill and ends in a pristine camping area along the Katy Trail. The area also has a 2 acre fishing lake. The COMO Trail Association is helping the MDC to maintain this trail.

Bookbinding park

• Uses: Hiking and mountain biking

• Length: Approximately 15 miles in total; several loops

• Surface: Earth, rock

• Difficulty: easy to difficult

• Unique features: view of Lake Binder

This 644-acre park, located near Jefferson City, has four mountain bike loops that wind through the woods surrounding Binder Lake. The 15 miles of trails in total consist of loops ranging from 1.6 to 4.3 miles in length. The park, owned and managed by Jefferson City Parks, offers a number of amenities for visitors, including a 155-acre lake, owned and managed by MDC. The park offers playgrounds, RV camping, pavilions, shelters and picnic tables, toilets accessible to people with reduced mobility and access for fishing. Visit JC Parks for more information on mountain biking at Binder Park. The Osage Trail Association helps JC Parks maintain these trails.

Find other great mountain biking opportunities in central Missouri at Finger Lakes State Park, Rock Bridge State Park, and Columbia’s Cosmo Park.


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