Thursday, 6 August 2015

St. Charles, Missouri Katy Trail and Old Town Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 6 km (3.7 miles), terrain: flat

If you're lucky enough to travel to St. Charles, Missouri, you'll need to try out this run through the historic town center and out along the Katy Trail.
Main Street in St. Charles
The Katy Trail is a 240-mile long state park, which turned the old Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad ("KT") line into a bike trail that reaches almost completely across the state. This running route, of course, just follows a short bit of the Katy Trail, but you could easily turn this route into one pretty long run, if you please.
Along the Katy Trail
Historic St. Charles is one of the most scenic American towns you'll ever see. It was originally founded by French voyageurs (fur trappers). The town was then taken over by the Spanish, who built the San Carlos church, which gave its name to the town, later anglicized to St. Charles.

Daniel Boone ran the area for the Spanish governor, and he built the Boone Lick Trail, beginning in St. Charles, the oldest trail for settlers west of the Mississippi.
Old houses in St. Charles
The area then became part of the Louisiana Purchase, which doubled the size of the young United States in 1803. The Americans decided to send Lewis and Clark off on their famous discovery expedition through the huge, newly purchased area, looking for navigable rivers to the Pacific. The 40-man Corps of Discovery set off from St. Charles, heading west along the Missouri, and they spent over two years exploring and charting the west.

St. Charles then became the first Missouri state capital, and since then it has retained its original charm, with a collection of 200-year-old houses along Main Street.

So, if you are ready to start your own expedition of discovery around St. Charles, let's go!
St. Charles station at Frontier Park
We'll start at the old train station down by the river, in Frontier Park. The Katy Trail is the wide, dirt trail next to the railroad tracks. It's used by a variety of bicyclists, runners and walkers.

Turn north, with the muddy river off to your right side, past Frontier Park. 
In Frontier Park, parallel to Katy Trail
Start running along the old train bed. Soon, you'll run past an old factory, which can be a bit loud and stinky for a short time, but then you'll be back in nature again.
Heading north on the Katy Trail
You'll later pass a boat ramp and a parking lot on the right, and soon after that you'll come to Eco Park, located before the next bridges: a railroad bridge and a car bridge (Route 370), north of St. Charles. This route will turn around here at Eco Park, after talking the little trail to the water's edge for a great view of the Missouri. You'll immediately understand why it's called Big Muddy.

NOTE: You could extend the run by another 12 miles northeastwards towards Machens on Missouri's eastern border, or run (or -- better -- bike) the other direction, westwards, for 220 miles along the Missouri to Clinton, MO! 
The Big Muddy, looking north towards the Route 370 bridge
So now you just return back to town, and you could just stay on the Katy Trail back to the train station. But to see a bit more of Old St. Charles, we'll head up through part of the town itself.

After you run past the factory again, you'll see a big electrical transformer on the right side. Just before the transformer, turn right to run up Monroe Street for a block, until you get to Main Street.
The first part of Main Street
At Main, turn left and run past all the historic businesses. The first few blocks are typical American business buildings from the late 1800s.

After just a block, you'll see some very rough sidewalk paving on the left, with lots of uneven stones in front of a brick building. This was Missouri's first state capitol building. Behind it is an interesting set of twin log buildings.
The older part of Main Street
Now the buildings are even older, a mix of houses, workshops and shops from the early 1800s, some with nice gardens. The whole Main Street has become fairly touristy, but it has still kept its charm. There are quite a few restaurants with dining terraces: well worth trying out in the evenings!
At the mill-stream
When you cross the little stream with the water mill (now the Trailhead micro-brewery) at Boone's Lick Road, turn left and run the block back to the Katy Trail. Now turn left again and return the last few hundred meters to the train station at Frontier Park.

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