by Shannon Bond
Bombing down a trail with huge berms, drops, and jumps has never sparked so much joy in St. Joseph, Mo. Mainly because until 2022, the downhill trails didn’t exist. But after millions of dollars invested, here they are, complete with wide gravel trails that allow first responders to access different sections. But it’s more than the downhill trails that draw people from far and wide; trails and features for every skill level span the cityscape, including paved and singletrack. A new bridge spans W. Highland Ave and connects the River Bluff trails to Wyeth Park trails so bikers, runners, and hikers don’t have to cross a busy street. It was named for Bob Simpson, a local businessman who advocated for tourism and trails. And for those who prefer paved or a mix of on and off-road, the parkway trails are accessible throughout the city. They connect to what locals call the lower four singletrack trails: Corby North and South, Girl Scout, Brownie, and Krug Park trails. Adventurers who want all the trails can connect from system to system with relatively brief road riding. And in some cases, such as Sunbridge to River Bluff to Wyeth, or between the lower four, with none at all.
“St. Joseph is a trail city, starting as far back as the early 1800s. We, through multi-use trails, are going back to our beginnings. We see people from all over the Midwest now choose to make St. Joseph their destination for a day trip or even the weekend to enjoy our restaurants, museums, and other events,” says Madison Davis, city council representative for District I.
Driving through St. Joseph doesn’t feel the same as it did since the new trails were developed. Bike racks rest on cars, and visitors have a new downtown bike shop called Tubes, complete with a full-service, brew-serving bar. And, of course, there is the long-time favorite, Horizons Cycling, located on the South Belt Highway. It’s a shop full of friendly faces, great service, and deep knowledge.
Locals claim that riders from all over the region are flocking to St. Joseph to ride the new trail systems and explore the well-established lower four. It’s a new draw for St. Joseph and will help define local culture for years to come. For the many riders, trail runners, and hikers used to road-tripping down to Bentonville, Arkansas, for world-class trails, St. Joseph is a short weekend option that cuts out hours of driving.