Whether it be pedaling around the neighborhood or hitting a local trail, biking is a fantastic family activity. As a mother of three active boys, our family has embraced and grown to adore cycling together. We zip up to our local coffee shop on weekend mornings, take overnight trips to explore new trails and just recently dipped our toes into mountain biking on a trip to Bentonville, Arkansas.
There’s something about the experience that feels magical. We are all together, enjoying the outdoors away from screens, in an active setting. The kids gain independence as they ride ahead. We as parents feel less stress, even when the bike ride turns to a meltdown over tired legs. It is an activity we can all take part in and enjoy, quite the feat considering the age gap of our sons.
Like any other outing, a family bike trail outing takes planning and work for the parents; but little by little, each ride becomes easier and easier. We started small and recently graduated up to a 15 mile trip over a Sunday afternoon, with everyone leaving tired yet happy.
If this is something your family has wanted to try, Kansas City is full bike trails, designed for any skill level, with lovely amenities and stops along the way.
Family Friendly Bike Trails in Kansas City
Missouri Bike Trails
Longview Lake boasts a 6.5 mile gravel trail that winds around the lake, through trees, by playgrounds and around picnic shelters. Relatively flat, and less busy than neighboring trails, it is a great place for adult novices. When it comes to gravel trails and kids, it’s best for riders who can hang without training wheels. Never having to worry about road traffic, along with the park amenities, is what makes this destination amazingly family friendly.
The jewel of bike trails in the KC area, the 13.5 mile Rock Island Trail was split into two construction projects, and completed in July of 2021. There are trailheads at 98th Street Trailhead, Hartman Park, Woodson Road, Railroad Street and Truman Sports Complex. Along the trail you’ll find a fantastic stopping point, Crane Brewing. With a resident food truck, indoor and outdoor tables and a great selection of drinks, it’s the perfect family place to sit down, have a snack and rest your legs. Our family will park at the 98th Street Trailhead and head to Crane from there. Round trip, we log about 10 miles, stopping for water breaks and nature sightings often. With only one or two hills on the well-maintained gravel path, it is easily biked for most ages. Hartman Park is another great stopping or mid-point as there’s a fantastic creek to splash in, a beautiful park, benches and baseball diamonds.
Eventually, Rock Island will connect to the famous cross-state Katy Trail.
Brookside is known for the Trolley Trail, winding through huge trees, beautiful homes and quaint shops and restaurants. Set among one of the highest density areas of KC, means it comes with positives and negatives in relation to family riding. The positives? Frequent park stops, close proximity to restaurants and the ability to admire beautiful homes along the route. The negatives? The high density area means frequent traffic stops along the route. For this reason, you’ll need to keep the kids close to you, or hitched in a trailer behind an adult to keep everyone safe.
Park and begin your ride at Richard L. Berkley Riverfront Park to enjoy a view of the urban core of Kansas City, see art installations, view birds flying over the Missouri River and meander through a Wetlands Restoration area. Considered an easy route, this destination is popular for biking, walking and running.
In Platte County, Line Creek Trail winds through nature in the heart of the Northland. It features a Fixit bicycle service station with an air pump & basic tools for repairs. The trail is accessible from Renner Brenner Park, Homestead Park, Line Creek Gower Ave Trailhead, the KC Northern Miniature Railroad and the Line Creek Community Center.
On a temperate spring or summer day, plan to start at the KC Northern Miniature Railroad trailhead, take a ride on the train for .75 cents and then head out on an adventure from there!
The Katy Trail is a 240 mile trail stretching across most of the state of Missouri. Following along Lewis and Clark’s path up the Missouri River, there are areas near towering river bluffs, through farmland and everything in between. Not technically in Kansas City, this is a day-trip destination bike ride, with the closest family friendly starting point being Pleasant Hill, right off the Rock Island. Our family’s favorite section of the Katy Trail is in Rocheport. Almost exclusively shaded, its a peaceful ride with great stopping points, bike friendly restaurants and a charming town to explore.
Kansas Bike Trails
The 10-mile Overland Park portion of Indian Creek Trail starts at Foxhill South Park and follows Indian Creek south and west to Forest Creek Park. Miles of paved, mostly shaded and fairly flat trails make it a cinch for novice riders. Park and begin your ride at Leawood City Park for a great incentive to enjoy after the journey is complete. Indian Creek is a northern trailhead for Tomahawk Creek Trail. There are several parks along the route which make perfect stopping points.
The Tomahawk Creek Trail follows its namesake waterway through the Kansas City suburbs of Overland Park and Leawood. The trail provides access for the thousands of nearby residents to a number of commercial centers as well as athletic fields, parks and two golf courses. Much of the trail’s route is heavily wooded, offering a view of nature and shade! Riders quickly begin to appreciate heavily shaded trails like this one, as it makes for a much more enjoyable trek.
Also known as the Gary Haller trail, the Mill Creek Streamway is a paved, multi-use trail that is popular with cyclists and runners. It follows Mill Creek through fields and woods, passing seamlessly over and under crossing streets. Since the trail follows the creek, it is mostly flat. Minimal traffic interaction makes it safer for everyone. Access points offer restrooms and water fountains.
Trail heads and parking available:
- 19425 Wilder Drive, Shawnee
- 5946 Barker Road (north of Shawnee Mission Parkway), Shawnee
- 19405 Midland Drive (west of I-435), at Shawnee Mission Parkway & Midland Drive, Shawnee
- Shawnee Mission Park (near Shelter 8 and north end of dam), Lenexa
- 19803 W 87th Lane, Lenexa
- 9700 Ridgeview Road, Lenexa
- 11344 S Millview Road (west of Ridgeview Road), Olathe
- 1700 Northgate Street (east of Woodland Avenue), Olathe
Great Places to Ride Short Distances
Meadowbrook Park is a beautiful destination. The parks, restaurants, stately homes and pond are picturesque, but did you know it’s also a great destination for biking? Perfect for a family outing, it has stops along the way for snacks and playing. Check out this map to see all it offers.
Adjacent to the 12 miles of hiking and mountain bike trails sits a one and a half mile paved, shared use trail for walking, running and bicycling at Kill Creek Park. It’s a great short distance ride to build up muscles in little riders and test whether or not they could handle a longer ride.
Loose Park is arguably the most beautiful park in KC. With ample green space to run around, a splash pad, playground, picnic shelters and geese to feed, it makes for the perfect spot to spend an afternoon biking and being outside. Plan to go slow on this 1.4 mile loop as pedestrians frequent this same trail.
Tips for a Successful Bike Ride
- Start small with short bike rides.
- For small children, invest in a trailer or ride behind. They can look out and eat snacks until they are old enough to pedal on their own.
- Make it fun!
- Bring lots of water. Equip every bike with its own water bottle holder.
- Make sure tires are aired to the level recommended. This information can be found on the tires of every bike. Under inflated tires make it harder to pedal!
- Carry a backpack or fanny pack of snacks and a first aid kit with bandaids in case of a scraped knee.
- Stop often. The adventure sometimes lies in the breaks. Seeing a bunny hopping by, throwing rocks in a stream, climbing a nearby tree are the parts of the trip kids will remember.
- Always, always, always wear a helmet!
Like any other activity with children, remember to embrace the chaos. Bring your patience and loads of snacks, then breathe in the fresh air and enjoy the beauty of our local parks. Cycling will make you feel like a kid again!