Trail of the Month: May 2005
Frisco Highline Trail, Missouri
Missouri's 225-mile Katy Trail has always been the top dog when you are talking trails—until now. The "Show Me" state is enjoying the company of another rail-trail with a rapidly increasing presence. The Frisco Highline Trail is currently the second longest rail-trail in the state and the fastest growing. By September it will add 19 more miles for users to enjoy. Runners, bicyclists and equestrians who visit the trail agree its soothing rural setting, intriguing historical landmarks and welcoming spirit prove why the Frisco Highline is quickly establishing itself as one of the state's premier recreational facilities.
Currently, the Frisco Highline Trail extends 16 miles from Springfield to Walnut Grove, with another completed mile at the northern trailhead in Bolivar. Ozark Greenways, a nonprofit group which oversees most of the trail maintenance and funding, will hold an official ceremony to celebrate the opening of 19 additional miles from Walnut Grove to Bolivar in late September. When the entire trail is complete it will extend 35 continuous miles from Springfield to Bolivar and cover two counties—Greene and Polk.
To begin your journey along the Frisco Highline Trail start at the southern trailhead in Springfield. This small, paved trailhead parking lot is located on Kearney Street and Eldon Road, just west of West Bypass. Those who would rather skip the frustration of finding a parking spot at this trailhead should consider taking a CU Transit bus (For bus information and a map of the bus route, check out the Ozark Greenways Web site). Just grab your bike, head to your local bus stop, load your bicycle onto the bus's bike rack and you are set to enjoy a great day out on the trail.
From the Springfield trailhead, travel north towards Willard for approximately six miles. Follow the Frisco Highline Trail's crushed limestone path as it courses through a rural southern Missouri setting sprinkled with colorful foliage such as purple coneflower, Black-eyed Susan, and a simple mix of prairie grass. Most flowers located along the trail are at peak blooming time from May to August.
As you arrive at the Willard trailhead feel free to detour off the trail. This quaint and friendly city (population 3,000) has a wonderful BBQ restaurant called Downtown Barbeque. A quick note, it is only open on Friday and Saturday from 11am-9pm, so plan accordingly. Like most cities along rail-trails, Willard was a product of the railroad boom. It flourished in 1884 when the St. Louis and San Francisco Railroad laid the first tracks running from Springfield through Willard and Bolivar. Willard began to decline in the 1900s when the railroad stopped running, but today the city is embracing the old railroad history by collaborating with Ozark Greenways to make improvements to the Willard trailhead. A replica of the old Willard depot is in the works while smaller projects like picnic tables, benches and a gazebo are also on the to-do list. All of these projects serve to enhance the city and bring more visitors to the area.
The next segment of the Frisco Highline Trail, from Willard to Walnut Grove, is 10 miles long. A natural-surface trail parallels the main crushed limestone trail and has been established specifically for horseback riders. This segment is the oldest and most popular part of the trail, so it is very common to see the most runners, bicyclists, walkers and equestrians in this area. As you make your way towards Walnut Grove, take note of the eight different interpretive signs along the path. Each one discusses different aspects of the trail and provides insight into the area's local natural history.
In late September, the Frisco Highline will add 18 miles from Walnut Grove to Bolivar. This section will include 13 railroad trestles—some made of old flatbed rail-cars—and interpretive signage similar to the ones on the Willard to Walnut Grove segment. This section is especially beautiful as it crosses through the Ozarks landscape of gentle hills, picturesque farmland and many rivers and streams.
With positive attributes such as rapid growth, supporting communities and a dedicated citizen's organization to help guide its progress, it is clear that Frisco Highline Trail is on the fast track to becoming one of the greatest in the state.