It takes balance, determination and continuous movement of your legs in a circular motion — those are the essentials of riding a bike. But the wind in your face, the blue sky above you and the world flying by is what makes biking more than an exercise, in an afternoon well spent on two wheels. Columbia offers a variety of trails for every bicyclist to get about town this spring.
South Providence Trail
For a leisurely, short bicycle ride, head to the south side of CoMo to explore the South Providence Trail. The 1.7-mile trail is paved with concrete and features a limestone side path for joggers. The train runs parallel to Providence Road from Old Plank Road to Green Meadows Road and features access points to the trail at every Providence Road intersection.
The trail is wide and smooth, but like most trails in Columbia, it features an incline. For an easy ride, start at Old Plank and travel north by going downhill. For a greater challenge, tackle the gradual southbound incline. Avid cyclist Kristen Veum, vice president of the Columbia Bicycle Club, says the trail is perfect for beginners.
“It’s off the road, so it’s nice that you’re not directly adjacent to the traffic and there’s some space between you and the paved street,” she says. “It’s also paved and it’s flat, so it’s excellent for transportation and recreational purposes. It’s just a great trail for novice cyclists or even kids.”
Bear Creek Trail
For a moderate but quiet bike ride, there’s no better option than the Bear Creek Trail. The beautiful trail connects the two largest parks in Columbia, Cosmopolitan Recreation Area and Albert-Oakland Park. The best place to begin your ride on Bear Creek is the Cosmo Park trailhead, which features plenty of parking for park-and-go cyclists.
This is no urban ride; the trail follows Bear Creek as it winds through the woods of northern Columbia. Roll over bridges, stop at the dog park adjacent to the trail and hug gentle corners on the 4.8-mile limestone gravel trail.
“Bear Creek is a little more scenic than other trails because it goes through some forested areas,” Veum says. “Bear Creek has a couple of little hills, and it’s not paved. There are a few inclines but nothing serious. But part of the trail has a boardwalk, so it’s really pretty and scenic.”
Rhett Walters Memorial Mountain Bike Trail
If your training wheels have been off for quite some time, embark on the cyclist challenge that is Rhett. The demanding trail was designed by the mountain bike trail designers who designed trails for the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, and is a memorial to Rhett Humfield Walters, a popular Columbian who was killed in a motorcycle accident in 1996. The trailhead for the challenging ride bears his name, marked by a large boulder in Cosmo Park.
The 2.4-mile dirt trail features twists and turns, and is no more than 3 feet wide at any point; it should only be attempted by experienced cyclists. Don’t be surprised if you have to navigate around logs or jump over a rock, the trail features challenges that require these technical cycling skills.
“For Columbia, Rhett’s Run is the most technical trail, as the bikers like to say,” Veum says. “It’s got a lot of steep parts, so you’ll get a really good workout. It’s short, but you can do many loops of it. It’s for sure a challenge. All of those typical challenges that you would find in a single-track environment, it pretty much has everything.”
But, Veum cautions, inexperienced cyclists should not attempt Rhett’s Run without the necessary skills.
“My advice is to start somewhere else and work your way up before attempting Rhett’s, for the safety of you and the safety of your bicycle.”