Discover Columbia’s Best-Kept Secret:
FINGER LAKES STATE PARK
Known for its ATV trails and shooting range, Finger Lakes State Park has no shortage of testosterone, but there’s so much more to this hidden gem. The park, located just 12 miles north of Columbia on U.S. 63, offers a plethora of family activities. The land was once used for coal mining and the large strip pits that were left behind now offer excellent fishing, swimming and camping areas. Pack a lunch and plan on staying for the day!
Boating and Swimming
Have your own water transportation? The park offers a marina where you can launch your own small boat. New to the water? Finger Lakes makes is easy for any first-time water adventurer. Just stop in and see the attendant to rent a kayak or canoe by the hour or all day.
The small shop offers life vests and paddles, just don’t forget to BYOS (bring your own sunscreen) and lots of water. The kayaks and canoes are kept right on the water, so all you have to do is unlock and load. The boating area is well-marked with buoys and signs. Follow the red buoys for the north trail (2.2 miles) and the blue buoys for the south trail (2.3 miles). The lake is stocked for fishing — rod and reel or fly — by boat or from land.
Boat rentals are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Rental prices for canoes are $10 for a two-hour minimum and $5 for each additional hour; all-day rental is $25. Kayaks are $15 for a two-hour minimum and $5 for each additional hour; $30 for a full day.
The swimming beach is hidden in a private, wooded area right off the main parking lot. There, you’ll find a sand beach and convenient restroom facilities. The gradual descent into the water is ideal for little ones and roped off for security. Swimming is not allowed in the open lake other than in the designated swimming area. The swimming beach is open daily from sunrise until sunset throughout the summer.
Hiking and Mountain Biking Trails
Ready to rack up some miles? Bring your bike or hike The Kelley Branch Mountain Bike Trail (yellow marker). The trail is 2.75 miles and takes riders/walkers through wooded landscapes with steep hills and gullies; the descent to the flat bottom along the creek features a picturesque waterfall. The trail then goes down to the old remains of the mining bridge and back to the parking lot for a large loop. The trailhead offers picnic tables and barbecue grills, so don’t forget to pack a picnic to cap off your summer outing.
Finger Lakes State Park Information
Finger Lakes State Park is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. The park is located at 1505 Peabody Road in Columbia. For more information, call 573-443-5315 or visit mostateparks.com/park/finger-lakes-state-park.
Become A Trail Boss:
KATY TRAIL STATE PARK
Columbians are lucky to have so many opportunities to get out and about. The MKT Nature and Fitness Trail cuts through Columbia and connects to the Katy Trail at mile 169.9 (just west of McBaine). The Katy Trail meanders along the Missouri River from Clinton, west of Sedalia, to Machens, east of St. Charles. Whether you choose wheels or feet, the flat-grade trail offers scenic views of Missouri’s wetlands and limestone bluffs with plenty of wildlife viewing along the way.
For a family-friendly weekend ride, try biking from Columbia to Rocheport.
At just 17 miles each way (34 total), this trip is a doable distance for almost any cyclist. Bring your lunch or plan to eat at Lucy’s in McBaine before hitting the trail; there are plenty of park benches along the way where you can enjoy a bite and take in the view.
Not feeling up to a round trip? Rent a bike at the shop in Rocheport and then get shuttled according to your needs. Just make sure to stop at the Mulberry Grill while you’re in Rocheport; the wood-fire grilled pizza makes the ride worth pedaling. You can find the Mulberry Grill and Bakery directly on the trail near Howard Street, just past the alpacas.
Venture just a stone’s throw beyond Rocheport and check out the railroad tunnel. The tunnel was constructed in 1892 and it is the only tunnel on the 237-mile Katy Trail. Here’s some fun (and maybe just a bit creepy) trivia for you: A scene from Stephen King’s “Sometimes They Come Back” was filmed at this very tunnel.
Take It Easier
For a shorter ride, try Columbia to Easley with a stop at Eagle’s Bluff Outlook. Begin your ride in McBaine, home of the “Big Tree” (a 90-foot tall bur oak). The tree, located directly off Route K, serves as a marker for the Katy Trailhead at mile 169.5.
For this trip, you’ll head east on the trail and pass safely over Route K. The ride to Cooper’s Landing in Easley is a brief 3 miles (6 miles round-trip). Once you arrive, the entertainment will be in full swing. Enjoy a postcard-perfect sunset along the Missouri River while devouring food from Chim’s Thai Kitchen, and take in the live music floating through the cool evening air.
Watch for Eagle’s Bluff Lookout on the left side of the trail between McBaine and Easley. The lookout has a large, wooden platform with sides secure enough for small children. The hike up the bluff is suitable for older children. There’s a bike rack located right off the trail. The view is amazing.
Katy Trail Ride to Cooper’s Landing
10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Sunday, June 28
(meet at Flat Branch Park playground)
The City of Columbia sponsors this leisurely 32-mile round-trip ride. Bring your lunch or order from Chim’s Thai Kitchen (on your own). Return with the group or at your own pace. You must be able to ride self-supported with an extra inner tube, air pump and water. Helmets are required.
For more information, call the Columbia Parks & Recreation Department at 573-874-7460.
Meditate In The Moonlight:
ROOFTOP YOGA AT WILSON’S IN THE DISTRICT
Downward facing dog with a view of downtown Columbia? There’s no better way to spend your summer evening than overlooking downtown with a 60-minute Vinyasa yoga class on the rooftop of Wilson’s in The District, 111 Orr St. The co-ed Moonlight Rooftop Yoga classes are intermediate to moderate level and designed to stretch your body, de-stress your mind and build strength.
If you’re new to yoga, Vinyasa means “breath-synchronized movement.” It is a series of poses that will move you through the power of inhaling and exhaling. Vinyasa movements flow smoothly, almost dancelike, which explains why it is sometimes referred to as Vinyasa Flow or just Flow. Looking to find your calm center? Roll out your mat — this rooftop yoga class is a summer must.
What To Bring
- Yoga mat (may want to bring an older mat since it’s a rooftop)
- Eye mask or light scarf (light potentially could bother your eyes.)
- Refillable water bottle
Classes are available to club members and nonmembers and take place at Wilson’s Fitness Center in The District. For pricing and class schedule, check out www.wilsons.com.