“A tour of the park that's not a park with great views, exposure, high speed, and steep climbs.
— Lee Clark
This trail system lies to the south of Sunbridge Hills Conservation Area
. Riding from there is the best way to access the trails. Although many maps show this area as River Bluffs Park, the city of Saint Joseph officially refers to this area as the River Bluffs Tract. In the early 1900's, city officials wanted to create a massive park linking Wyeth Hill and Krug Park
with River Bluffs Park. That plan never came to be and only two stone structures built in the 1930's are the only visible remnants of the city's grand vision. For more details of the history of the park, see History & Background below.
The terrain is hilly and the western side of the trail follows the ridgeline of the bluffs. The initial section on Upper River Bluffs
offers scenic views and sections of exposure. From there, high-speed trail sends you toward the remnants of the stone buildings. The trail begins it's downhill to Highland Ave. shortly after.
The return to the north on The Comeback Trail
is a mixture of newer singletrack and ATV created trails. There are fun hilly sections along the way. The return does have a significant overall gain to it. After all, you just did the long downhill and now you have to go back up.
You won't see many people riding here. The hills and exposure are turn-offs for some local riders. There is some erosion on the long downhill. However, one can surf back and forth around it, and it does make an easy trail just a bit more fun.
Watch out for ATV's! They are the main reason the city wants us MTBers in there. The more legitimate users they have, the less likely they are to have the ATV's creating a hazardous trail. On the flip side, they rode many of the trails into existence making routes easier to create, although somewhat confusing, without a local guide or map.
Need to Know
There is no direct parking for this trail system. The main access is via Sunbridge Hills Conservation Area to the north. Since River Bluffs Park was never completed, there are no amenities. There is no signage.
To access this trail system, one must go through Sunbridge Hills Conservation Area. One can park there or at Krug Park
. From the western edge of Krug Park
trail, take the "Exit to Sunbridge" spur to 2nd Street. You can't miss it. Turn up the hill on 2nd, and you'll briefly ride to Huntoon Road where you turn right to get to the main trailhead for Sunbridge.
The BEST route is riding Sunbridge counter clockwise to the Upper River Bluffs
trail. Shortly after this point is where you leave conservation land and go into city property. The transition is seamless.
After a short switchback to a steep climb, you'll came to an intersection of trails. The trail to the right is the Exposure Spur known locally as "Little Moab." The MAIN trail is the SECOND right heading up the hill. The other trails to the left are explorable and eventually connect, or turn into, parts of The Comeback Trail
. I HIGHLY recommend taking "Little Moab" unless you are terrified of heights. The main trail has a great view at the top but without the exposure.
After that brief 1/4 mile diversion, the trails reconnect. There is a gradual ascent toward the two stone structures from the 1930's. The first intersection is where you can turn hard left to the stonework or right to continue onto Lower River Bluffs
Once you've checked them out and gotten back on the main route, there is more wide trail to go as fast as you can pedal. Once you see the old car that was smashed by a tree, get ready for the express ride down!
The steep descent is eroded in places. This requires a bit of a speed check! The eroded areas can be playfully avoided by surfing the trail bed from side to side. You may not notice the connection to The Comeback Trail
on the left since you'll be blasting downhill. No matter. Go ahead and rip it to the bottom!!! It's a VERY short backtrack to the turn-off.
Returning on The Comeback Trail
is a mixture of newer singletrack and the old ATV trails. Even though the overall beginning is a climb, some people call it their favorite part. Shortly, the trail passes the now familiar smashed car. This time from the other side. After another short distance, the trail brings you to the 1930's stone structures again. This is where you turn right toward the smaller structure.
Very briefly, you'll have another intersection where you turn left. The trail passes near the other stoneworks and is usually visible in fall and winter. (One can take a path straight to it from the other side of the big structure.) If you miss this left and you have no map, fear not. The other way meets the main route again and you'll have a fun ride in the process.
The trail will pop out of the trees behind a guardrail at Huntoon Road where it crosses I-229. It'll be an obvious left here. For now, the trail briefly follows the guardrail along the road. After the end of the guardrail, look for the trail's return to the trees on the left.
There, you'll remain to the right and very soon, you'll reconnect with the Sunbridge Hills Conservation Area
History & Background
In the early 1900's the city of St. Joseph wanted to create a massive park connecting Wyeth Hill (on the south side of Highland Ave.), River Bluffs Park (on the north of Highland Ave.), and Krug Park (on the other side of I-229). The plan failed.
Next, the city wanted to create a scenic drive along the bluffs (similar to historic Cliff Drive in Kansas City) . That did get started. Parts of this ride are along the old road that was built at the top of the bluffs. One can see where it comes up (if you're paying attention) but it eventually reaches private land. During this period, they built the two stone structures that remain today.
The area was then occupied by the 35th Tank Company of the Missouri State Guard in 1939. In 1942, it became Camp Petree under Federal government control.
For a more detailed history of this area from St. Joseph Parks & Rec., check out the linked article: newspressnow.com/news/artic…