It took Waltus Watkins nearly half a century to build his home estate and small community. Included in the 3,600 acres was an elegant home, three-story woolen mill, fruit-drying shed, smokehouse, brick kiln, sawmill, gristmill and acres of well tended orchards and croplands. A brick schoolhouse and church are also in the vicinity. Many of the original buildings have been restored, and livestock and plants re-introduced to create an 1870s farm. On weekends during summer months, the site's Living History Farm Program offers visitors the chance to watch an 1870s family live, work and play. Tours are given of the Watkins home and Watkins Woolen Mill. The mill is a National Historic Landmark and is the only 19th century textile mill in the county with its original machinery still intact. The visitor center offers an introduction to the Watkins family and their many business ventures. A bit of history can be combined with a day of outdoor fun. Williams Creek Lake offers opportunities for fishing and swimming. Encircling the lake is a 3.75-mile paved bicycle trail. Picnic sites and a picnic shelter offer a great place to rest or enjoy lunch. For overnight guests, the park offers nearly 100 wooded campsites.
Enjoyed walking the paved trail around the lake, but went "off-road" a few times to add some challenge and variety. Crossed the shallow creek, climbed above the trail along a rocky crag, and followed an improved trail that led to a picnic area. With all of the leaves down, it was cool to see other parts of this large state park. If you have time, be sure to visit the historic home, mill, and visitors center.
Easy trip from Kansas City. I had been here a few years ago but hiked a different part of the park, near the historic buildings. But this time, I hiked/walked the PAVED BICYCLE LAKE TRAIL and was delighted with the beauty and variety. I had my trusty hiking dog with me, and he enjoyed it, too. On a gorgeous early fall day, there were lots of trail users, incl families with strollers and many bicyclists. I'll definitely come back with my bike some time.
I wanted to end the trip by seeing the historic buildings, so I made my way to the Visitors Center, but was disappointed to learn that they had changed the rules and accessibility for bringing dogs (on a leash); they no longer allow dogs in that section of the park, which you access through the Visitors Center. I couldn't find a "sneaky" way around. Instead, we walked up the paved road along side the Visitors Center toward a youth camp, then called it a day.
Good "get out and hike" trail. For a while we would visit weekly just for the walk and to get away! The trail is paved and goes around a lake with several wooden bridge crossings. Stays pretty busy for a trail. The views are nice and Missouri has season changes to offer. There is a little stream that has a drop, I wouldn't call it a waterfall, but still very nice, and you can go right up to it to get some pictures, sit for a while, or just about anything else. Along the trail there is an opening to swim at from Memorial Day through Labor Day every year. So, you could make a stop along the way if you wish too!
I would rate this 5 stars but it's only 3.8 miles. Everything else about this trail is wonderful. I saw tons of wildlife and startled a deer that was standing on the trail. You have a nice view of the lake through about 3/4 of the hike. I would recommend parking at the swimming beach where there is more traffic instead of parking on a very isolated spot on the lake. That way the park rangers can actually see your vehicle. Can't wait to do this one again since its only 5 miles from my house. Thanks, Mike
Have run this paved trail literally 50+ times over the last decade. Its a flat fast run, mostly shaded, very quiet, with a good balance of not being crowded and not being completely alone. For more adventurous runners or hikers, on the back side of the loop there is a terraced path up a hill to where the BoyScouts often camp. This path up the hill can be used to either add complexity or elevation to a run, or to also access a paved road that runs behind Watkins Mill park, to add additional mileage. Great trail; a family favorite of multiple generations. Thanks Buddy.
I grew up walking and biking around Watkins Mill. Now, as my wife and I decided to get into hiking, it was our first hike as well. This is a great multi-use trail for a beginner, or just someone looking to get out and enjoy a great day. There's plenty of wildlife to be seen, and as with all of Missouri's State Parks, there are a lot of other things to enjoy as well.
There's little elevation gain, and the trail is completely paved, so it's a very easy trail, but there's still some scenery, such as a small falls, and views of the lake, to make it interesting. There is a high possibility of wildlife sightings, too. I don't think I've ever been to the park without seeing lots of birds, deer, and other wildlife.