Tucked away behind Emporia State University, in Emporia, Kansas, the ESU Bike Trail offers a variety of terrains, including technical challenges, BMX-style sections, and serene nature trails. Known for its 4-mile intermediate loop, the trail is a perfect getaway for cyclists in the region, whether they're seeking high adrenaline rushes or leisurely scenic rides.
To reach the trailhead, head south of I-35 on Hwy 99 to Highland St. Follow this road, which runs behind the college along I-35. A gravel parking lot will become visible to your left. Just past the parking lot, you'll see a tunnel that takes you under I-35. Through the tunnel, look for a big double gate and a fenced-in storage area on your left. This is where your journey begins.
Begin your ride at the double gate, where two routes diverge. For a more thrilling experience, take the trail to the right, which leads into a forested area alongside the river. You'll encounter a variety of obstacles such as a guardrail bridge, steep climbs, and descents, before reaching Hwy 99. Cross over to the trail's other side for more technical aspects. Ultimately, you'll wind back to your starting point, with an option to explore another leg behind a ball diamond.
Initially maintained by High Gear Cyclery, upkeep responsibilities have now shifted to Gravel City Bike Shop. While the main trail east of the Hwy 99 overpass is well-maintained, the section to the west has been less attended to, with some areas requiring a hike-and-bike due to overgrown vegetation and fallen trees.
The trail receives mixed reviews but generally offers something for everyone:
While some sections could use a bit more love and care, the ESU trail offers a lot in terms of variety and technical challenge. Whether you're in it for the jumps, technical turns, or peaceful nature rides, this trail won't disappoint. It might not be worth a long drive, but if you find yourself in Emporia, it’s a trail you won't want to miss.