× Photography by Ashley Fleming
The phrase “flyover country” conjures flat stretches of grassland, dotted with cattle and cornfields. In truth, the Midwest presents way more character, with the Ozarks rivaling the Appalachians and Smoky Mountains in some stretches. Here in St. Louis, we’re lucky to have all the conveniences of a significant metro areaandno scarcity of picturesque retreats in our massive backyard. In this information, we highlight—in no explicit order—a handful of trails inside a two-hour drive, from the state’s tallest mountain to its highest waterfall. (OK, that’s simply one of the hikes.) We hope this characteristic will serve as a jumping-off level, encouraging you to get out and see the many different scenic spots which would possibly be just waiting to be explored.
▲Castlewood State Park
Trail:River Scene Trail
Of all the great trails at Castlewood, River Scene has essentially the most spectacular views of the traditional Meramec River Valley. Poets say the park’s “castles” are the bluffs themselves, crenellated by wind and rain. On this trail, you emerge from the forest, climb as much as those bluffs for a panoramic view, and hike alongside their edge for about a mile, your breath caught by one scenic overlook after one other. Then you descend picket stairs and hike previous the ruins-porn of Castlewood’s years as a glamorous Art Deco resort. You pass via the railroad tunnel (trains carried flappers in their feather boas and gents with their sterling hip flasks), then emerge into daylight and switch left, toward the river. No extra steep inclines; you’ll hike alongside the river, then observe Kiefer Creek Road back to the trailhead.
× Photo by Andres Hevia
Trail:Lewis & Clark and Hogsback trails
The name Klondike conjures gold-hungry forty-niners panning amid snow-capped mountains. In fact, the community’s miners as quickly as harvested silica sand from the bluffs near the Missouri River. Today, the white cliffs near Quarry Lake, in the coronary heart of the St. Charles County park, are probably the most telling proof of the site’s former life. Though the park’s trails are a favourite of mountain bikers, there are two notable paths for hikers: the paved 3.02-mile Lewis & Clark Trail (wrapping around the lake and working from a ship ramp at the park’s jap edge to the Katy Trail at its southwest side) and the unpaved 1.16-mile Hogsback Trail (a tougher scenic path, looping via the woods on the park’s japanese half). For nature lovers, the complete 250-acre park is a gem.
Trail:Hawk Ridge Trail
We owe thanks for Queeny Park to Edgar Monsanto Queeny, who was a horseman and naturalist in addition to CEO of a chemical firm. At the Mason Road entrance, flip left. Once you’ve handed the barn, stables, and erstwhile dog museum, you’re formally on the trail. One mile in, you cross Owl Creek and pass the Twin Lakes. Next come the clover and alfalfa fields, then “the edge,” its wild cherry and sassafras a habitat for birds and bunnies. When you attain Weidman Road, stroll on the shoulder, then pick up the path once more at the fringe of the woods. Once you’ve handed the lake and marsh pond, you’ll head uphill…and arrive the place you began.
× Courtesy of Missouri State Parks
Meramec State Park
Difficulty Level:Moderate to superior
There are shorter trails in Meramec State Park (six, to be precise, with Walking Fern and Deer Hollow resulting in Fisher Cave, where tours are available). But after driving an hour, you’re in the mood for a pleasant lengthy stroll, so you go for the park’s longest trek, moving counterclockwise from the trailhead. The South Loop is 6 miles, and the North Loop’s four miles—but the extra strolling is value it, with the northeastern corner passing the trail’s most scenic spots, together with a bend overlooking the Meramec and Copper Hollow Spring, which flows from the mouth of Copper Hollow Cave, at the bottom of a 50-foot cliff. On the means in which again, you’ll make a gradual ascent before coming back down via Campbell Hollow, where small streams and rock formations present a satisfying end to a half-day hike.
Lone Elk Park
Trail:White Bison Trail
Here’s the tricky half: You need to drive through the bison territory at Lone Elk Park, however you’ll have the ability to hike the White Bison Trail, a loop that goes deeper into the park. Bring your digicam or fancy cellphone: You’ll see elk (far greater than the lone one that gave the park its name; the herd’s as a lot as 17) as properly as deer, hawks, wild turkeys, herons, ducks, geese, and—from a comfortable distance—bison. Leave Fido at house for this one, and keep a respectful distance from the elk, lest they gore you.
× Courtesy of Missouri State Parks
▲St. Francois State Park
Trail:Mooner’s Hollow Trail
At one time, moonshiners gathered in the hole to craft hooch, utilizing ice-cold water from the spring-fed Coonville Creek. Today, a path in St. Francois State Park named for those liquor lovers, Mooner’s Hollow Trail, winds beside the picturesque Ozark stream. A footbridge on the trailhead foreshadows the trail’s defining function: the creek, which winds alongside the trail for a mile earlier than the 2 cross. There, you’ll have the ability to sit on a boulder and look upstream, admiring a serene pool and sequence of cascades. Afterward, continue along to a ridge near U.S. Highway sixty seven, where a glade presents inspiring views to the south, before returning to Mooner’s Hollow and, finally, that familiar footbridge. (Looking for an extended trek? Try the ten.25-mile Pike Run Trail, on the park’s east side.)
× Photo by Haley Gaertner
▲Taum Sauk Mountain State Park
Trail:Mina Sauk Falls Trail
Taum Sauk goes to extremes: At 1,772 feet above sea stage, Taum Sauk Mountain is the highest level in Missouri, and Mina Sauk is the state’s tallest waterfall, dropping 132 feet over three ledges. Before you even begin your hike, climb the lookout tower for a panoramic view of the St. Francois Mountains. Then, from the top of Taum Sauk, take the rocky, rugged Mina Sauk Falls Trail. Once you cross the first of 4 glades between the peak and the falls, look to the west for jaw-dropping surroundings, and when you attain the highest of Mina Sauk Falls, have your camera ready. From there, you’ll loop back up the mountain, but the Ozark Trail part of the trail continues down the valley, heading towards Johnson’s Shut-Ins.
Babler Memorial State Park
Trail:The Dogwood Trail
In the center of Babler, Dogwood Trail climbs a quantity of inclines and winds down right into a lush valley, so you’re spanning about 300 toes in its ups and downs. Start at the shelter on Guy Park Drive, and cross Equestrian Trail before reaching the Dogwood loop. (You’d best convey a map.) Heading north, begin your first ascent. Toward the end of the loop, look ahead to a path to Babler Spring, tucked beneath a 20-foot outcropping. Along the way, you’ll see, after all, dogwoods—the whole park glows with them in spring.
Valley View Glades
Trail:Valley View Glades Trail
A 225-acre gem in Jefferson County, Valley View Glades offers just one trail, but it’s definitely value the trip, taking guests via wooded hollows and wildflower-filled fields. The trail winds through a forest, passing small waterfalls and streams when circumstances are right, and continues to weave in and out of the glade, providing inspiring vistas and passing an array of grasses and wildflowers. An overlook near the trail’s end supplies one last glimpse of the land’s namesake.
White Rock NaturePreserve
Trails:White Mine and the North and South Ridgetop trails
The preserve’s 306 acres have been purchased in 2010 in a precedent-setting three method partnership by two nonprofits. Untouched for years, the land had turn into a safe habitat for threatened or endangered species, from wooly buckthorns and cerulean warblers to the frequent striped scorpion to the more and more scarce coachwhip snake. If you’re nonetheless game, start on Bluff Road, 2 miles south of the original (flooded-out) city of Valmeyer, Illinois, and walk north to the primary non-public highway, then east on that street to the trailhead. At the gate, you’ll start a gentle climb to Madeline’s Rest, the place you’ll see the closed entrance to the old White Mine. From there, the trail climbs to the North Ridgetop and South Ridgetop trails, both leading to hill prairie overlooks, and watch eagles soar. Now retrace your steps; the trail does not loop.
▲Don Robinson State Park
Trail:Sandstone Canyon Trail
Although this 5-year-old Jefferson County park remains to be pretty new to most of us, its rock formations are centuries old. Start on a paved trail resulting in a picnic shelter earlier than the path gets attention-grabbing, running along the ridge of a sandstone canyon above LaBarque Creek. It continues previous caves, cliffs, and glades and thru dry woodlands with twisted oaks. Spring scatters wildflowers, and its rain creates waterfalls (and mud, so make sure to wear boots with good traction).
Cliff Cave Park
Trail:Mississippi River Trail
It’s said Cliff Cave was a riverside tavern, then a hideout for horse thieves, then a gathering place for Confederate sympathizers… Now it’s a gated enclave for the Indiana bats of Cliff Cave Park, so give them their privateness and head up a gently sloped path and throughout a trestle bridge to the beautiful new river outlook on the bluffs. Then walk again down to the decrease overlook and pick up the Mississippi River Trail, which loops via the floodplain bottoms. Later, try the shorter River Bluff and Spring Valley trails, which climb and twist. Cliff Cave Park has a little bit of everything: woodlands, rocky hillsides, flat grassland, and a pond whose frogs sound like an orchestra tuning up. Afterward, picnic at the Riverside Shelter, which has a great view of tugboats and barges.
▲Creve Coeur Park
At Sailboat Cove, follow the trail north, with the lake in your left. At the lake’s north finish, the trail will turn to the left, just previous a fishing inlet. Instead, flip right and take the paved spur to a spillway, the place there’s a practice trestle, a popular hangout for herons and egrets. Walk back to the trail and continue across the lake. At the south finish are an island and a blind for watching migrating ducks gather at the lee of the island. Continue across the lake, dipping into the woods beneath the bluff, the place you’ll commerce the lake breeze for the shade of oak and hickory timber; the delicate green of persimmon, sassafras, black cherry, and spicebush; and the company of untamed turkeys. The trail breaks out of the woods on the Dripping Springs waterfall.
Mark Twain National Forest
Trail:Bell Mountain Trail
Bring loads of water and wear boots. You’ll be within the rugged 1.5 million–acre Mark Twain National Forest, climbing to 1,702 feet at Bell Mountain—where the view will silence any complaints. The trail’s about 30 miles south of Potosi within the St. Francois Mountains, so contemplate camping on the summit and waking to a sunrise view, then trying another (shorter) hike earlier than heading house. One risk: the nearby Huzzah Conservation Area, the place you’ll find a way to take the Ozark Trail 5 miles from Onondaga Cave State Park to the Courtois River for a swim and a picnic.
Columbia Bottom Conservation Area
Trail:Columbia Bottom Conservation Area Trail Loop
Take Confluence Trail from the visitor heart to the confluence overlook, then observe the just lately reopened 2.5-mile River’s Edge part. Forested edges break by way of to river views at common intervals, and the trail loops back to the viewing platform, a perfect vantage for the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers.
Pere Marquette State Park
Trail:Goat Cliff Trail
Start at Pere Marquette’s historic lodge, the place you’ll find a way to decide up a trail map. Then set out alongside the 1.5–mile Goat Cliff Trail, the park’s oldest path, which passes historic rock formations and boasts three scenic overlooks, together with McAdams Peak—the park’s most breathtaking spot—as its grand finale. Take the Ridge and Dogwood trails back to the lodge, where you can relax with a drink on the on-site winery—the tasting room will open in April—or by the grand fire.
Cuivre River State Park
Trail:Cuivre River Trail
Visitors usually flock to Lake Lincoln, within the coronary heart of the Lincoln Hills, to swim. After you’ve taken a dip, hike along the park’s eponymous (and longest) trail. It’s divided into two loops: the 4-mile North Loop and the 7.25-mile South Loop. The former winds beside Big Sugar Creek, and the latter provides a scenic stretch along Frenchman’s Bluff, overlooking farm fields near the Cuivre River. Once you’ve completed the hike, cool off in the lake.
Salt Lick Point Land & Water Reserve
Trail:Salt Lick Point Trail
Difficulty Level:Moderate however steep
Heights make you woozy? This 594-acre reserve in Monroe County has several gentle flat trails. But if you’d like a view, Salt Lick is definitely price the climb. Only 1.8 miles—but most of it vertical—the trail shoots straight up the bluffs to the Point, so excessive you could see all the best way over to the St. Louis skyline. Turn, and you’re looking on a patchwork of the Mississippi River’s wealthy floodplain farmland, stitched by railroad tracks. The excellent news: It’s all downhill on the method in which again.
Weldon Spring Conservation Area
Trails:Lewis and Clark Trails
Just west of the Nuclear Waste Adventure Trail (yes, you read that correctly) at Weldon Spring, you’ll find the trailhead for the Lewis and Clark trails, which wind by way of the tree-lined hills to the limestone bluffs overlooking the Missouri River. The Lewis Trail is an 8.3-mile loop, or you possibly can take the Clark Trail cutoff for a shorter jaunt of 5.3 miles. The most scenic stretch is along the trails’ southernmost reaches, the place several spurs supply gorgeous river views.
▲Elephant Rocks State Park
It’s as if a giant brought back souvenirs from France’s Pink Granite Coast, plopped them down in the St. Francois Mountains’ most scenic spot, and lined them up on parade. A curious sight, Elephant Rocks is among the many state’s most famous natural landmarks for a cause. These large rocks form a pure playground of kinds for all ages. The state’s first trail designed for individuals with visual and bodily disabilities winds previous landmarks with such enjoyable names as Fat Man’s Squeeze and The Maze. A onetime railroad engine home also harks back to the land’s former life as a quarry, with that well-known granite contributing to the Eads Bridge, our city’s streets, and the state capitol.
Trail:Lime Kiln Loop Trail
Erected greater than a hundred and fifty years ago, the Lime Kiln Loop Trail’s 40-foot-tall namesake towers above the trailhead at Rockwoods, the place you probably can learn about its past life as a mining neighborhood and the land’s dramatic restoration. This trail is (fittingly) the rockiest of the park’s six choices, with a number of steep climbs, as well as scenic rock outcroppings and a spring alongside the means in which. For a significantly longer hike, contemplate taking the 10-mile Green Rock Trail to Greensfelder County Park and Rockwoods Range, the place you can discover much more trails.
Olin Nature Preserve
Trail:Beaver Falls Trail
Distance:zero.seventy six mile
Situated above the limestone bluffs hugging the Great River Road in Illinois, the 294-acre protect is a pristine retreat with 300-plus native plant species and greater than a hundred and fifty birds, including migratory bald eagles. All of the Olin Preserve trails are relatively quick; the longest is the 1.4-mile loop trail, which connects to the 0.76-mile Beaver Falls Trail, resulting in the preserve’s must-see falls, at the northeast corner of the property. To the west, the Mississippi Sanctuary trails supply a hike past the smaller Creek Trek waterfall and to a scenic spot overlooking the river.
Buford Mountain Conservation Area
Trail:Buford Mountain State Forest Trail
Just 33 feet in need of being the state’s highest natural level, Buford Mountain by some means flies under the radar (possibly as a result of its neighbors embrace crowd-pleasers Taum Sauk, Elephant Rocks, and Johnson’s Shut-Ins). Those who search it out, nonetheless, are rewarded with a spectacular view of southeast Missouri’s rugged landscape. It’s a mile-long ascent to the height, at the first summit. The trail then follows a sequence of saddles, glades, and summits, with the highlight being the overlook from the fourth summit: Bald Knob, about three miles from the trailhead. After gazing out at the Belleview Valley and the St. Francois Mountains, you probably can turn again or continue along a loop before descending the identical steep path that led you up the mountain.
× Courtesy of Missouri State Parks
▲Hawn State Park
Trail:Whispering Pines Trail
Distance:9.seventy five miles
Located near Ste. Genevieve, Hawn State Park is amongst Missouri’s most popular retreats for a purpose, and this trail is considered one of them, providing steep climbs and dramatic overlooks, waterfalls and rock formations, birding and wildlife. The 6-mile north loop—with Pickle Creek and the park’s most scenic waterfall to the west and Evans Knob to the east—is extra traveled than the 3.75-mile south loop, although a connector cutting via the center of the north loop will get guests to a faster path to see a scenic tributary of the River aux Vases within the trail’s southeast nook. It’s also value considering the shorter Pickle Creek Trail—and a cease at the close by, lesser-known Pickle Springs Natural Area, whose 2-mile Trail Through Time passes fascinating rock formations and (of course) Pickle Spring.
Bee Tree County Park
Trails:Mississippi, Crow’s Roost, Fishermen’s, and Paw Paw
Distance:2.3-mile loop whole
Start civilized, on the Tudor mansion. Out back, take the stone stairs down to a grotto and follow the path to the Mississippi Trail, which leads to the Chubb Shelter Overlook. Walk along the bluff on the Mississippi Trail, then take the Crow’s Roost Trail through a confetti of dogwood and redbud blossoms to the lake. Circle the water on Fisherman’s Trail, listening to the frogs’ spring chorus, and cross the footbridge. Check out the latest building projects and admire the nice blue herons. At the lake’s north end, department off to take pleasure in extra wildflowers, then come again to the lake and stroll east to Paw Paw Trail, which leads again to Chubb Pavilion.