I went on a hike at Pickle Springs Natural Area yesterday and posted a bunch of pictures on Instagram. A friend of mine commented asking if I had a blog post devoted to Missouri hikes. I didn’t but now I do.
This is the perfect time to go on a hike in Missouri. The temperatures aren’t so brutal, there’s a cool breeze, the leaves are changing, and there are fewer mosquitos. I hike year-round but my favorite time to go is in fall, when the landscape is changing, leaves crunch underneath my feet, and I don’t feel like I have to gasp for air after a few miles because of the humidity.
I’ve provided a list of some of my favorite hiking spots below. The list is limited to the east and southeast of the state because truthfully, I haven’t ventured farther west to hike. That’s one of my goals for this year, but for now, here are some of my favorite places. Most are within a two hour drive of St. Louis, too, so you don’t have to stay overnight somewhere if you decide to go.
Hawn State Park
Hawn is about an hour and a half south of St. Louis in Ste. Genevieve County. It’s one of my favorite places to hike in the spring and fall when the wildlife is diverse and you can see lots of wildflowers. And, as the photo above shows, it’s a great place to go to see waterfalls. You can hike along the sides and stop and dip your feet in. It feels good after you’ve been hiking a while.
Pickle Springs Natural Area
Close to Hawn is Pickle Springs Natural Area. I’ve had this hiking spot on my list for a while but I never made it until last weekend. There are springs but no pickles at Pickle Springs. The best part about the hike is the rock formations. There are some impressive ones that are fun to stare at and climb.
Castlewood State Park
If you live in St. Louis, you *need* to go to Castlewood. The park is located in Ballwin, MO, a suburb of St. Louis, but it feels worlds away from downtown. I’d recommend going on a crisp fall day when it’s not too hot. The trail is strenuous in parts but the view at the top makes it worth it.
Creve Coeur Lake Memorial Park
Another fun West County hike is at Creve Coeur Lake. You can walk mostly flat loops and take in the lake and the trees. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also rent kayaks and paddle around the lake. It gets crowded on beautiful weekend days though so make sure to arrive early.
Taum Sauk Mountain State Park
For beautiful views of Southeast Missouri, stop by Taum Sauk Mountain National Park. It’s a couple hours drive from St. Louis so you can make it there and back in a day. There are beautiful waterfalls at one part of the hike. Next time I want to bring a hammock so I can stay and watch them for a while.
Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park
I’ve been going to Johnson’s Shut-Ins since I was little. It’s known for its rock formations with waterfalls that feed into the Black River. It’s also surrounded by mountains so you can hike up a path and look down at people exploring the river. It’s a couple hours or more by car from St. Louis, so you’ll want to leave early to get there to beat the crowds.
Elephant Rocks State Park
If you’re in or around Johnson’s Shut-Ins, consider stopping by Elephant Rocks State Park. As the name suggests, the park has giant rocks that form something of an obstacle course or gigantic playground in the middle of the woods. Come for the rocks; stay for the views of the surrounding area.
Faust Park is near and dear to my heart because it’s close to where I grew up. I often go on the weekends for a short morning hike. It’s not too long or strenuous and it’s beautiful. If you’re driving west and you’re looking for a place for a quick hike, this is your spot. There are also some intriguing historical buildings at the beginning and end of the trail.
Ha Ha Tonka State Park
Ha Ha Tonka is farther from St. Louis at the edge of Lake of the Ozarks, about three and a half hours away by car. I drove there and back in one day (I do not recommend doing this), but you could make it a day trip if you’re already in the Ozarks. There’s plenty to see including historic ruins and interesting rock formations (see below).
Klondike Park is one of my favorite parks in Missouri. It’s in St. Charles County in Defiance, Missouri, a small town with lots of wineries. Sometimes I’ll go to Klondike and just hike the park. If you go to the top, there’s a part that looks out onto the Missouri River. If I’m feeling ambitious, I continue my hike onto the Katy Trail since there are a couple connections on the path.
The Katy Trail is great to hike or bike. It’s mostly flat so it’s not too strenuous. I’ve walked a six mile loop before from Defiance to Augusta and back, and I haven’t felt too winded. If you get all the way to Augusta, you can stop and walk around the town. It’s very cute with antique shops, a coffee shop, wineries, and restaurants.
Babler State Park
Dr. Edmund A. Babler Memorial State Park, more fondly known as Babler, is the place I go when I want a quick hike and I don’t want to go too far from West County. It’s strenuous enough to make me feel like I’m getting a workout and picturesque enough to make me forget that I’m working out, which is an impressive feat. There are also a couple trails based on skill level so you can take it easy or go on one of the hillier paths.
Al Foster Memorial Trail
My aunt told me about Al Foster Memorial Trail. Located in Wildwood, a suburb west of St. Louis, it has lush green trails and a path that leads to Sherman Beach (pictured above). The beach is bigger than it looks in this picture. It’s fun to stop on warmer days with a lawn chair or blanket and sit out on the Meramec River.
Shaw Nature Reserve
Last but certainly not least on my list is Shaw Nature Reserve. This is one of the most beautifully-preserved patches of land in the St. Louis area. It’s run by the Missouri Botanical Garden so there are lots of flowers throughout the reserve and a couple historic points worth checking out. I’ve visited in every season except winter because I’m a wimp and can’t stay outside in the cold that long.
So yeah. Those are my picks for some of the best hikes in or around the St. Louis area. Some of them are admittedly farther than the St. Louis area (see: Taum Sauk Mountain), but trust me, they’re worth the drive. I hope you get to check out at least one or two of these spots if you’re in town or if you’re visiting the Midwest in the fall.