St. Louis is among the best outdoor cities in the Midwest. The big backyard of this fantastic city hosts several amazing hiking destinations. Plan a day trip on the weekend to get away from the city and enjoy the scenic serenity of nature. Whether you are a pro hiker, a newbie, a dog owner, or a family with kids, there's a trail for everyone.
Elephant Rocks Trail
It is located at the intersection of Highways 21 and 32 south of Farmington. The fastest route is via Interstate 55 to Highway 32. You can either take the one-mile-long Braille trail or the Engine House Ruins trail, half-mile. It leads you to large rocks that look like the backs of elephants lined up. The rocks are ridiculously photogenic. The peaks overlook the lush wilderness of the Mark Twain National Forest. The trails intersect so that you can string them together for a great workout.
Hickory Canyons Natural Area
Reach here after a roughly two-hour drive on Interstate 55. Take a right turn at Highway 32 to enter the Hickory Canyons Natural Area. Make your way through amazing canyons carved by ancient limestone formations. Enjoy scenic wet weather waterfalls. It is a one-mile trail and is family-friendly. It is a paradise for botanical enthusiasts. The Natural Area houses 541 native vascular plant species and 152 species of liverworts and mosses. Several of these species are glacial relicts that have survived since the last Ice Age.
The Lamotte sandstone here was carved from the sandy beaches of an ocean that existed 500 million years ago. Ste. Genevieve and Farmington are nearby towns. They have great restaurants and affordable hostelries. Allocate at least a day to explore this wonderful trail.
Castlewood State Park
You can find several trails in Castlewood State Park. The River Scene Trail is by far the most famous and most spectacular too. It offers wonderful views of the ancient Meramec River Valley. On this trail, you will emerge from the forest to ascend the bluffs for a panoramic view. Then, you hike by its edge for about a mile. Next, you descend the wooden stairs and pass by the ruins of the art-deco resort that Castlewood once was.
Pass by the railroad tunnel, emerge into the sunlight and turn left to the river. From there on, you will hike along the river and follow the Kiefer Creek Road, returning to the trailhead. The Lone Wolf trail is also quite popular. It offers a quick trip with an amazing view.
Meramec State Park
Meramec State Park has both long and short trails. If you are in the mood for a nice long walk, you take the longest trek, counterclockwise from the trailhead. The North Loop is 4 miles, and the South Loop is 6 miles. The northeastern corner of the park offers the most scenic spots of the trail. This includes a particular bend overlooking the Meramec and the Copper Hollow Spring.
The spring flows from the mouth of the Copper Hollow Cave, at the bottom of a 50 feet cliff. While returning, you embark on a gradual ascent before coming back down via the Campbell Hollow. Small streams and rock formations offer a picturesque end to the half-day hike.
Edgar M. Queeny County Park
Get on the Hawk Ridge Trail at the Edgar M. Queeny County Park. It is west of St. Louis and offers a peaceful, paved hike through meadows and forests. They are completely flat trails, making them perfect for family trips with kids. On your way, you will see lakes and ancient trees. In the warmer months of the year, the trail route is paved by wildflowers.
There you are with some of the most picturesque destinations to cover. The trails mentioned here are only a few of the total number of great hiking routes around St. Louis. Do not forget to bring your camera, for there would be numerous photo-ops along the way.