Grab your hiking boots. It’s time to hit the trails! Whether you are looking for a quick and easy stroll or a hardcore excursion, the St. Louis area is filled with beautiful natural areas to explore. All of these awesome hiking spots are less than an hour’s drive from St. Louis, though many are located right here in city! These nine places are perfect for getting out-and-about to enjoy some of the most stunning spots around St. Louis:
1. Castlewood State Park
This 1,818-acre park has some of the most stunning views in the entire state! There are tons of different trails to explore here, and the area north of the Meramec River is a popular spot. The River Scene Trail (three miles) will take you to the top of the bluffs for some spectacular views of the Meramec River, but the Lone Wolf Trail (1.5 miles) is also a lovely option if you are looking for a slightly shorter hike.
2. Cliff Cave County Park
Cliff Cave County Park is an awesome spot to get out and enjoy nature without even leaving the St. Louis area! The actual Cliff Cave is a 4,723-foot limestone cave - the second longest in the state - that is significant historic and archeological site, as well as a protected area home to an endangered species of bat. You can't go inside the cave itself, but you can see the entrance from the Spring Valley Trail, a moderately difficult 2.8-mile unpaved trail that takes you up through some lovely wooded areas.
There are two other fun trails in the park; the River Bluff Trail (a 1-mile dirt trail) and Mississippi River Trail (5.1 miles of paved pathways). Both offer some lovely views of the river!
3. Powder Valley Nature Center
The Powder Valley Nature Center has three beautiful trails that offer tons of opportunities to see some wildlife! The Tanglevine Trail is a 1/3-mile paved loop trail that is wheelchair accessible. The beautiful Broken Bridge Trail is slightly longer at 2/3-mile and takes you through a beautiful forested area. The longest trail, the Hickory Ridge Trail, is about two miles long and has several lovely little bridges crossing over small streams.
Powder Valley Conservation Nature Center has an educational and interpretive building that has a few cool exhibits about the local flora and fauna to check out before you hit the trails.
4. Shaw Nature Reserve
There are more than 14 miles of trails to explore at Shaw Nature Reserve, so you can choose your distance and see some beautiful natural areas along the way! Several of the trails begin at the Shaw Nature Center, which offers some great information about the area as well as helpful trail maps. Other trailheads are located at the Maritz Trail House and Gardenway Bus Stop, so there are tons of accessibility points to the various loops. Shaw Nature Reserve is owned and operated by the Missouri Botanical Garden (so you just KNOW there is some amazing plant life here!)
The Wetland Trail and the Bascom House are ADA approved for wheelchair use, as are some areas of Whitmire Wildflower Garden. Several other trails are small loose gravel that are usable with more heavy-duty wheels on strollers.
5. Lone Elk Park
This wildlife management area has a pretty cool history behind its name: herds of bison and elk once lived here, but when the federal government took over use of the land during the Korean War in 1958, the herds were destroyed and removed... except for one lone elk. When St. Louis County took back control of the park, they named it in honor of the surviving elk and began to reestablish the elk and bison population in the area.
The White Bison Trail is a four-mile dirt trail that circles around a lake at the center of the park. It's a great place for wildlife watching, so keep an eye out for deer, wild turkeys, and waterfowl. If you are lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of an elk or two as well!
6. Rockwoods Reservation
This 1,880 acre nature reserve in western St. Louis County has seven awesome trails that you definitely need to explore! The area is filled with fascinating plant and animal life that you can view along the trails, and the Education Center is filled with fascinating information about the history, ecology, and biology of the reserve and the animals who call it home.
The Lime Kiln Loop is about 3.2 miles long and is the most difficult of the trails at Rockwoods Reservation, but also one of the favorites. The Green Rock Trail (3.6 miles) and Turkey Ridge Trail (two miles) are rated as moderately difficult, as are two of the interpretive trails, The Trail Among the Trees (1.5 miles) and the Rock Quarry Trail (2.2 miles). If you are looking for an easy walk, check out the 0.25-mile Hamilton-Carr Trail and the wheelchair-accessible Wildlife Habitat Discovery Trail (0.1 miles).
7. Rockwoods Range Conservation Area
The trails here are a little longer and more difficult than those at Rockwoods Reservation, but if you are looking for a challenge in an equally (if not more) beautiful natural area, head over to the Rockwoods Range Conservation Area. The 3.5-mile Fox Run Trail is definitely a favorite, but the Round House Loop (three miles) and the quick Fox Creek Spur Trail (0.6 miles) and plenty of fun as well. All three are multi-use, so if you're in the mood for a bike ride, this is an awesome spot to hit the trail.
The fourth trail in Rockwoods Range is the hiking-only Green Rock Trail, which actually begins in Rockwoods Reservation, but stretches for roughly three miles through the Range. The total distance of the Green Rock Trail is almost fifteen miles, but it's an easy one to divide up and conquer in sections.
There are two parking areas on Fox Creek Road (off of Interstate 44) for the Rockwoods Range Conservation Area. You can find an area map that shows the trails and access points
8. Rock Hollow Park
The deep valley of Rock Hollow is famous for its scenic sights! The rocky geological formations create some amazing cliffs and vistas that are blanketed with wildflowers in the spring. Most of the park is filled with beautiful old woodland areas that line the creeks that flow through the heart of the valley.
The steep 2.2-mile Rock Hollow Trail is a favorite among hikers looking for a challenge. It follows a creek (crossing over thirteen times on cool little bridges) and climbs up to the ridgetop. It’s paved, but it’s definitely a workout! Rock Hollow Trail actually begins on the Al Foster Trail, but branches off after a mile and climbs up to its endpoint at Ridge Road (near Ridge Elementary School).
9. Klondike Park
Klondike Park is just under an hour's drive west of St. Louis, making it the trail furthest from the city on this list, but the drive here is definitely worth the extra effort! Klondike Park was once an old silica sand quarry, which has given the landscape here a truly unique look. After the quarry closed, the scenic area was preserved and turned into a lovely parkland with picturesque bluffs offering some spectacular views of the Missouri River.
There are just over three miles of paved trails here that are accessible right from the parking areas, as well as several other natural hiking/biking trails and mixed-used trails. Many trails, including the River Trail, Donjo’s Trail, Strip Mine Trail, and Donkey Kong Loop, are under 0.5 miles long, while others range from 0.5 to three miles. Most of these trails can be easily combined to create a longer hike, but the real shining star at Klondike Park is the Katy Trail section.
The Katy Trail is actually a 240-mile long rail trail that stretches across the state from Machens to Sedalia along the Missouri River. It can be accessed at several points along the way and portions of the Katy Trail are even park of the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail and American Discovery Trail. Most sections of the trail are easygoing and flat and there are many paved area that are ADA accessible. We chose to include the Klondike Park section of the Katy Trail because you can combine the trip to see the unique short trails here to create a full day (or more!) adventure.
These hiking spots offer tons of unique trails to explore, but they are only a small slice of all these amazing places to hike in the area. While there are others we could have included here, we think these nine spots should definitely be added to your bucket list and are a great group to get started on. Happy trails!