Nature October 24, 2015
11 Trails You Must Take In Missouri If You Love The Outdoors
Autumn is an amazing time for trails in Missouri. How beautiful to catch the changing leaves, cooler breezes, and better chances for solitude than during the touristy months of summer. You can’t go wrong with any of these places as a destination. Whether you are an experienced hiker or backpacker looking for a challenge, or just a leisurely walker wanting to take in some scenery, there is something here for everyone.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life. While we continue to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, please take proper precautions or add them to your bucket list to see at a later date. If you know of a local business that could use some extra support during these times, please nominate them here:
1. Shaw Nature Reserve, Gray Summit
A country branch of the Missouri Botanical Garden, this nature reserve has a variety of trails that allow you to wander through restored prairies, woods with bluff overlooks and a lower forest filled with giant sycamores. End the hike at a gravel bar on the Meramec River, which is a perfect spot for a picnic.
2. Prairie State Park, southwest Missouri
Prairie State Park is known for its herd of around 100 American bison that roam the hills and trails on the largest remaining remnant of tall grass prairie-land in Missouri. The flourishing wildflowers make for a wonderfully relaxing and enjoyable hike.
3. Ozark Trail
There is a section of the Ozark Trail that begins at Taum Sauk State Park at the highest point in Missouri. It will take you to the state’s tallest waterfall at Mina Sauk Falls, and end at Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park. This backpacking trail can be traveled in either 6, 12, or 15 mile hikes or a variety of trail difficulty levels, and is something every hiker should do at least once. Visit
Ozark Trail Guide
, a great source for planning your hike.
4. Katy Trail State Park
Katy Trail State Park is the nation’s longest rails-to-trails conversion and is a linear state park that spans more than 237 miles from Machens to Clinton. With much of it following along the Missouri River, views vary from towering bluffs, old railroad towns, fields of crops, and pastures full of livestock. For an interactive trail map, visit
Katry Trail Map
5. Trail of Tears State Park, southeast Missouri
Trail of Tears State Park has several trails. The Sheppard Point trail is a four-mile trail rated rugged that goes through steep ravines, up a ridge to a bluff with an amazing view of the Mississippi River. Another is the Peewah Trail, a rugged nine-mile adventure that explores 1,300 acres of wilderness and nature in the Indian Creek Wild Area. Also to see are the Lake Trail (2.25 miles, rugged), and the Nature Trail (0.6 miles, moderate). Check out a map of the entire multi-state trail at
Trail of Tears National Historic Trail Map
6. Crowder State Park, northwest Missouri
This park features the Thompson River Trail, a rugged, 8.6-mile trail taking you through old farm fields that are now being returned to prairie. It continues down to the lush bottom-lands along the river. You can choose to take a short detour off the trail to Leatherwood Hollow, which contains hundred year old writings on lichen-covered rock slabs and overhangs. More trails to check out are the less rugged Redbug trail, a moderate 1.75 miles, the 2 mile River Forks Trail, a hilly woodlands trail, or the rugged 3-mile Tall Oaks Trail. You can print a park map at
Crowder State Park Map
7. Battle of Athens State Historic Site, northeast Missouri
Visiting and hiking the Battle of Athens State Historic site is a peaceful, tranquil experience. Historic buildings, a tree-studded landscape, and a mile of the Des Moines Riverfront. Strange that such a peaceful place has such a violent and bloody history. At this location, the most northern battle of the Civil War fought west of the Mississippi occurred. 500 Union soldiers held back nearly four times their number of pro-Southern State Guardsmen. You can take an interpretation tour of the battlefield and a number of the historic buildings. Although spring is perhaps the best time to visit due to the two-mile Snow Trillium Trail blooming with wildflowers, any time of year is good. Print a historic site map at
Battle of Athens State Historic Site
8. Hawn State Park, Ste. Genevieve County
Hawn State Park has two main trails traversing through one of the prettiest parks among beautiful Missouri State Parks. First is the Pickle Creek Trail, which includes a short hike along the clear, sand-bottomed creek, and winds between granite boulders that have been sculpted over time by the water. For the more avid hiker, Whispering Pines Trail is a 9.75 mile hike through wild areas ripe with orchids and azaleas in the spring, and awe-inspiring views along sandstone bluffs and shortleaf pine. You can print a park map at
Hawn State Park
9. Pickle Springs Natural Area
The Pickle Springs Natural Area has the Trail Through Time, which is a two-mile loop-trail through a pine-and-hardwood forest leading to outstanding rock formations, including a rare double arch, cool canyons with ferns, and plants left behind by glaciers. Check out this great video for a tour.
10. Hickory Canyons Natural Area, Ste. Genevieve County
Hickory Canyons is a lesser known natural area in Ste. Genevieve County with two beautiful hiking trails. The Allen Brohn Memorial Trail is a one mile loop trail on the north side of Sprott Road that provides access to a wet weather waterfall. It is important that you stay on the trails as the sandstone features are very fragile and easily eroded. Hickory Canyons Natural Area Trail is a 1.5 mile loop trail that descends into a heavily forested deep ravine featuring sandstone bluffs and rock outcroppings, wet weather creeks and seasonal waterfalls. For a map of all the trails in the Ste. Genevieve area, you can go
11. Sam A. Baker State Park, southeast Missouri
Sam A. Baker State Park provides many various trail options providing amazing views of the St. Francois River and Big Creek surrounded by a wooded setting. Veteran hikers and backpackers who want a challenge might choose the Mudlick Trail which totals 16.75 miles up and down some of the most rugged country in the state as well as three stone and timber shelters from the 1930s built by the Civilian Conservation Corps. It begins in the valley of Big Creek and ascends Mudlick Mountain, going through the Mudlick Mountain Wild Area, a conserved landscape of old growth trees, rare plants and deep ravines that drop down to boulder-strewn streams that turn into whitewater waterfalls with a heavy rain. You can also choose the shorter hiking-only section which is a rugged 5.5 miles. For a little less of a challenge, try the Shut-Ins Trail which takes you 1.25 miles through the woods to the Big Creek shut-ins, a swimming hole with great Ozark views. Other trails include the Fire Tower Trail (2 miles, moderate), or the easy Paved Bicycle Trail totaling 1.5 miles. You can find a map of the park
Have you hiked any of these trails? What is your favorite place to hike? Any great spots we didn’t include here? Share in the comments below.