One of my favorite spring wildflowers is the Virginia bluebell. They are native to Missouri and can be found in moist, wooded areas or floodplains. These delicate blossoms emerge in early spring and tend to peak around mid-April in our region. Here are three of our favorite area parks to see a stunning sea of bluebells in bloom.
1. Shaw Nature Reserve
The Shaw Nature Reserve in Gray Summit, Missouri is a wonderful place to visit no matter the time of year. The reserve offers over 17 miles of trails that wind through gardens, woods, prairie, and even a wetland area. In the spring, the hills are bursting with a variety of wildflowers including bluebells. The bluebells can be found near the Meramec floodplain area of the park. The easiest way to reach the flowers is to park at the Maritz Trail House and then take Trail 13 (The Wildflower Trail) or Trail 14 (The Bluff Overlook Trail) down the hill towards the river.
Shaw is open daily from 8 a.m.- 8 p.m. Missouri Botanical Garden members can get earlier access. Download a Park Map here
Admission is $5; $3 seniors & children; members and children under 12 free
2. St. Francois State Park
St. Francois State Park in Bonne Terre, MO is one our favorite retreats when we want a scenic but not too long hike. While the Mooner’s Hollow Trail is a favorite most of the year due to a nice waterfall, the Swimming Deer trail shines bright in spring. It’s also a nice spot if you want easy access to the bluebells without hiking too far. Starting behind the campground, follow the trail along the Big River and the blooms can be seen not far from the trailhead. The trail then winds up along the bluffs over the river with some nice overlooks.
April through October Winter Hours
7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily Admission to all Missouri State Parks is free
3. Washington State Park
Washington State Park in De Soto is another park along the Big River. The 1,000 steps trail (don’t worry there really aren’t that many) starts near the lodge where it runs not far from the river. Bluebells and many other stunning flowers spread out from the trail. Enjoy the CCC’s handiwork in the rugged stone stairs that lead to a rustic overlook of the area. Be sure to also check out the large collection of petroglyphs on display in the park after your hike.
Park Hours 7 a.m. to sunset, year-round.
A few other parks to check out for bluebells and other early wildflowers:
- Castlewood State Park – The River Scene trail is bursting with flowers in the springtime.
- Salt Lick Point Reserve – If you are on the Illinois side, check out this hidden gem. The easy Johnson Trail is full of floral delight.
- Rock Hollow Trail – This part of the Meramec Greenway is known for its display of bluebells. We have yet to visit this trail, but hope to check it out soon.