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 six 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.
Park Info: Advance reservations are recommended, but not required here. Shaw is open daily from 8 a.m.- 7 p.m. (Open until 8 p.m. in summer)
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.
4. Castlewood State Park
Castlwood State Park is one of the St. Louis areas most popular parks and with good reason. This park has one of the best overlooks around with a great view of the Meramec River. During springtime, be sure to explore the lower River Scene trail to find an abundance of colorful bluebell flowers.
Park Hours 7 a.m. to one half hour after sunset, year-round.
5. Rock Hollow Trail
If you are looing for a paved option suitable for bikes or strollers, check out the Rock Hollow Trail in Wildwood. This trail is a fun one for kids as they can count the many bridges the path crosses. Near the end of the trail where it runs into the the Al Foster trail you can find a giant patch of bluebell flowers perfect for photographs.
Trail Hours 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily
6. Salt Lick Point
A local favorite on the Illinois side, the lower Johnson Trail at Salt Lick Point Land and Water Reserve is a wildflower dream. Bluebells and other colorful blooms put on an amazing display on this flat and easy trail. If you are up to a challenge, continue on to climb the Salt Lick Trail for a panoramic view of the Mississippi River valley.
Trail Hours: sunrise to sunset daily
Always remember that picking wildflowers is not allowed and to pack out what you bring in. Leave the spring beauty for all to enjoy.