Have you been wanting to take a hike but don’t know the best places to visit around St. Louis? Maybe you want to find a trail that is kid friendly or one that is not likely to be crowded. Maybe you have seen local pictures of a hiking trail with a beautiful waterfall or stunning overlook and want to know how to get there. The one hiking question I’m asked over and over is how exactly do I find all the great trails and hikes in the St. Louis area and beyond.
While I do quite a bit of research online, there is nothing like a great hiking guide book for reference. These handy guides give you an overview of the best trails that fit your location, difficulty level, and the features you seek. The authors have done all the guesswork for you by narrowing down the best trails while providing all the information on how to get there and what to expect. Over the past 10 years, I’ve read almost every local hiking book that I can find and have created a list below of the ones I consider the best resources.
1. 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of St. Louis
The 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of St. Louis has been my main go-to book for finding the best local hikes for almost 9 years. This book includes hikes both in Missouri and Illinois with an overview map of the area. I also love how the beginning of the book lists out hikes by various categories such as trails by length, hikes good with children, scenic hikes, and many more features. Each of the hikes includes a detailed map, trail description, length, difficulty, and even how busy the trail usually is. If you are not based in St. Louis, there are many different editions of the 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles series for most major metropolitan areas in the U.S. A new St. Louis edition is set to be released in 2021. I’m eagerly awaiting the updated version to replace my current well worn copy.
2. Best Hikes St. Louis
Best Hikes St. Louis is one of the newest St. Louis area hiking books and it’s a beautiful one. This book showcases 40 of the most scenic hikes in both Missouri and Illinois. The start of the book has a nice chart showing various features for each trail such as those good for children, history buffs, or those hiking with dogs. Each hike has a detailed map, stunning photos, and specific mile by mile trail guide. If your main goal is to find the hikes with the highest scenic value, this is the one to turn to.
3. Best Hikes with Kids: St. Louis and Beyond
The Best Hikes with Kids: St.Louis and Beyond is the only local resource I have found dedicated to hiking with children. The author has done a wonderful job of selecting over 80 hikes throughout the area to help kids experience nature in a fun way. All of the hikes are under 5 miles with modest elevation gain. I love that the author points out which trails are accessible by wheelchairs, strollers, or bikes as well as bathroom availability. The guide for lists specific features to intrigue hikers of all ages such as wildflowers, waterfalls, and wildflowers. One of the my kids favorite features on a trail is a creek or lake and this guide points out any “splash zones” you may find to cool off after a summer hike. If you are new to hiking with little ones, you can also find general tips on how to have a fun and safe family adventure.
4. Hiking Illinois and Hiking Missouri
Hiking Illinois and Hiking Missouri are both part of the America’s Best Day Hiking series highlighting some of the best trails in each state. I love how these books include a variety of trails spread throughout each state so you can seek out different hikes as you travel. Each trail features detailed info such as the length, difficulty, and estimated hiking time. I especially like how each trail map has the features highlighted by numbers to correspond with the trail descriptions. This is helpful so you can know that a waterfall for example, is 1 mile from the trail head while an overlook is at 1.3 miles.
5. Hiking Ozarks: A Guide To The Area’s Greatest Hiking Adventures
If your hiking and explorations extend further beyond the immediate St. Louis area, than the Hiking Ozarks book is a great one to add to your hiking library. This detailed guide showcases over 50 hikes spread throughout Missouri, Illinois, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. Each hike has a detailed map with trail features, beautiful photos, history and other valuable local info. The hikes are concentrated in the rugged Ozark region of the country so each hike is guaranteed to have top notch scenery.
6. 20 Day Trips in and Around Shawnee National Forest
Unlike the other books listed above, 20 Day Trips in and Around Shawnee National Forest isn’t specifically a hiking book. However, this charming guide lists twenty different day trip ideas around southernmost Illinois to enjoy nature, history, and other points of interest. There are not detailed mile by mile trail guides, however an overview is provided of the distance, difficult, features, and facilities for a variety of hikes in the area. I find that this book makes a handy guide for combining multiple hikes into one day or weekend trip to the area. If you have not visited Shawnee National Forest, you are missing out on some wonderful areas to explore.
I hope this list provides you with some great guides to check out to plan your next local hiking adventure. The authors of all of these amazing guides have done a wonderful job of together organized and detailed guides. If you are just starting out on your hiking adventure, most of the books also include general tips for what to bring and how to stay safe on the trail.
Note: This post contains affiliate links, however is not a sponsored post. All books shown above were purchased by us in full. All opinions and reviews are our own.