Fall is our favorite time for hiking. The weather is cooler, the bugs are almost gone, and the leaves put on a spectacular show. There are so many great spots near St. Louis that offer great vistas and beautiful fall colors. Here is a round up of 10 fall hikes we love within 90 minutes of St. Louis.
Castlewood State Park
Castlewood is one of the most well-known hiking spots near St. Louis and with good reason. Make the climb up the bluffs for a outstanding view of the Meramec River. Keep an eye out for the crumbling ruins left over from the roaring 20s resort days when this area served as an escape from the St. Louis heat. Combine the River Scene and Lone Wolf Trails to make one scenic loop both above and below the bluffs. This park is a popular one so try to go early or on a weekday. Ballwin, Missouri. Park hours are 7 a.m. to one-half hour after sunset, year-round
Cuivre River State Park
You can get a taste of the Ozarks in northern Missouri at this Cuvire River, one of Missouri’s largest parks. Rugged and forested hills plus a lake provide plenty of spots for scenic leaf peeping. The Frenchman’s Bluff Trail provides a fairly easy trek through the woods and along a bluff with a great view of the park’s namesake, Cuivre River. Even if you aren’t up for a hike, this park is a good one for a scenic drive. Several miles of roads wind through the hills and hollers of the park. Troy, Missouri. Day use hours 6 a.m.-sunset
Hawn State Park
We try to visit Hawn every year because the park is just that beautiful. Pickle Creek gurgles and tumbles along rugged rocks while the variety of trees here put on quite a show. Make a loop by combining the Pickle Creek and Whispering Pines Trails. The trail is a rocky one so lace up those hiking boots to tackle this hike. Ste. Genevieve, MO. Park hours are 7 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Hughes Mountain Natural Area
One of the most unique landscapes around can be found at Hughes Mountain Natural Area in southeastern Missouri. Make the short and steady one mile climb past trees and boulders to a unique landscape of rock formations known as the Devil’s Honeycomb. Not only do the rocks provide a fun spot for exploring, but the top of the mountain gives you a 360 degree view of fall color. Potosi, Missouri. Open 4 a.m. – 10 p.m. daily.
Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park
When the temperature drops, the crowds depart from this popular Missouri swimming hole. One of the most scenic state parks in the state, this spot is worth the drive. Take the easy paved path and boardwalk to a view of rushing waterfalls and an emerald pool surround by vibrant reds and oranges. Continue along the Shut-Ins trail to make a 2.3 mile hiking loop. Make a day of it by combining trips to nearby Elephant Rocks State Park or Taum Sauk Mountain, the highest point in the state. Middlebrook, Missouri. Day use area open daily 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. through October. Closes at 4 p.m. November-March.
Pere Marquette State Park
The largest state park in Illinois, Pere Marquette boasts both great hikes and panoramic views. Climb the Goat Cliff trail to a scenic vista at McAdams Peak Overlook. The short but beautiful scenic drive in the park leads to even more viewpoints. Fuel up before or after a hike with a delicious meal in the CCC era limestone lodge. Just the drive along the Great Rivers Scenic Byway to get to the park is worth the trip. Highway 100 is sandwiched between towering bluffs on one side and the mighty Mississippi River on the other. Grafton, Illinois
Powder Valley Conservation Nature Center
If you are looking for short and paved path that still offers great forest views, check out Powder Valley. A hidden gem right at the intersection of I-44 and I-270, this conservation area in Kirkwood offers three short loops up and down hills and across bridges. For kids or beginner hikers, this is great choice. Powder Valley is also a great place to spot deer and other wildlife. Kirkwood, Missouri. Trails open 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Tucked away along the busy suburbs of west St. Louis County, Rockwoods Reservation is a beautiful spot of nature. The area features a variety of plant and animal life as well as springs, caves, and rock formations. Wind your way up and down ravines through a tunnel of trees on 1.5 mile aptly named Trail Among the Trees Trail. A large portion of the trail is paved, making this a good choice for beginner hikers. Wildwood, Missouri. Wildwood, Missouri. Open sunrise to one-half hour after sunset.
Salt Lick Point Land & Water Preserve
Salt Lick Point is another Illinois side hike with expansive views. You might huff and puff up the steep hill at the start of the hike, but the view from the top of the bluffs is worth the effort. Combine the Salt Lick and Johnson Trails to make a scenic loop with views both from above and below the bluffs. The drive to get there south along Bluff Road also offers some amazing fall color. Valmeyer, Illinois
Valley View Glades Natural Area
Head south down Highway 21 and admire the colorful trees along the highway as you head to this lesser known hiking spot. Valley View Glades puts on a stunning show of wildflowers during the spring and summer. When fall arrives, visit to view a dazzling fall color display. The 2.8 mile hiking trail winds in and out of the forest to offer both close up fall color and distant views across the glades. Hillsboro, Missouri. Open 4 a.m. – 10 p.m. daily.
Do you have a great fall hiking spot? Feel free to comment below.