Don’t let the cold weather scare you away from hitting one of the great trails around St. Louis. Winter can be a perfect time for venturing outdoors. Not only are the ticks and oppressive heat absent, but so are the crowds. Some of the outstanding views that are normally blocked by vegetation are now wide open. Just spending time outside can also be a wonderful way to beat the winter blues. Here are 10 great trails well worth bundling up to explore.
Babler State Park
Babler is a natural oasis close to the city. Visit after a fresh snowfall and be transported to a winter wonderland of white. A large variety of trails can be found here. If you want to avoid muddy conditions, the paved bike trail is a great choice for exploring. Check out the stone tunnels and other CCC craftmanship that can be found throughout the park.
It’s all about the ice at Pickle Springs in winter. The towering bluffs and trickling waterfalls form dramatic icicles. The scenic Trail through Time trail is 2.5 miles of beauty. The whole family will enjoy the unique rock formations, slots, and arches.
Great Rivers Greenway
The Great Rivers Greenway is an extensive network of trails throughout the St. Louis metro area. If you are looking for a paved or stroller friendly option, any of the trails in the network are a good choice. Two that are extra nice in winter are Cliff Cave and Jefferson Barracks. Cliff Cave has both paved and unpaved trails. The paved portion passes a scenic waterfall and has a great Mississippi River overlook. The Jefferson Barracks Greenway parallels the river for a chance of glimpsing eagles. Kids may enjoy watching the barges chug by.
Once the site of an old silica sand quarry, the area has been preserved as the beautiful and unique Klondike Park. 4 miles of both paved and unpaved trails wind around the scenic quarry lake as well as along the bluff. You can catch a great view of the Missouri River and Katy Trail from atop the bluffs.
Hawn State Park
I say it over and over, but Hawn is one of the most beautiful state parks in a state full of amazing parks. The rushing cascades of Pickle Creek are extra stunning surrounded by snow. Colder temps bring unique ice formations along the water. Use extra caution here as wet feet in winter are more than just an annoyance.
Don Robinson is another Missouri state park gem. The waterfalls that come to life along the Sandstone Canyon trail after a heavy rainfall turn into pillars of ice in winter. This park has become very popular since it opened so winter is a great time to experience it without the crowds.
The views here are always great and the whole family will marvel at the unique “Devil’s honeycomb” rock formations. A large portion of the Hughes Mountain hike is exposed which means the warmth of the sun will reach you during the one mile hike to the top.
Millstream Gardens Conservation Area
This unique spot is a year round stunner. Missouri’s only stretch of true whitewater rapids can be found at Millstream Gardens. Warmer weather brings kayakers in droves to try their luck navigating the waters. Winter means less crowds and more serenity. Explore the viewpoints above the water either by taking a one mile paved trail or continue closer to the edge along the unpaved path.
Pere Marquette State Park
Heading over to the Illinois side, Pere Marquette is one of the state’s top parks. Take a hike on the Goat Cliff trail up to McAdams peak for panoramic views of the Illinois River valley. This spot is extra stunning and worth climb for sunset. The park is also a popular place for winter eagle watching due to it’s location along the river.
Fults Hill Prairie
It’s about the view at Fults Hill Prairie. Winter means the steep climb at the start is not quite as difficult as attempting it in the dead of summer. This trail can become overgrown with prairie grass in warmer weather so winter is a great time to explore without worrying about picking up ticks.
Do you have a favorite winter hike? If you are new to hiking in winter be sure to bundle in layers, bring plenty of water, and make sure your shoes have good traction for icy conditions. And as always, be sure to pack out what you bring in.