Back in Civil War times, the area near Powder Valley was full of caves. Federal forces stockpiled gunpowder in these caves to blow up bridges if the Confederate army attempted to invade St. Louis by way of the Meramec River. Now interstate 270 covers where the caves were and peaceful Powder Valley Conservation Area is full of nature instead of gunpowder.
Powder Valley Conservation Nature Center covers 112 acres of oak hickory forest tucked away near the hustle of the busy St. Louis I-270 and I-44 interchange. This urban oasis features three different paved trails and a beautiful nature center.
- Distance: 1/3 mile loop
- Difficulty: 1/5. Flat and paved. Wheelchair accessible.
- Scenic Value: 3/5. A nice walk in the woods, but no significant features.
The Tanglevine Trail is the easiest and located to the left of the nature center. This is a great one for the littlest legs as its short and flat. They also often have a story book walk along the way. Different signs along the trail feature pages of a book or clues to figuring out a type of wildlife animal.
Broken Ridge Trail
- Distance: 2/3 mile loop
- Difficulty: 2/5. Paved but has some mild hills up and down
- Scenic Value: 3/5. Woods, wildflowers, and a small creek
If you want a little more challenge, the broken ridge trail is still a short one but it does have some hills. You could take a stroller, just be prepared for the hills!
The trail starts on the side of the parking lot near where the entrance road enters the parking lot. The path makes a loop. Each end of the loop descends into a small valley with two bridges crossing over a small creek. If there is recent rainfall, small waterfalls stream down the rocks. This is a good kid splashing spot.
The wildflowers are beautiful in spring along this trail.
Hickory Ridge Trail
- Distance: Full loop 1.2 miles, short loop 1/2 mile
- Difficulty: 2/5 on short loop, 3/5 on full loop. Both are paved but the hills are moderate climbs up and down
- Scenic Value: 3/5. Woods, wildflowers, and a small creek.
4/5 in fall when the colors are popping.
The Hickory Ridge loop is my favorite. It starts by crossing a bridge over the entrance road.
You soon reach the start of the loop. Either direction you go, be prepared to go up and down those hills.
The trail is well marked when you reach the intersection of the short and long loop. If you want to see the best part of the trail, take the long loop to head down to the creek. The trail will cross several more bridges.
The creek is clear and shallow with several little cascades and small waterfalls.
The path parallels along the creek in the valley for a distance. There is one creek crossing that features a low water bridge which could be impassable in high water.
To complete the loop, you now have to make the climb back uphill and across the first bridge back to the parking area.
Don’t miss taking the time to visit the nature center. While COVID has many of the exhibits closed, the restrooms, lobby, and some of the displays are still available.
The main lobby has several tanks of snakes and turtles. Don’t miss learning about Peanut, the unusually shaped turtle. She was found with a plastic soda ring around her middle which forced her shell to grow into a peanut shape.
More displays are located on the lower level, however, only certain areas are accessible due to COVID.
Additional exhibits not currently open include a kid’s tree house to climb inside, a large fish tank, and many more interactive ways for kids to learn about nature.
Additional Things to Know
- The trails are open daily 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.
- The nature center is open Tuesday-Saturday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
- Restrooms are located in the nature center when open or portable bathrooms are available in the parking area.
- Masks are required inside the nature center for visitors 5 and up.
- The nature center has free learning materials and copies of the free magazines published by the Missouri Conservation Department.
- No dogs are allowed are the trails.