Rockwoods Reservation is one of the nicest places to hike near St. Louis. Located in west St. Louis County, visitors can find a taste of the Ozarks tucked away from the busy suburbs. The area features 13 miles of trails past creeks, caves, and a spring.
The Lime Kiln trail is one of the most popular hikes at Rockwoods Reservation, especially for those those trail running or training. However, the Rock Quarry and Trail Among the Trees trails are the perfect length and difficulty level for kids. Both hikes have plenty of interesting features along the way to make a great outing for all.
Rockwoods Reservation History
It’s hard to imagine that a hundred years ago the hills and valley of Rockwoods were logged bare of trees. The site was once the home of the Glencoe Mining Company which mined limestone. Wood was cut from the hills to feed the limestone kilns, one of which still stands. A mining town sprung up in the valley and narrow gauge trains steamed in and out.
The Glencoe Mining Company went bust during the Great Depression. The mining town and quarry were abandoned. The newly created Missouri Department of Conservation purchased the land in 1938 and restored it to its natural beauty. Remains of Rockwoods storied past can still be found throughout the landscape.
Rock Quarry Trail
- Distance: 2.2 mile loop
- Difficulty: 3/5 Some moderate ascents. Trail is wide gravel in most sections.
- Scenic Value: 4/5. Beautiful woods, a scenic hollow, and caves
The Rock Quarry trail starts at the left end of the large parking area between the Education Center and maintenance buildings. Look for a small path leading back from the parking lot towards the woods.
The very start of the trail can be a little muddy as well as slippery if there are fallen leaves. Follow the trail up the stairs and up a few switchbacks.
The trail surface soon becomes wider and turns to gravel. This first stretch can get your heart rate up as you continue to switchback up to the ridge.
The leaves were just starting to turn during our recent mid-October hike. There are a wide variety of trees here which creates a rainbow of golden hues in fall.
Spring and summer bring wildflowers to the trail. A few were even lingering in October.
Soon the path reaches the top of the ridge and the trail flattens out. Catch your breath while you peek across the valley. The view here is probably better when the leaves are off the trees.
The path follows along the top of the ridge for a short distance before reaching a bench and trail intersection. You have the option for taking the short loop back down to the Education Center for a one mile hike. Or you can continue on the longer full loop by keeping left.
Continuing on the longer loop, the path follows the ridge for a little longer before beginning to descend into the lush hollow.
This valley is a rugged and beautiful place. It’s hard to imagine this place was once bustling with mining equipment, people, and noise.
Keep an eye out to your left for a side trail. This path leads to two small caves, remnants of the mining days.
Following the main path again, the trail crosses a small creek. There was no water all when we hiked, however, it appears that after heavy rain the creek may not be so small!
If you visit after large rains, it may be best to hike the trail the opposite way to see if the creek is passable first.
Soon after the crossing, the trail reaches another parking area and trailhead. To return to the larger parking area, you have to walk south along the road a short distance. The road does not go through, so there is little traffic to worry about.
Trail Among the Trees
- Distance: 2 mile loop
- Difficulty: 2/5 Some moderate ascents. Portions of the trail are paved.
- Scenic Value: 4/5. Beautiful woods and ravine. Stunning in fall.
Trail Among the Trees is probably my favorite trail at Rockwoods and a great one for kids. While the trail is nice year round, if you catch it at peak fall color it is amazing.
There are several ways to access this trail. If you want to do a long loop of both Rock Quarry and Trail Among the Trees, you could cross the road from the Education Center and Rock Quarry trailhead to hike Trail Among the Trees clockwise.
If you hiking just this trail, we like to start the hike at the parking area next to the restrooms (just past the picnic area) and hike counterclockwise. This gets the steeper climbs out of the way first.
The path starts as paved and flat before changing to a rocky surface as it begins to switchback up from the valley. The trees are dense and you might spy some wildlife along the way. Spring and summer bring many colorful wildflowers to the trail as well.
The trail soon reaches a nice and fenced overlook with views across the valley.
Soon the path is back to paved again.
Did I mention how much I love this trail in fall? These pictures are from peak color in late October a few years back. My kids look so tiny!
The trail flattens out and runs along the top of the ridge for a distance. The path intersects with the Lime Kiln trail. You can combine the two trails for a longer hike.
The trail then starts to descend down into the valley. The path continues to be paved for much of the distance. If you are hiking on a frosty morning when the days are still warm but the nights dip below freezing, keep an eye out for frost flowers. I have found many here tucked into the mossy hillsides in fall and early winter.
These delicate ribbons of ice form when warm liquid is pushed up into the stems of certain plants. When the air temperature freezes at night, the stems crack and the moisture is then forced out of the stem cracks. As the moisture hits the cold air, it freezes into intricate and fragile formations. You need to visit early in the morning to see these rare formations as they melt quickly with the rising sun.
There was once a nice suspension bridge across the lower part of the ravine soon after the paved trail changes to earth. However, a tree fell and destroyed the bridge several years ago. Now the trail dips all the way into the ravine and travels along the dry creek bed.
On the other side of the valley, keep an eye out for some large rocks perfect for scrambling and exploring. Some of these may be remains of the old rock quarry days.
From here the path crosses another bridge and passes more large boulders and bluffs. Keep an eye out for a grate covering the entrance to narrow Bathtub Cave
During my last visit, a long set of stairs that used to head down into the ravine from here was blocked off and damaged. From there, you could normally cross the creek on stepping stones and travel past the remains of the mining days.
At my last visit, you had to detour parallel to the road further down to cross the creek on another set of stepping stones. From here, it was a short walk along the road back to the parking area.
Things to Know When Hiking Rockwoods Reservation:
- The park is located at 2751 Glencoe Rd, Wildwood, MO 63038
- You can download a map of the area here.
- A vault toilet is located near the picnic area. Flush toilets are located at the Trail Among the Trees trailhead. There has also sometimes been a portable restroom near the Trail Among the Trees parking area or Rock Quarry trailhead.
- There is an education center located here. They are closed weekends and holidays so I’ve never been inside.
- Remember to leave no trace and hike responsibly.