While rainy days may keep most people away from the trails, wet weather is the best time for waterfall hunting. The St. Louis area may not have the continuously flowing waterfalls of other states, but heavy spring rains transform ordinary trickles into rushing cascades.
Try to time your visit to these places after a good downpour. Bring those boots, brave the muddy trails, and ready your camera for an adventure. Here are 25 of the best waterfalls to explore around St. Louis.
Waterfalls Within a Two Hour Drive
Don Robinson State Park
Don Robinson is one of the most popular state parks in the area with good reason. Rugged canyons and bluffs dominate along the Sandstone Canyon Trail. Brave the muddy trails after a good downpour to find waterfalls galore. Try to hit this park early or on a weekday to avoid the crowds.
Location: 9275 Byrnesville Rd, Cedar Hill, Missouri
Trail Info: 4 miles for full loop, 2.5 if using connector. Moderate difficulty.
Myron and Sonya Glassberg Conservation Area
This waterfall at Glassberg Conservation Area may not be the tallest, but it is easy to reach a short distance from the trail head. This 3 foot tall waterfall along a shallow creek is a great one to visit with kids. Hike the full 3 mile loop trail to view a lake and Meramec River Valley overlook.
Location: State Hwy FF Eureka, Missouri
Trail Info: 3.1 mile loop. Easy hike to waterfall, moderate difficulty for whole loop.
LaBarque Creek Conservation Area
LaBarque Creek is another of the lovely conservation areas just west of St. Louis. A good downpour brings many waterfalls to life including a unique waterfall that drops through a hole in the rock just off the trail. The area also includes a shallow creek and several spots for little ones to splash.
Location: Valley Dr. Pacific, Missouri
Trail Info: 3 mile loop. Moderate difficulty
Cliff Cave Park
Cliff Cave is a St. Louis County jewel. The park features a mix of paved and earthen trails for pedestrians and bicyclists. The park has several features including a great Mississippi River Overlook. During rainy seasons, visitors can view a waterfall cascading out of the park’s namesake cave. The waterfall can be viewed from a bridge crossing over the stream below.
Location: 806 Cliff Cave Road St. Louis, Missouri
Trail Info: Trails of multiple lengths. About 0.5 miles each way from lower parking area to the falls. Easy and paved trail to view of falls, some incline.
The main waterfall at Hickory Canyons Natural Area is a tricky one to time correctly. This tall cascade near Ste. Genevieve takes a very large rainfall to flow and does not last for long. Try to time a visit during or after a heavy rain to view this beauty on a short out and back hike.
Location: Sprott Road Ste. Genevieve, Missouri
Trail Info: 0.25 mile each way out and back. Moderate difficulty, short but steep.
Kress Farm Garden Preserve
Kress Farm Preserve is a hidden gem south of St. Louis. Not only does this beautiful preserve feature woods, cliffs, and caves, but also two wet-weather waterfalls. Take the short and easy yellow loop trail to see both of the falls.
Location: 5137 Glade Chapel Road Hillsboro, Missouri
Trail Info: 0.75 mile loop on yellow trail. Easy difficulty.
If you wish for a waterfall you can view from your car, check out Dripping Springs at Creve Couer Lake Park. The waterfall is most often simply a trickle, but a heavy downpour can transform it from dripping to gushing. Visit the falls in deep winter and be treated to a stunning frozen cascade.
Location: Park by the Taco Bell shelter at Creve Couer Lake Park
Trail Info: Short and flat walk from parking area to base of falls
St. Francois State Park
The Swimming Deer Trail may be known for its spring wildflower display, but the Mooner’s Hollow Trail at St. Francois is the one to hit to see a waterfall. While not a tall waterfall, this spring-fed waterfall tends to run year round. The shallow cascades can be seen just upstream near the halfway point on the loop where the trail crosses Coonville Creek.
Location: 8920 US Highway 67 North, Bonne Terre, Missouri
Trail Info: 2.8 mile loop, moderate difficulty. Trail is easier if you just want to hike an out and back to the waterfall which is about a mile each way.
Olin Nature Preserve
One of the best family hiking areas in the metro-east, Olin Nature Preserve of the Nature Institute boasts a multi-level cascade that flows year-round. Take the moderate Beaver Falls Trail for the quickest route to the waterfall. Be sure to continue climbing along the creek to see each level of the waterfall and even walk behind the main falls. Another smaller waterfall can be found at the adjacent Mississippi River Sanctuary.
Location: 2213 S Levis Ln, Godfrey, Illinois
Trail Info: 2.3 mile loop on Beaver Trail. Moderate difficulty
Pickle Springs Natural Area
Pickle Springs is one of the best bang for your buck hikes in the area. A perfect trail for the whole family, hike past natural rock arches and unique rock formations. Pickle Creek is spring fed which leads to several small waterfalls that flow year round. Heavy rainfall also brings additional taller and fleeting waterfalls over the rocky bluffs along the trail.
Location: Dorlac Rd, Ste. Genevieve, Missouri
Trail Info: 2 mile loop. Moderate difficulty.
Taum Sauk Mountain State Park
If you wish to see the tallest waterfall in the state of Missouri, head to this stunning state park in the Arcadia Valley. The Mina Sauk Falls trail is a moderate 3 mile loop that borders on difficult due to the rocky terrain. This rugged trek is worth the effort to view the stunning cascade dropping down a rocky bluff. While the falls require at least some recent rain, the waterfall flows longer and more consistently than others in the area.
Location: Hwy CC Middlebrook, Missouri
Trail Info: 3 mile loop. Moderate but rugged trail.
Johnson’s Shut-Ins is one of the most popular state parks in Missouri. Summer brings crowds hoping to cool off in this natural swimming hole. Visit in the off-season and you can enjoy the numerous scenic cascades and waterfalls in relative quiet. Leave all the noise behind to hike the full shut-ins loop to find two other wet-weather waterfalls
Location: 148 Taum Sauk Trail, Middle Brook, Missouri
Trail Info: 0.3 mile paved and easy trail leads to the shut-ins. 2.5 mile moderate trail to hike the full shut-ins loop trail.
Castor River Shut-Ins
The pink granite Castor River Shut-ins are located at Amidon Memorial Conservation Area. One of my favorite places in all of Missouri, these cascades are simply stunning. A quick and easy trail to the water means this is a popular swimming spot in the summer. Come early to beat the local crowds and enjoy the peaceful sounds of rushing water.
Location: Fredericktown, Missouri
Trail Info: Short and flat walk to shut-ins. More difficult if you wish to climb along the rocks.
Another gem in the Arcadia Valley area of Missouri, Millstream Gardens features tumbling cascades and shut-ins. While not as popular or dramatic as Johnson’s Shut-ins, the rapids here are especially impressive in spring. Millstream Gardens is actually the site of the Missouri Whitewater Championship each March. While the water levels die down in summer and fall, this is beautiful place to visit year round.
Location: Off Highway 72 between Fredericktown and Ironton, Missouri
Trail Info: 1 mile ADA paved trail to shut-ins overlook. Unpaved and shorter trail leads from pavilion by the river. Easy difficulty.
Valley View Glades Natural Area
The stunning spring and summer wildflowers are the real draw at Valley View Glades near Hillsboro. However, visit in spring or rainy times and view several delightful cascades and waterfalls as the path winds across and along a babbling creek.
Location: Hillsboro Rd, Hillsboro, MO 63050
Trail Info: 2.8 mile loop. Moderate difficulty.
Maramec Spring Park
The waterfalls at Maramec Spring Park (yes that’s Maramec with a double “a”) may be man-made, but they are no less beautiful. 100 million gallons of turquoise spring water gush down the remains of a stone dam and over a spillway each day. Explore the spring, hatchery, and iron works remains on easy paved trails perfect for the whole family. Bring $5 to enter this privately owned park and quarters to feed the fish.
Location: 21880 Maramec Spring Dr, St James, Missouri
Trail Info: Short and paved loop around spring. Other trails available.
Hawn State Park
Hawn State Park is one of the most lovely of Missouri’s State Parks. Beautiful Pickle Creek rushes over rocky cascades past the Whispering Pines and Pickle Creek Trails. The waterfalls aren’t tall, but they are many in number. Even in summer, this spring fed creek has flowing water.
Location: MO-144, Ste. Genevieve, Missouri
Trail Info: Make a moderate loop by combining the Pickle Creek trail with a segment of the Whispering Pines trail.
If you are looking for an easy to reach waterfall that flows year round, check out the Kincaid Lake Spillway. Except in extremely dry times, there is always water running down this multi-level cascade. You can view the falls right from your car or climb down for a closer look at the water.
Location: Spillway Road Murphysboro, Illinois
Trail Info: Viewable from parking area.
Piney Creek Ravine
Driving through the farm fields on the way to the trail head, you wouldn’t think there is anything spectacular to see. However, the rugged canyons and creeks of Piney Creek Ravine are worth the trek. Try to visit after some rain, but not too much rain or you may not be able to cross the creek that runs through the middle of this hike. An added bonus is the large collection of ancient petroglyphs along one of the bluff lines.
Location: 2248 Piney Creek Rd, Ava, Illinois
Trail Info: Make a moderate loop
Waterfalls Worth a Longer Drive
If you don’t mind a longer road trip, you can find even more stunning waterfalls by exploring further south in both Missouri and Illinois. The rocky sandstone of southern Missouri and the Shawnee Forest of Illinois produce the perfect geography for wet-weather falls to occur.
Ferne Clyffe State Park
When it comes to waterfalls, you can get quite the reward for driving to this state park in Illinois’s Shawnee National Forest. While the waterfalls at Ferne Clyffe require a lot of rain to shine, you can view multiple falls on several of the trails in the park. Big Rocky Hollow is a 100 foot gem but don’t miss out on the waterfalls on Rebman, Hawk’s Cave, and several other trails.
Location: Goreville, Illinois
Trail Info: Trails range in length and difficulty from easy to moderate
Both the hiking trail and road to get to the trailhead are a bit rugged at Jackson Falls. But if you are up to some rock scrambling, this is a stunner of a waterfall in southern Illinois. Reaching the top of the falls is the easy part while getting to the bottom requires a little more effort.
Location: Glen St Falls Rd, Simpson, Illinois
Trail Info: 0.25 miles to top of falls. About 2.5 miles out and back to bottom of falls. Moderate to difficult.
Burden Falls is a beautiful place after a good rain. The smaller upper falls can be seen right from the parking area and make a fun place for kids to play. Just use caution and stay away from the top of the taller, lower waterfall which has seen way to many tragic falls. A longer hike leads safely to the bottom of this impressive waterfall for a better view without the danger.
Location: Burden Falls Rd, Stonefort, Illinois
Trail Info: Easy to see upper falls from parking area. Moderate one mile hike each way to bottom of falls.
Rocky Bluff Trail
Rocky Bluff Trail is located in the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge in southern Illinois. While you do need to acquire a daily $2 park tag to explore, it’s well worth it. This waterfall is another fleeting wet-weather falls that requires a heavy soaking to show off. If you can time it right, you can see multiple falls along this scenic trail.
Location: Tacoma Lake Rd, Makanda, Illinois
Trail Info: Moderate 2.2 mile loop. There is also the option to take a shortcut loop of only 0.5 miles. The main falls are located a short walk from the parking area.
Lon Sanders Conservation Area
I’m for finding all the rocky shut-ins possible and Lon Sanders Canyon is a beautiful spot. A short trail explores the ruins of a planned resort. Water cascades through rocky chutes and across old stone dams. My kids absolutely loved the clear and shallow water along the creek.
Location: Piedmont, Missouri
Trail Info: Short one mile trail. Moderate due to rocky surfaces.
Located in the Ozark Scenic Riverways, Rocky Falls is the perfect summer swimming spot. The water levels vary depending on the rain, but there is always at least some flow down the 40 foot exposed rock.
Location: Hwy NN Winona Township, Missouri
Trail Info: Easy. Falls can be viewed from parking area.
Additional Things to Know
Be sure to explore carefully. Wet surfaces mean mud and rocks that can be as slick as ice. Stay well back from the edges along the top of waterfalls and be extra careful with children and pets.
Please pack out what you bring in. Take photos and leave only footprints. Allow these natural areas to remain beautiful for all to enjoy.