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Best Hikes Near St. Louis: Top Trails for Outdoor Enthusiasts

Thinkin’ St. Louis is all about that iconic Arch and bluesy tunes?

Think again.

Just a stone’s throw away from those bustling city vibes, you’ll find a world of winding trails, scenic overlooks, and that oh-so-fresh forest air.

Yep, St. Louis ain’t just a gateway to the west; it’s a gateway to some wicked hikes.

I’ve had my boots on the ground across most of these trails, and let me tell ya, the Lou’s backyard is the real MVP.

Ready to step out and discover the best-kept secrets of the STL outdoors scene?

Choosing the Right Trail

Creve Coeur Lakeview
via Reddit

When looking for a hike near St. Louis, it’s essential to choose the right trail based on your preferences, fitness level, and whom you’re hiking with.

In this section, we’ll explore some family-friendly hikes and adventurous trails to help you make the best decision for your next hiking adventure.

Family-Friendly Hikes

If you’re planning a hike with the whole family, including young children or leashed dogs, consider these easy, scenic trails:

  • Creve Coeur Lakeview Loop: This 3.8-mile urban trail is located in Creve Coeur County Park and forms a loop around the beautiful Creve Coeur Lake. Perfect for hiking, biking, and walking, this trail offers stunning lake views and a tranquil atmosphere.
  • Bee Tree County Park: Just a 29-minute drive from St. Louis, this park offers easy trails for the whole family to enjoy. Located at 2701 Finestown Ave., St. Louis, the park provides picturesque views and a peaceful setting.

Remember to check the map and trail conditions before heading out, as these details can change depending on the season and weather.

Adventurous Trails

Bee Tree County Park
Bee Tree County Park

For those seeking more of a challenge and who want to explore the diverse nature around St. Louis, consider these trails for an adventurous day outdoors:

  • Whispering Pines Trail: Considered one of the best hiking trails in Missouri, this 9.75-mile hike consists of a North Loop (6 miles) and a South Loop (3.75 miles). Check out mostateparks.com for a full map and guide to this trail.
  • Mina Sauk Falls Trail: Located in Taum Sauk State Park, this trail offers a beautiful waterfall and breathtaking views amidst a moderately challenging hike.
  • Castlewood State Park: Situated at 1401 Kiefer Creek Road, Ballwin, this park offers moderate trails with diverse terrain and beautiful views throughout.

To make your hike enjoyable, always come prepared with proper footwear, water, snacks, and a map of the area. Happy hiking!

Popular Hikes near St. Louis

Castlewood State Park River Scene Trail
Castlewood State Park River Scene Trail by travelhyper/Flickr CC 2.0

Castlewood State Park

Castlewood State Park is a popular destination for hikers near St. Louis.

With over 2,000 acres of beautiful scenery to explore, you’ll find a variety of trails to suit your skill level.

Many trails feature stunning views of the Meramec River and the surrounding bluffs. Some popular trails at Castlewood include:

  • River Scene Trail: A 3-mile loop that takes you along the river and up to the top of the bluff.
  • Lone Wolf Trail: A 1.7-mile loop with moderate terrain and occasional wildlife sightings.

Make sure to check mostateparks.com/park/castlewood-state-park for updated information and trail maps before your hike.

Lone Elk Park

Lone Elk Park, located in St. Charles, Missouri, offers a unique hiking experience where you can hike among elk and bison habitats.

The park features several trails suitable for all levels:

  • Elk Range Trail: A 3-mile loop that provides views of the elk and bison enclosures.
  • Bison Path: A 0.7-mile loop with a mix of gravel and dirt terrain, perfect for a short, easy hike.

Keep an eye out for these beautiful animals, but remember to keep a safe distance and respect their home.

Don Robinson State Park

At Don Robinson State Park, you can enjoy an immersive hike through Missouri’s natural beauty.

The park offers two trails, both perfect for a family adventure:

  • Sandstone Canyon Trail: This 2.5-mile loop trail features unique sandstone formations and picturesque views of the park’s diverse landscape.
  • LaBarque Creek Trail: A 1-mile loop that follows LaBarque Creek, offering an excellent opportunity to observe local wildlife.

Rockwoods Reservation

Rockwoods Reservation is well known for its lush forests and variety of wildlife.

The area offers several trails that cater to different skill levels, including:

  • Trail Among the Trees: A 1.5-mile loop trail that wanders through a mixed hardwood forest and features interpretive signs along the way.
  • Lime Kiln Loop: A 3.2-mile loop with moderate elevation and historical quarry sites.

Consider packing a picnic to enjoy during your hike, as Rockwoods offers picnic areas for a relaxing break.

Enjoy exploring these popular hikes near St. Louis, and don’t forget to follow proper trail etiquette and be respectful of the environment and other hikers.

Immersive Nature Trails

Buford Mountain State Forest Trail at Buford Mountain Conservation Area
Buford Mountain State Forest Trail at Buford Mountain Conservation Area via Reddit

Buford Mountain

Immerse yourself in the breathtaking beauty of nature as you explore the trails at Buford Mountain.

This diverse and dynamic landscape provides a unique hiking experience with its intricate mix of forests, creeks, and diverse wildlife.

As you hike the trails, you’ll traverse lush forested areas, cross serene streams, and marvel at the stunning views.

Wildlife enthusiasts will appreciate the variety of birds and animals that call the area home.

To plan your visit, head over to the Missouri Department of Conservation’s website for more information on trail maps and visitor guidelines.

River Scene Trail

For an equally captivating experience, the River Scene Trail at Castlewood State Park offers a picturesque hike through enchanting forests and along the scenic Meramec River Valley.

As you make your way through the 3-plus-mile loop, you’ll encounter remnants of the park’s Art Deco resort era, adding a touch of history to your adventure.

The trail provides ample opportunities for spotting wildlife, and the meandering path along the river allows you to soak in the beauty of the area.

Don’t forget to visit the Missouri Department of Conservation’s website to plan your hike and gather more information about trailhead locations, hours, and guidelines.

Remember to pack your essentials, like water, snacks, and any necessary gear, to ensure your hike is enjoyable and safe.

Most importantly, take your time to fully absorb the stunning scenery and immerse yourself in the tranquil surroundings of these outstanding nature trails near St. Louis.

Wildlife Encounters

Cliff Cave Park
Cliff Cave Park via Reddit

Cliff Cave Park

At Cliff Cave Park, you can immerse yourself in the beauty of nature while enjoying some fantastic hiking trails.

Situated along the Mississippi River, this park is a haven for a variety of wildlife.

As you walk along the trails, keep your eyes peeled for the numerous bird species that call this area home, including hawks, eagles, and herons.

The park offers several well-maintained trails catering to different levels of hiking enthusiasts.

Among the most popular trails in the park, the Mississippi Greenway Trail features stunning river views and limestone bluffs.

Remember to visit the official website at stlouiscountymo.gov for more information on trail conditions and park hours.

White Bison Trail

For an unforgettable encounter with some of North America’s most emblematic wildlife, head over to the White Bison Trail.

Located near St. Louis, this trail provides you with the unique opportunity to observe bison and elk up close.

The area is carefully managed to maintain healthy populations of these majestic animals.

As you hike along the White Bison Trail, you’ll likely spot:

  • Bison: Observe these magnificent creatures grazing in their natural habitat. Remember to keep your distance and respect the boundaries set for their safety and yours.
  • Elk: This area is also home to elk, which routinely delight hikers with their presence.

While on the trail, make sure to take a moment to appreciate the surrounding nature, as the whole area offers a glimpse into the awe-inspiring landscapes of the St. Louis region.

Whether you’re a hiking enthusiast or a wildlife lover, exploring Cliff Cave Park and the White Bison Trail will surely leave you with lasting memories.

Remember to plan your visit and respect the wildlife you encounter, so future generations can continue to enjoy these amazing spaces.

Best Scenic Views

Meramec River
Meramec River

Meramec River

The Meramec River offers some of the most picturesque views around St. Louis.

One of the best spots to admire the river is Castlewood State Park.

The park encompasses over 1,818 acres, and features the River Scene Trail, a 3.2-mile loop that offers stunning views of the Meramec River.

As you walk the trail, you’ll be treated to peaceful river scenes and lush greenery – perfect for nature lovers like yourself.


For those of you seeking a fantastic spot to take in gorgeous bluff views, head over to Little Grand Canyon in Shawnee National Forest.

The area offers a 3.6-mile trail that takes you through breathtaking bluffs and rugged cliffs.

Along the trail, you’ll encounter diverse plant life, unique rock formations, and plenty of wildlife.


If you crave panoramic views of St. Louis and the surrounding area, then visiting some of the best overlooks is a must.

One option is the Lone Elk County Park, where you can enjoy the expansive vistas from the top of the World Bird Sanctuary.

Another picturesque spot to check out is the Whitecliff Park, where you can gaze at the Meramec River Valley from a variety of overlooks.

Both options will leave you in awe of the stunning landscapes and nature surrounding St. Louis.


For a unique glimpse into Missouri’s native glades, visit the Rockwoods Reservation.

This conservation area features over 12 miles of trails, meandering through various glade habitats.

As you explore these trails, be prepared to witness beautiful wildflowers, fascinating wildlife, and an array of native plant species, all set against the backdrop of dramatic cliffs and rugged formations.

Enjoy your time discovering these awe-inspiring scenic views near St. Louis, and be sure to savor every moment spent in nature, soaking in the beauty of the landscapes before you.

Exploring in Different Seasons

Swimming Deer Trail
Swimming Deer Trail

Spring Hikes

Embrace the beauty of spring by exploring the Swimming Deer Trail in St. Francois State Park.

As you wander through the forest along the trail, you’ll be delighted with endless carpets of bluebell flowers.

The park’s Mooner’s Hollow Trail is also worth checking out. During this season, the cascading waterfall adds a touch of magic to your experience.

Summer Trails

Take advantage of warm summer days by visiting the Lakeview Loop Trail at Creve Coeur County Park.

This 3.8-mile urban trail is perfect for hiking, biking, and walking.

Creve Coeur Lake is known for its scenic views and tranquil atmosphere, making it an ideal destination to immerse yourself in nature.

Lakeview Loop3.8 milesCreve Coeur County Park

Autumn Walks

During autumn, you can’t miss the Lime Kiln Trail at Rockwoods Reservation, located just 31 miles from St. Louis.

The trail is characterized by manageable hills and vibrant fall colors, courtesy of the numerous sugar maple trees in the area.

Don’t forget to stop by the small overlook to take in the picturesque vista.

  • Trail: Lime Kiln Trail
  • Distance from St. Louis: 31 miles

Winter Trekking

When winter arrives, explore the beautiful trails near St. Louis that are perfect for a cold-weather adventure.

One great option to consider is the Hawn State Park, home to the Pickle Creek Trail.

This 1.5-mile loop will take you along the banks of Pickle Creek and through a lovely hardwood forest, offering a serene and invigorating winter hike.

As you explore these trails in different seasons, you’ll be treated to beautiful scenic views, natural landscapes, and varied terrains that will inspire a sense of wonder and adventure.

Now, it’s time to put on your hiking boots and discover the joy of hiking near St. Louis all year round!

Preparing for Your Hike

walking in hiking boots

Before heading out to explore the beautiful hikes near St. Louis, it’s essential to make a few necessary preparations.

This will ensure that you have a safe and enjoyable experience while connecting with nature.

First, understand the level of difficulty of the hike you plan to undertake.

St. Louis offers a variety of trails for all skill levels, whether you’re a beginner or an experienced hiker.

Research the specific trail you’ve chosen and make sure it aligns with your abilities.

When planning your hiking adventure, don’t forget to pack the essentials.

This should include water, snacks (such as trail mix or energy bars), sunscreen, insect repellent, and a first aid kit.

Also, make sure to wear comfortable and weather-appropriate clothing and sturdy footwear suitable for the terrain.

While immersing yourself in the great outdoors, ensure you have a map or a GPS device to help you navigate the trails.

Many hiking routes near St. Louis have well-marked paths that are easy to follow, but it’s always a good idea to have a backup to avoid getting lost.

You can find trail maps online or at local visitor centers.

As you explore the beautiful nature surrounding St. Louis, be prepared to encounter fascinating natural features that make these hikes unique.

Some trails offer stunning viewpoints, while others highlight exciting geological marvels, such as caves.

If a cave is part of your chosen trail, bring a headlamp or flashlight and exercise caution when exploring the dark, sometimes slippery underground environment.

Finally, ensure that you respect the environment.

Leave no trace by packing out any trash you generate and staying on the designated trails to minimize impact on plants and wildlife.

Now, lace up your boots and get ready to experience the beauty and serenity of the outdoors in St. Louis.

Local Conservation Efforts

The Missouri Department of Conservation plays a significant role in preserving the beautiful natural areas surrounding St. Louis.

They work tirelessly to maintain the healthy balance of nature and wildlife in these recreational spaces, ensuring that you can enjoy these trails for years to come.

When you’re hiking in the St. Louis region, you’ll often come across conservation areas complete with creek, streams, and lush forest landscapes.

These areas provide essential habitats for local wildlife and offer splendid settings for hikers to indulge in.

Take some time to appreciate the accomplishments of the Missouri Department of Conservation as you venture through these paths.

On your hikes, it’s crucial to respect the natural environment and adhere to the Leave No Trace principles.

By staying on designated trails, disposing of trash properly, and minimizing your impact on the land, you contribute to the local conservation efforts.

This way, you play your part in maintaining the pristine condition of these unforgettable outdoor spaces.

Remember, as you explore the hiking trails and conservation areas around St. Louis, you’re bound to encounter various wildlife species.

Observe from a safe distance and avoid feeding or disturbing them, as this helps protect both the creatures and your fellow hikers.

Keeping this in mind will allow everyone to enjoy the beauty of nature in harmony.

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