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Updated November 17, 2022
At first glance, you may not think of St. Louis as the world’s most obvious outdoor city. But if you look carefully, you’ll find that the “Gateway to the West” has a ton of beautiful green spaces and trails to tackle. Hiking near St. Louis is a fantastic way to get to know some of the stunning forests, mountains, and rock formations in and around the city. As a bonus, many of the nearby trails are suitable for hikers of all levels, including families, dog owners, and first-timers. We created this guide to the best hikes near St. Louis to help you plan your next outdoor adventure!
Easy Hikes Near St. Louis
Trail Length: 3.8 miles
Location: Creve Coeur County Park
The Creve Coeur Lakeview Loop is a 3.8-mile urban trail in St. Louis that’s beloved by locals for hiking, biking, and walking. Creve Coeur Lake is a very scenic lake located in Northwest St. Louis, and this trail forms a loop around its tranquil, quiet banks. With an all-pavement trail, this is arguably the easiest and most accessible of the hikes in St. Louis. For families, dog owners, and those just wanting to get some fresh air close by, the Lakeview Loop is a perfect outdoor spot.
Trail Length: 8 miles (one way)
Location: Southwest St. Louis
As another one of St. Louis’ beloved urban outdoor trails, Grant’s Trail is a lovely spot for easy hiking, running, and biking in the city. For beginners and families, it’s a great spot for hiking in St. Louis. The trail is completely paved and passes by horse pastures, creeks, forests, and wildflower-filled fields, and because it’s an out-and-back trail, you can hike for as long or as little as you’d like.
Elephant Rocks Trail
Trail Length: 1 mile
Location: Elephant Rocks State Park
In our opinion, the Elephant Rocks Trail is one of the coolest and most unique hikes near St. Louis. Located in Elephant Rocks State Park, the highlight of this short, easy trail is the massive boulders that you’ll find overlooking a quiet pond below. Other things you’ll find on the trail include forests, stone house ruins, and views of the surrounding forests. Hikers and children will love this area because there are lots of rocks to explore and climb!
Note: As of July 2021, Elephant Rocks Trail is experiencing a surge in attendance. To see the best hours to visit the park to avoid overcrowding, visit here.
Hawk Ridge Trail
Trail Length: 4.1 miles
Location: West St. Louis (Edgar M Queeny County Park)
For a more nature-inspired experience, head to the Hawk Ridge Trailto the west of St. Louis for a peaceful, paved hike through forests and meadows. Along the way, you’ll see towering, centuries-old trees, lakes, and wildflowers in the warmer months of the year. As the trails are completely flat, they’re perfect for hikers of all levels, including younger children and families.
Moderate Hikes Near St. Louis
River Scene Trail
Trail Length: 3.1 miles
Location: Castlewood State Park
As one of the most popular trails near St. Louis, the River Scene Trail is a 3.1-mile path that offers stunning views of Castlewood State Park. This moderate trail is suitable for hikers of all levels, with a gradual incline and stairs that bring you up and down the hillside to the viewpoint of the Meramec River. From the top, you’ll get to see sweeping views of the river bend surrounded by forests, a real treat for hikers, especially in the morning or early evening.
Note: As of April 2021, the park office is currently closed at Castlewood State Park. Check here for the lastest updates on closures in this area.
Lewis and Clark Trails
Trail Length: 5.8 to 8.2 miles
Location: Weldon Spring Conservation Area
The Lewis and Clark Trails are composed of a series of one main and two loop trails located in Weldon Spring Conservation Area. Cited by locals as some of the most beautiful places for hiking near St. Louis, the trails have a little bit of everything, from wide views of the river to dense forests, rock formations and wooden bridges. On this trail, you’ll spend most of the time soaking up the serenity of the forest, and you may even spot local wildlife (like deer) along the way!
Note: Trails are subject to closure due to flooding. Please check the trail conditions before you go to avoid any potential closures. Additionally, there is a $10 vehicular entrance fee to get into the park.
Mina Sauk Falls Trail
Trail Length: 2.8 miles
Location: Taum Sauk Mountain State Park
Intersecting with the long-distance Ozark Trail, the Mina Sauk Falls Trail is, in our opinion, one of the most scenic hikes near St. Louis. With large rock formations and a breathtaking waterfall, as well as some eye-catching views of the surrounding mountains (pictured above), this trail is really a treat for the senses. The trail leads hikers through the forest, past some exceptionally beautiful waterfalls, and over the trees to a bald area that boasts spectacular views. It’s the only true waterfall hike on our list, so for cascade lovers, the Mina Sauk Falls trail is a must-do!
Sandstone Canyon Trail
Trail Length: 4 miles
Location: Don Robinson State Park
At less than an hour from St. Louis, the Sandstone Canyon Trail is a perfect option for those wanting to see a canyon area rather than miles of dense forests. The draw of this trail is the surprisingly large sandstone canyon (obviously) that you can find deeper into the hike, but there are also small surprises – waterfalls, ruins, and almost tropical-looking plants – along the way. Locals love this trail because it’s pretty close to the city and has lots of impressive rock formations to see and explore.
Little Grand Canyon
Trail Length: 3 miles
Location: Shawnee National Forest
A southern Illinois gem, the Little Grand Canyon trail attracts hikers from all over the Midwest. And with a name like “Little Grand Canyon,” it sets a pretty high bar in terms of expectations. However, this trail definitely lives up to its name, with 3 miles of rocky, rugged terrain that take hikers through a beautiful and unexpected canyon in the Shawnee National Forest. You’ll need to cross a few streams to get to the waterfall, so we’d recommend wearing a sturdy pair of waterproof boots and preparing to get wet!
Lime Kiln Loop Trail
Trail Length: 2.9 miles
Location: Rockwoods Reservation Conservation Area
The Lime Kiln Trail is a short and scenic trail that runs through the Rockwoods Reservation Conservation Area to a historic lime kiln. Don’t know what a lime kiln is? (It’s okay – neither did we.) It’s basically a large vessel used for processing limestone into lime. The trail has a lot more than just the kiln itself, with pathways that cover small creeks, beautiful forests, and rocky areas that provide a fun challenge to all levels of hikers. Locals love the variety of rocky and gravel terrain along the trail, as well as the manageable incline of the ascent.
Pere Marquette State Park Outer Loop
Trail Length: 6 miles
Location: Pere Marquette’s State Park
Pack your camera and your sense of adventure, because thePere Marquette Outer Looptrail is 6 miles of breathtaking views and rocky terrain. Featuring a historic lodge, a powerful waterfall, and some very captivating views of the state park, this trail is beloved by locals for hiking near St. Louis. The viewpoints peer town to nearby rivers and lakes with miles of forests surrounding them, making for a picturesque pit stop or a great spot for photography.
Pro tip: watch out for muddy or slippery areas, especially after periods of rain.
Bell Mountain Trail
Trail Length: 11.6 miles
Location: Bell Mountain Wilderness
For a long, relaxed hike through the woods, the Bell Mountain Trailis a local favorite. At 11.6 miles, it’s one of the longer trails for hiking near St. Louis, perfect for a full day of nature and fresh air. The trail is mainly forested and leads up a gradual incline to a bald at the top of Bell Mountain, which has lovely views, especially in the fall. This is also a common trail for backpackers, as you can camp on the summit and wake up to gorgeous sunrise views. There have been reports of wild hog sightings in the area, so as always, stay alert and vigilant and remain far away from wildlife as you hike.
Trail Length: 8.2 miles
Location: Meramec State Park
Another common trail for overnight hikers, the Wilderness Trailin Meramec State Park is a nice, forested path with plenty of places to camp. The trail boasts lots of rock formations, a cave called the Green Cave, and lots of gentle streams. Overall, it’s a fantastic day hike or overnight backpacking trip that’s suitable for hikers of all levels.
Difficult Hikes Near St. Louis
Taum Sauk Trail
Trail Length: 12.3 miles (one way)
Location: Mark Twain National Forest
The Ozark Trail consists of hundreds of miles of paths through the Missouri Ozarks, and the Taum Sauk section is one of the best highlights. Reaching the highest point in Missouri, the trail is an absolutely spectacular place for hiking near St. Louis if you are looking for challenging terrain and a nice, long trail to spend a day on.
While the trail is beautiful, it’s also quite long and technically difficult, and should only be done if you have plenty of hiking experience under your belt. However, hikers that choose to embark on this difficult trail will be rewarded with lots of spectacular waterfalls, gorgeous views of the Taum Sauk Reservoir and surrounding mountains, and more.
Note: This trail is point-to-point (12.3 miles one way), so it’s advised to camp or organize transportation in advance before departing on this hike.
Fox Run to Round House Loop
Trail Length: 10.2 miles
Location: Rockwoods Range Conservation Area
For experienced hikers looking for a quieter, more tranquil area for hiking near St. Louis, the Fox Run to Round House Loop in Rockwoods Range Conservation Area is a fantastic option. While the trail doesn’t have as many sweeping views as some of the others on our list, it’s generally much less crowded and more peaceful. The trail runs for 10 miles through the woods, crossing a handful of streams and offering many ups and downs for a fun variety in terrain.
Buford Mountain State Forest Trail
Trail Length: 9.1 miles
Location: Buford Mountain Conservation Area
Want to tackle five peaks in one day? For the competitive hikers out there, the Buford Mountain Trailis a fantastic and challenging option that takes you to the second-highest peak (after Taum Sauk) in the state of Missouri. On the way to the top, you’ll pass lots of charcoal kilns, glades, and rocky outcroppings that boast breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside. Locals strongly recommend solid boots and trekking poles, as the ascents and descents here can be quite steep.
Whispering Pines Trail
Trail Length: 9.2 miles
Location: Hawn State Park
We’ve saved the best for last, and the Whispering Pines Trail is certainly a one-of-a-kind trail. As one of the hardest and most diverse hikes near St. Louis, the Whispering Pines Trail runs through forests, creeks, rock formations, and ridgelines. Well maintained and fairly easy to follow, the trail offers 9.2 miles of beautiful nature, while also giving experienced hikers a welcome challenge.
Many choose to split up this trail into a multi-day excursion by backpacking for 2+ days. Locals who are avid hikers rave about this trail, lauding it as one of the most spectacular trails in the entire state of Missouri.
Additional Resources for Hiking near St. Louis
What to Bring
Breathable hiking clothes – For warmer hikes, you’ll want to wear a sweat-wicking shirt and breathable pants, like these Patagonia hiking shorts for men and women. For cold-weather hikes, we recommend dressing in layers, including merino wool baselayers for men and women, a down puffer jacket for men and women, and a Northface waterproof outer shell for men and women (a must for hiking in Seattle). And don’t forget a pair of the best women’s and men’s hiking socks!
Trekking poles – You won’t need these for every single hike, but we suggest throwing them in your car just in case. We recommend the Black Diamond Trail Ergo cork trekking poles, which are lightweight, easy to transport, and durable.
Water bottle – Having water available at all times is a huge must. To limit disposable plastic, we recommend bringing your own refillable water bottle. We’re obsessed with Hydro Flask water bottles because they keep water cold for hours.
Sunscreen and bug spray – Sweatproof sunscreen and DEET bug spray can help you avoid sunburn and bug bites, two of hiking’s most annoying after-effects. Our favorite kind of sunscreen is Sun Bum, as it is free of harsh chemicals and safe for marine life, including coral reefs.
A brimmed hat or cap – The sun can be brutal in open hikes, so always pack a brimmed hat or capfor day hikes in the sunshine.
Emergency blanket and first aid kit – We’d strongly recommend bringing a first aid kit and a lightweight emergency blanket on every hike. Why? Because the unfathomable can happen, and it’s always best to play it safe.
Durable day pack – A durable day pack is the perfect spot to stash all your hiking gear. While any backpack will do, we recommend the Osprey Tempest 20 or the Talon 22 day packs because they’re comfortable and breathable for long hikes. For more information, check out our best day packs for any terrain guide.
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