Lone Elk Park
1 Lone Elk Park Road
St. Louis, MO 63088
Lone Elk Park is a wildlife oasis in the heart of West County. The park is a refuge for elk, deer, bison and other species. The Lone Elk County Park Trail offers a 3.2-mile loop through the wooded park and is a very nice hike. In spite of its convenient location, beautiful lake views and unexpected opportunities to glimpse wildlife, the trail is never crowded. The elk don’t seem to mind hikers at all, as long as you don’t approach them directly. The bison area is fenced and you can only drive through it, no hiking allowed. A picnic area and restrooms are available. Bring a camera and wear a hat and DEET. Ticks are prevalent in the park.
Pere Marquette State Park
Grafton, IL 62037
Pere Marquette State Park is about an hour’s drive from St. Louis, but the drive is beautiful and the trails are worth it. Drive up the River Road on the Illinois side of the Mississippi to enjoy stunning bluff and river views. The trails at Pere Marquette go all over the bluffs and offer glorious views of the river. There are about 12 miles of trails altogether, ranging from moderate to difficult because of the hills. Trail maps are available at the Visitor’s Center. The park also offers fishing, boating, camping and a lodge restaurant that serves a popular Sunday brunch.
Powder Valley Nature Center
11715 Cragwold Road
Kirkwood, MO 63122
If you’re towing kids along on your hike, Powder Valley is the place to go. There are three trails, ranging from .3 miles to 1.2. The shortest is level, wide, paved and stroller and wheelchair accessible. The interpretive center is like a children’s nature museum, featuring a surprising range of interactive exhibits for young school-aged kids.
Russel E. Emmenegger Nature Park
44 & 270 at the Meramec River
Kirkwood, MO 63379
Across I-270 from Powder Valley Nature Center is a rough and rugged nature park, offering more challenging trails. Hiking trails take you through wooded areas and along the Meramec River. There is a brief paved path that gives way to a soft dirt trail, about 1.5 miles of hilly bluff hiking. The park isn’t highly developed, but there are restrooms and picnic facilities.
Laumeier Sculpture Park
12580 Rott Road
St. Louis, MO 63127
And now for something completely different, Laumeier offers a one-mile loop through the woods, populated by large-scale sculpture for a unique mental and physical experience. Dogs are allowed; in fact, there is a series of art installations just for dogs, featuring smells, sounds and experiences for your four-legged friend. Picnic tables, a water fountain, an indoor gallery and a full range of art in the open areas of the park let you complete your art and hiking experience however you like.
Lauren Haas is a writer who specializes in finding the fun! Lauren was the publisher of the St. Louis Area Family Gazette for eight years, and now writes freelance articles on St. Louis events and attractions, budget travel, arts and entertainment and fitness topics. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.