Today’s Trail Tuesday will be highlighting one of my favorite Missouri parks.
There are so many great places to go around here (Missouri AND Illinois) that are within a 2-hour drive that we utilize quite a bit.
We don’t seem to stretch out of our comfortable driving zone as much as I would like, so this year I’d like to make our max travel distance 2.5-3 hours out. There are so many parks on my to-do list that are juuuust a bit further than I like to travel for a day trip, but for the sake of finding new favorites – I think we can happily manage an extra half-hour to an hour in the car.
For this post, I’m going to focus on Missouri because truthfully, living ten minutes from downtown St. Louis on the Illinois side has us crossing the river to explore the rivers, bluffs, and caves that Missouri has to offer so much more than going the distance in Illinois. We don’t have much as close to us in Illinois, save for Shawnee and Starved Rock which are both incredible places, just a stretch longer to reach.
Missouri has 56 State Parks and 35 State Historic Sites. One of these days I would love to say I’ve been to all 56 parks, but for now I am just going to share one at a time that have been fantastic as far as backpacking, day hiking, and car camping goes for us.
One of my personal favorite places in Missouri is truly nothing to write home about as far as amenities or natural features. It’s just a quaint and charming park with lovely trails and river access.St. Francois State Park, located in Bonne Terre, MO holds a special place in my campin’ heart. We have spent a handful of cold winter weekends in that park, being the only campers on the grounds. The spot we like to claim shares the trailhead to Swimming Deer Trail, and is a very quick walk to the river. A short drive from the campsite will lead you to Mooner’s Hollow Trail.
These trails are pleasant and winding, with many terrains and creek crossings. We have yet to explore the 10.25 mile Pike Run Trail. It’s been closed seasonally when we go for some reason, but we have it in our crosshairs to backpack this trail in a laid back overnight trip.
In early spring, the trail lies between a sea of Virginia Bluebells. It’s so aesthetically pleasing; the trees still barren and the ground carpeted in bright green and majestic shades of blues and purples.
In the fall, the leaves fill the forest floor.
Mooner’s Hollow carries a bit of a different feel. Overall, this park (specifically in the late fall and winter/early spring when we like to go) is quiet and beautiful and in my opinion, a little underrated. It doesn’t have the bizarrely-clean-for-a-campground amenities as such places like Johnson’s Shut-Ins, but to me that makes it a little more desirable.
If you ever find yourself in Missouri, check out the little park off Highway 67, nestled in the St. Francois mountains.