With it being July (hot and humid) in Missouri, we decided we needed short hikes to enjoy this weekend. We also had a guest, my sister, Lori, with us, so we didn't want to spend all of the weekend wearing her out on trails. Mastodon State Historic Park is fairly close to home and seemed to fit the bill for a Saturday. We have driven by this park so many times and had NO idea it was even there! It is just off of I-55 south of St Louis.
The gates are beautiful and depict an idea of what the area might have looked like when mastodons and humans lived here together. There is a museum at the Visitor Center ($4 admission for adults) that contains artifacts from the dig site.
There are 3 trails in this park. We chose to do 2: The Spring Branch Trail and The Wildflower Trail (to the bone yard). Both were very short (less than a mile) but pretty. The Spring Branch Trail is situated in the Picnic Area of the park and was very busy on a Saturday after noon. At the trail head, is the ruins of the spring house used when a family lived in the area. The trail leads through a wood area to Rock Creek. The State Park promotes the creek as a nice place to swim/wade. People were using the cool spring waters for that on this day.
The only downside to this trail was the traffic noise from the nearby street and interstate highway.
After our first short trail, we decided to visit the bone yard on the Wildflower Trail. There were plenty of steps and several interpretive signs and even an audio tour. The disappointing part of this trail was that the dig site has been filled in and was not distinguishable. It was more of a nice walk in the woods. There were fewer people on this trail, which was preferable, but the traffic noise was ever-present. Over all, I'm glad I went with people I liked and could have fun not finding what we expected.
If you are looking for a historical stop for your afternoon or a nice place for a family picnic near south St Louis, Mastodon State Historic Park is the place to go. For hiking, St Louis Metro area has better locations.