With Summer approaching, it is time to starting thinking about how to stay cool and still get to hike in our Missouri State Parks (mostateparks.com/). We have hiked in several Missouri State Parks in the last few years and we have a couple to recommend.
1. Johnson Shut-Ins State Park - Most famous for its geologic formations in the river. Johnson Shut-Ins has a great place to cool off after a day of pretty views in the St. Francois Mountains.
2. Echo Bluff State Park - Echo Bluff State Park is Missouri's 88th park. This park has a wonderful creek called Sinking Creek that flows below the park's namesake, Echo Bluff. This creek is a great place to relax and is used for floating, tubing, and fishing.
3. Onondaga Cave State Park - Cooling off in Missouri's State Parks is not only about getting into water. We have great caves! One of our favorite cave State Parks is Onondaga Cave. Most people take the main cave tour when visiting, but we took the Cathedral Cave tour last Fall and loved it too. If you have time, spend the day in both caves. You'll be in the "cool kids"group.
4. Hawn State Park - This park is known as a wonderful place to hike. Pickle Creek makes it a wonderful place to cool off in the Summer! This Missouri State Park has great picnic grounds very close to Pickle Creek Trailhead. This mountain stream has huge boulders that are great to sit on if you want to put your feet in instead of going for a swim.
We know we have missed some great places to cool off in Missouri. That just means we get to keep on trekking! Where should we trek next to cool off?
Me (Kay) and my sister, Lori, have a tradition of going on a trip together each year. And since we bought our "National Park Passport books, we have tried to incorporate parks on our trips. In the Mid-west, that is kind of hard, sometimes. We had a destination set for Oklahoma this year, so Lori decided to look up State Parks we could hike in. (Thanks for that, Lori!) Along with many other states, Oklahoma is having budget whoas. In looking to make cuts, it has been suggested that their State Parks might be on the chopping block. We had no idea about this when we started our search.
Anyhow, Lori found a Osage Hills State Park in Northeast OK and thought it looked good for a hike after we got to our hotel. We headed out and found a gem of a State Park! The Campground is large and seemed to be well taken care of. The hiking trails were well groomed, but not well marked. After checking in at the Ranger Station and getting the lay of the land, we decided on 2 trails to see the water features of the park, the creek and the falls.
The bluffs were beautiful and reminded me much of Missouri. I could have sat here all day. It would have been a great place to picnic, but that wasn't the plan this time.
The Falls were not what I had had in mind when we saw them on the map. They are more of a "step-down" falls than the waterfalls we see when we go into the mountains. Sand Creek was VERY full from lots of Spring rains. It was beautiful! We saw many people "hanging out" on the rocks near and in the creek. In talking to the locals, we found out that this was a refuge for them and they were quick to tell us that we should enjoy it before it was gone.
All in all, I hope that this State Park is around for me to visit again. It is a great place to enjoy nature and seek refuge from life for awhile.
Check out our video of our Adventure!
We had heard about Devil's Honeycomb several month's back and we finally had a good chunk of time to go find it. If I have learned anything on our Missouri adventures, it's that just "Googling" someplace and then expect the GPS to get you there. (Unless you just love exploring gravel roads, then go ahead.) After we found the trailhead, this hike was a nice easy one. It was raining, so we almost had the whole place to ourselves.
Fairly quickly, we realized that there had been a fire recently. The burn marks made the scenery really interesting.
At the end of our trail, we found the formations that we were looking for. We had seen pictures of Devil's Postpile NM on California and I was expecting something of that size. It really wasn't. And Missouri didn't have the glaciers that Northern California did to scrape off the tops, so they looked very different than we expected. It was so neat to see and experience first hand!
I haven't typed anything here since October of 2016. Sorry for my absence. Since then, we have been so busy with hiking on the weekends and our "real" lives during the week that I haven't managed to type anything.
Like I stated, we have been busy hiking and making videos. I think at this point, to catch you up, I will just make a list of the hikes with a brief description of each.
On October 9th, we hiked at Rockwoods Reservation Conservation Area in St Louis. It was recommended to us by a fellow hiker.
On October 22, we hiked at Cuiver River State Park in Troy, MO. We hiked the Lone Spring Trail. It turned out to be one of our favorite trails in the area. Even though it was a busy weekend at the park, we only saw about 5 people the whole hike. There is a beautiful lake that we enjoyed with the trees changing color.
On October 30, we started our "Park Tours" series at Taum Sauk Mountain State Park. This park is known for having the highest point in Missouri. We hiked to Mina Sauk Falls. It was great!
That Finishes out October, but is just the start of our fun! Our YouTube Channel is up to 100 Subscribers now (THANK YOU!), so we have a new url for it that ends with "happytrailshiking". That is super exciting for us! I'll update the November HIkes in the next couple of days. Until then, keep on trekking!
We enjoy the Lewis Trail in Weldon Spring Conservation Area. We live near it and it helps a "get away" for the afternoon even when we are busy and can't go very far. We hike this 8-mile trail backwards because it gets us to the pretty views faster and it is usually less crowded and quieter. There isn't much elevation change in this walk in the woods and the trail is well marked.
It started to rain about half-way through our intended hike, but it only made the day more perfect. The clouds at the lookout over the river were intriguing the rain was never very heavy. A great day for a hike! You can check out more by clicking on our YouTube video below.
It has been awhile since I have blogged anything. Sorry about that. That doesn't mean that we haven't been traveling! As a matter of fact, September was so busy with hiking that we got in more than one hike a weekend sometimes! We started out September with Onondaga Cave State Park visiting Cathedral Cave. Bring your flashlight for this trip! It was a great tour, but it's all in the dark.
Please check out our YouTube video of this hike!
The next weekend, we hiked at Pere Marquette State Park in Illinois. This park on the bluffs of the Mississippi River, is a great park with sweeping views of the river valley. We had a great time and got to introduce Trekker, our new mascot.
The next weekend we headed out on a road trip! We visited Grand Gulf State Park in Southern Missouri and Hercules Glades Wilderness Area in Mark Twain National Forest near Branson, MO. The state park had a lot of punch in a little space! We enjoyed our time there and would like to go back to see it in Winter. If the Glades would have been running (to see the waterfall) that would have made the trek at Hercules Glades more scenic. We had a great time anyway. We were very glad we had a map and the know how to follow it. That 6-mile hike could have been LOTS longer, if we hadn't had what we needed. Please check out the videos on these 2 unique parks.
Last weekend, we had visitors with us that aren't hikers, but we wanted to get outside for a bit. The Confluence Point State Park in Missouri was just the ticket. It is a quarter-mile walk that ends with a neat view of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers.
This was really long! Thanks for reading to the end! I will try to be better in October! In the meanwhile, keep on trekking!
On Sunday, we visited Elephant Rocks State Park. It was a very popular place that day, but we looked forward to our picnic and day of rock scrambling. We knew that the trail was only a mile long and would be fairly easy to travel. From the moment we drove into the parking lot, we knew we were in for a treat. The landscape of this area isn't like anything in rest of Missouri. The granite rocks here are rounded and smooth and easy to climb on. Very different from the limestone found in much of the rest of the state.
They are also the size of houses and cars! After our picnic near the parking lot, we got our water and walked the trail. Kids (and adults) were running and climbing everywhere. This was not a relaxing hike, but it was fun to scramble around on some of these big rocks and see other people enjoying nature on a beautiful day. We even found another turtle!
Elephant Rocks State Park was a fun few hours of our day. Please check out our YouTube of our adventure.
Until next time, keep on trekking!
In our quest to visit all 88 Missouri State Parks, we went to 2 last weekend. The first is blogged about in a prior post. The second is Mark Twain State Park. After checking in at the Visitor Center and checking out the overlook from the parking lot, we headed out for the trail head. All of the trails in the park are in the "Buzzard Roost" camping area. The map that was given to us at the Visitor Center was not detailed at all, so it took some hunting to find where we needed to be. Once we found the right location, we had a great parking spot and felt like we would be on the trail all alone. There were no cars in the parking lot. Odd for Summer...
We chose the Post Oak trail and found the trail head. The length is 1.75 miles. For a 90-degree day, that is long enough. We had ice water packed in a cooler for the drive and it was welcome along the hike. We hiked through the woods and along the shore line with peeks of the lake the whole time. The first mile of the hike was shaded and cooler than being out in the open.
We enjoyed being in the trees looking out at the lake. It was very peaceful. The second half of the hike was nice too, but different. We were still in the forest and shade, but we were now hiking in what seemed to be an inlet of the lake. There were pretty coves and secluded spots that ended in a marsh-like areas. The breeze had picked up on this side of the trail too. Watching the birds hunting and fishing was fun as we headed back to our car.
Over all, the Post Oak Trail at Mark Twain State Park was a great short hike. If you're interested in seeing more about our adventure, please check out our YouTube video about it.
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.
After an emotional week of a conference in a city with thousands of people around, this was the perfect decompression for our minds and renewal for our tired spirits. The drive to Garden of the Gods State Recreation Area was quaint and calming. Once we got there we didn't quite know where to go or what to expect. There aren't any maps or much signage on the roads in the park, so be sure to print the maps you need in advance. We were not that good, being that we were coming from a conference and this was a stop on the way home. Fortunately, the park is not so remote that I couldn't get Internet on my phone.
The signs once we got to the main parking lot let us know that the trail we were looking for was about a quarter of a mile. Since we didn't want to go very far yesterday, it seemed perfect.
The Observation Trail is paved with flagstone and is fairly easy to walk. There were so many cool rock formations and colors in the rocks from the beginning for the trail to the end.
The overlooks on the trail are all a bit like rock scrambling, but nothing treacherous unless you are really reckless (Don't be!). Evidently, this area of Illinois was a huge lake years ago and all of these rocks formed then and were revealed as the water receded.
I am so glad we stopped here on our way home to reconnect with the Earth and get our boots in the dirt. It was a fun stop and a area that I hope to go back to in the Fall when the trees are changing. I'm sure it will be stunning then as well.
Please check out my YouTube video on Garden of the Gods and if you like what you see, please subscribe to the channel.