Missouri has some of the most amazing hiking destinations in the nation, yet many hikers overlook the stunning beauty of the Show-Me-State. Pristine wilderness, stunning geological wonders, incredible wildlife, and sweeping panoramic views of majestic rivers showcase the beauty of the landscape . Full of state parks, national forests, and wilderness areas, the state’s trekking destinations continue to inspire generations to head outside and fall in love with the beauty of the great outdoors. While there are thousands of possible hiking destinations to discover, these ten are sure to fuel your wanderlust and replenish your soul in the beauty and solitude of nature.
1. Lost Valley Trail
Distance: 10.5 Miles
Known as a great mountain biking destination, the hiking at Lost Valley is just as gorgeous when seen by foot. Weaving through stately stands of forest, the trail twists through rock formations, crosses next to waterfalls, and passes by old homesteads and natural springs. Since the trail can be completed as a 10.5 mile loop, this hike is for those looking for some good distance through engaging terrain. The highlight of this trail is located in the northwest corner—after a climb, hikers reach a pond, the haunted hallow, and an old cemetery.
2. Lewis and Clark Trail
Distance: 8.5 Mile Loop
Location: St. Charles
With inspiring views of the Missouri River, the Lewis and Clark Trail is one of the best metro trails in America. Passing near large bluffs and limestone cliffs, the views along this short and scenic hike are sure to fuel your desire to continue exploring farther away from the city. With creek crossings, awesome views, and plenty of chances to explore and take in the beauty of the region, this hike is the perfect afternoon getaway or a weekend trek.
3. Ozark Trail
Distance: 500+ Miles
Location: St. Louis to Arkansas
While the full trail is still under construction, the Ozark Trail of Missouri is destined to be one of the best long-distance trails in the country. Spanning from St. Louis to the Arkansas border, the trail is broken up into thirteen sections. While the whole trail is gorgeous, the highlight has to be the Taum Sauk section of the trail. Wandering through 1.5 billion-year-old mountains, this 35-mile section of trail will get you up close and personal with the diverse beauty of the state. Natural springs, verdant glades, and rolling forests make any segment of this trail-in-progress worth a visit.
4. Meramec State Park
Distance: 13.85 Miles of Trails
Meramec State Park is home to seven trails of different lengths and difficulty. Two trails are the most noteworthy, as they explore wilderness areas abounding with natural beauty. The first trail that is a must-hike is just 1.2 miles in length but leads to fantastic caves and glades through forests and over a creek. Called the Natural Wonders Trail, this hike has a huge variety of plant and animal life despite the short length. The other trail that can’t be missed is the 8.5-mile Wilderness Trail. Highlighting the best of numerous geological features, this is the most rugged and remote section within park boundaries.
5. Natural Tunnel Trail
Distance: 12.6 Miles of Trails
Location: Bennet Spring State Park
While there are six trails around this stunning state park, one trail is hands-down the greatest hiking attraction in the region. The Natural Tunnel Trail is a 7.5 mile trail that is yet another geological wonder of the state. Highlighted by the Bennet Spring Natural Tunnel, which is 296 feet in length, this trail crosses through different terrains before reaching the natural tunnel. Following a mixture of trails and old roads from the 1840s, this hike also passes by a cemetery that dates back into the 1880s. If you love history, caves, and incredible foliage, do not pass up this hike.
6. Turkey Pen Hollow and Devils Kitchen
Distance: 18.8 Miles of Trails
Location: Ha Ha Tonka State Park
Offering 14 trails of varying distance, the hiking around Ha Ha Tonka State Park inspires wanderlust and natural exploration. With fantastic panoramic views, amazing rock formations, and beautiful glades, you might end up spending days adventuring in this breathtaking region of the state. Highlights of the park include: the Colosseum Trail, which passes under a natural bridge, the Turkey Pen Hollow Trail, which leads to spacious meadows and stunning rock formations, and the geological playground of the Devil's Kitchen Trail. The Devil’s Kitchen Trail is just 1.25 miles in length but leads to otherworldly caves, rock formations, and a small cave shelter created due to a sinkhole where the region gets its name.
7. Cedar Creek Trail
Distance: 36 Miles of Trails
Location: Mark Twain National Forest
This 36-mile loop hike is a fantastic way to get to know the feel of Mark Twain National Forest, but you don’t have to hike it all at once. Thanks to numerous entry points, you can choose which hike you would like to do and how many miles you wish to trek. The most popular, and arguably most scenic route, is the five mile Smith Creek Loop which offers expansive views of Cedar Creek from rocky bluffs. For a true highlight, make sure you cross the timeless Rutherford Bridge.
8. Rock Bridge State Park
Distance: 22.6 Miles of Trails
Offering eight fantastic hiking trails, Rock Bridge State Park is one of the true Missouri destinations. Offering forests, bluffs, prairies, and caves, this is the ideal destination to get the feel for everything the Show-Me-State has to offer. The most popular trail in the region is the half mile Devil’s Icebox Trail, which leads visitors to some of the greatest geological features in the state, including Rock Bridge, Devil’s Icebox, and Conner’s Cave.
Visitors are able to walk into Conner’s Cave, but make sure you bring good shoes, a helmet, and a flashlight. Elsewhere in the park, the 3.7-mile Deer Run Trail is an amazing trek to see deer and often, beaver and muskrat.
9. Buford Mountain
Distance: 9.6 Miles
Location: Near Bismarck
Standing tall at 1,740’, the trek up to the summit of Buford Mountain is just a stone’s throw from the hustle and bustle of St. Louis. Hiking the trail counterclockwise gets you the best views in the state, as this peak is just 10 yards lower than the state’s highpoint of 1,772’ Taum Sauk. This trail is ideal for those looking for the ultimate easy backpacking trip, as the night sky erupts in stellar beauty, sandwiched between amazing sunrises and sunsets. Exploring Buford Mountain grants you access to deep forests, providing scenic views and excellent opportunities to observe glade plants and animals.
10. Hercules Glade Wilderness
Distance: Up to 32 Miles
Location: Mark Twain National Forest
Considered to be one of the most scenic wilderness areas in the country, the 12,000 acre Hercules Glade Wilderness offers something for everyone. Filled with forests of cedar and oak trees, the 32 miles of trails venture to stunning views on rocky hillsides, through drainages with breathtaking waterfalls, gorgeous stands of hardwood trees, and miles of grasslands. The entire region is rich with wildlife. This is where you go for solitude and wilderness beauty. With just three entry points into this impressive wilderness region, the farther you hike, the more serene the beauty.
Written by Douglas Scott for RootsRated.