Living in a big city can have its conveniences when running a quick errand or going out to a local restaurant, but what about when you need to get away from the hustle and bustle and enjoy a peaceful hike.
The Saint Louis area offers just that, which is why we’ve put together a list of 10 hikes within two hours of St. Louis that will get you outside to enjoy the great outdoors. There are hiking trails for all skill levels, so let’s explore some of the best hikes in Missouri – and one in Illinois, of course.
Find one that best suits your abilities and say #hellotrail.
** We use the landmark of St. Louis City Hall in Downtown St. Louis when determining the estimated drive times.
1. Braille Trail
The Braille Trail is one of the many kid friendly short hikes near St. Louis and a nice place to spend the day as a family. Located in Elephant Rock State Park, the Braille Trail was specifically designed for people with visual impairments and physical disabilities in 1981.
There are interpretive signs explaining the area’s history along the path, as well as wildlife and various plants in the park.
The giant granite boulders are another reason Braille trail is on our list. These rocks – known as nature’s circus elephants – began forming about 1.5 billion years ago. The history of how rocks are formed is so fascinating to us and hopefully you too!
2. Grant’s Trail
Grant’s Trail in St Louis, MO is a paved path great for walking and biking that can be made as long or as short as you’d like. An excellent option for families and beginners, Grant’s Trail allows you to get outside to be active without having to drive too far from downtown St. Louis.
You can also break up your hike with a stop at Grant’s Farm that is along the trail, as well as parks and historical sites. Be sure to learn proper hiking etiquette when traveling on busier trails, keep to the right and be aware of bikes traveling on the path.
3. Quail Ridge Park Loop
Quail Ridge Park Loop is a paved trail less than an hour west of St Louis located around a 250-acre county park. The rolling hills offer a little challenge, but nothing too difficult, perfect for those just getting into hiking.
If you want to add distance, non-paved trails also meander through the trees. The loop trail at Quail Ridge Park offers frequent benches and easy access to restrooms.
4. Hawk Ridge Trail
Hawk Ridge Trail is one of our recommended hikes within an hour of St Louis, Missouri. The trail follows the perimeter of Queeny Park through woodlands and offers shaded sections, which is perfect for a hot summer day.
Although some wouldn’t consider this a hike, it allows anyone to get outside and be active if they can’t venture far from the city. The Hawk Ridge trail is primarily paved but does have a packed gravel section. Expect to see some wildlife, mostly deer and an array of birds.
5. Pere Marquette State Park Outer Loop
The St. Louis Metro Area Pere Marquette State Park Outer Loop is the only Illinois hike on our list. The Outer Loop – not the trail’s official name, combines numerous smaller connecting paths within the park.
Make sure to grab a trail map at the visitor center to guide you along, but it’s pretty easy to follow. Fellow hikers recommended traveling counterclockwise to see the best views and help even out the elevation gains (if you hike counterclockwise, you will end the hike with Goat Cliff Trail).
Expect great overlooks, one being of the Illinois River. When the leaves begin to change, Pere Marquette State Park is an ideal location to enjoy a fall hike.
If you are hiking in the cooler months, chances are you will see a Bald Eagle in flight or hanging out on the ice along the Great River Road on your way to the park.
6. River Scene Trail
The River Scene Trail hike is 30 minutes from St. Louis in Castlewood State Park. I would categorize the River Scene Trail as moderate because of the steep climb – 250 feet – right at the start of the hike going counterclockwise.
Of course, you can go the opposite direction, but that requires climbing wooden stairs in the last half mile. Everyone has their personal preference and ours is usually to get the hard stuff out of the way first.
Elevation gain usually means picturesque views, so you have a chance to catch a breather at the different scenic overlooks. The River Scene trail can get busy, so if possible, visit during a weekday or in the morning on the weekend.
7. Mina Sauk Falls Trail
If you want to enjoy a waterfall hike near St. Louis, then check out the Mina Sauk Falls trail. Even though the Mina Sauk Falls is a wet weather waterfall – which means the falls only flow after a recent rainstorm – it is still worth the hike.
Considered one of the best waterfall hikes near St. Louis, Mina Sauk Falls is the tallest waterfall in Missouri at 132 feet high. Not only will you get to see the highest waterfall in the state, but also stand on the tallest point in Missouri.
If you hike the trail counterclockwise, you’ll descend 400 feet through the trees and make your way to the falls about halfway. To make a loop out of the trail, you can follow Taum Sauk Creek to ascend back to the trailhead. The first half of the hike is much rockier than the second half but worth the extra exertion.
8. Whispering Pines Trail
The Whispering Pines Trail in Hawn State Park is the longest St Louis area hike on our list. This trail gives you options, which we always like!
You can hike the north loop of the Whispering Pines Trail if you are looking for a shorter distance – about 6.2 miles. Or trek the multi-loop, which puts you around 10.2 miles.
The red arrows mark the north loop and blue arrows identify the south loop – the south loop is a little less maintained as it is less traveled. There are campsites along the trail, allowing you to break up the hike into a multi-day trip if you prefer, great for a short backpacking trip.
The Whispering Pines Trail has a little bit of everything for nature lovers – wildlife, creek crossings, tall pines, and rock formations. The hike can be strenuous since there is a bit of climbing, but the panoramic views make up for that.
9. Buford Mountain State Forest Trail
Buford Mountain State Forest Trail is one of the best hikes near St Louis with almost 2000 feet elevation gain. If you are up for a challenge and looking to strengthen your hiking endurance, the Buford Mountain State Forest Trail near Mark Twain National Forest fits the bill.
The first mile of the hike is the steepest, so your legs will warm up quickly! This climb also means you have a nice downhill at the end of your hike, which is always a plus.
You’ll have nice scenery along the way, but the best overlook on the Buford Mountain State Forest trail is at Bald Knob. Valleys, farm fields, woodlands… In my opinion, the awe inspiring views are what keep me going on a strenuous hike even when my legs are toast.
10. Fox Run Trail
The Fox Run Trail is one of the must-do hiking trails in St. Louis. If you are looking for a leg workout, the Fox Run trail links up to Round House Loop trail in Rockwoods range to create a 10-mile loop with around 1300 feet in elevation gain.
The Fox Run Trail is not heavily trafficked, so if you are looking for a peaceful adventure in Missouri this is it!
A few things to keep in mind are there are no real views as the trees are pretty dense, it’s recommended to use trekking poles, and the trail can get pretty muddy, so be sure to wear a good pair of hiking boots.
Even though there aren’t any breathtaking views, you’ll come across wildflowers during the spring and summer. Look out for some of the stream crossings, but you’ll have no issues if you are wearing the right gear – ie: waterproof boots.
If you aren’t looking for a long-distance hike, make this trail shorter – about 7 miles round trip – by turning it into an out and back. Once you finish the Fox Run Trail section, turn around and do not complete the loop section.
What mountains are closest to St Louis?
The closest mountains to St Louis are the St. Francois Mountains two-hours south of the city. The St. Francois Mountain range consists of Taum Sauk mountain which is the highest point in the state of Missouri at an elevation of 1,772 ft, Bell Mountain, Buford Mountain, Proffit Mountain, Pilot Knob, Hughes Mountain, Goggin Mountain and Lead Hill Mountain.
Wrapping It Up…
As you can see, the St. Louis area has excellent hiking trail options within a 2-hour drive.
Whether you are looking for an easy paved park trail to take in the fresh air or a long, difficult hike that challenges your hiking skills, we hope these ten trails will help encourage you to get out and explore what the Midwest has to offer!
Check out our Google Web Story – Explore These 7 Enchanting Hiking Trails Near St. Louis