Although prime hiking season may be summer and fall, St. Louis has plenty of gorgeous winter trails. The bugs die, leaving you to wander without the Deet; the waters freeze into elaborate sculptures; the birds sing, easier to spot in leafless trees—and you don’t have to share the trail with anyone other than the occasional equestrian.
Here are five trails open for the winter.
Just 30 minutes from St. Louis, its hiking and biking trails are some of the most accessible in summer and fall; winter is no different. Of Castlewood’s eight main hiking trails, the shorter jaunts like Lone Wolf Trail are ideal for the less adventurous hiker. River Scene Trail has a panoramic view of the icy river. Avoid the five-hour treks like Chubb Trail, if you don’t want to spend your whole day in the cold.
The “Dripping Springs” waterfall, located on the southeast shore of the 320-acre lake, can be a frozen sculpture in the winter. With Creve Coeur’s “After Hours” program, hikers can use the trails until 10 p.m., even after dark. Registration for a season’s pass costs $50 per adult and $10 per child, and don’t forget a flashlight. The park is about 30 minutes northwest of St. Louis.
The visitor center may close, but the trails remain open all year round. The park is located just past Wildwood, about 40 minutes from St. Louis. For the devoted hiker, this park has several 2- to 6-mile loops of varying difficulty. For the person who’d just like a brisk walk in nature, a 1.75-mile paved bicycle trail remains easily traversable throughout the snowy seasons.
Get a taste of nature just 15 minutes from the city. While the popular attraction along Grant’s trail, Grant’s Farm, is closed for the winter, the historic home and museum Sappington House remains open, as does Ulysses S. Grant’s home, the Grant Historic Site; head inside and warm up between walks. Father Dickson Cemetery, though less of a reprieve from the cold, also has historic sights.
This old silica sand quarry looks just as striking covered in frost as it does without. The fishing lake looks serene in the winter as well. A 3-mile paved trail makes winter hiking a no-trouble affair, and if camping out in wine country strikes your fancy, you can rent cabins in the park. If you’re looking for something a little more rugged, Klondike also has several miles of unpaved trail systems. Out in Augusta, this park requires a bit more of a drive.
Bird-lovers can observe hundreds of wintering bald eagles at this Illinois Park, which is about an hour north of the city, along the Illinois River. Pere Marquette hosts a Bald Eagle Watching Program that educates visitors about bald eagles, then takes people to the best bird-watching spots. Bring binoculars and a down coat.