While many families think about getting outdoors in the fall, spring and summer months, winter hikes are also a great chance to get outdoors. Don’t let cabin fever coop you up throughout the winter months, and take advantage of this great time to explore the trails in Missouri State Parks.
Missouri has been named the “Best Trails State” by American Trails, a national, nonprofit organization working on behalf of the nation’s hiking, biking and riding trails. The national award is presented every two years to the state that has made tremendous contributions to promote and improve their trails system.
With few leaves on the trees, winter is a perfect time for wildlife watching and enjoying scenic views. Several Missouri State Parks are home to wintering bald eagles, a magnificent and overwhelming sight. Otters, muskrats, beavers, great blue herons, belted kingfishers and trumpeter swans are other animals that you could catch a glimpse of while out on one of our award-winning trails.
Make sure you’re ready for a winter hike by wearing layers (your body will generate heat as you become more active), keeping your feet dry and warm with a good pair of socks, and bringing high-energy snacks and plenty of water.
Here are some great choices for winter hikes in Missouri:
Fire Tower Trail at Roaring River State Park: Most of this 3.75-mile trail is located within the Roaring River Hills Wild Area and passes next to Roaring River Cove Hardwood Natural Area. The area offers rugged terrain, dense hardwood woodlands, open dolomite glades, and deep hollows. The trail is excellent for birders and photographers.
Bluff View Trail at Meramec State Park: This 1.5 mile-trail provides superb views from the edge of two bluffs along the Meramec River. Between the bluffs, the trail descends to the bank of the river. The trail is also connected to state park history since portions of it were originally laid out by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s.
Thousand Hills Trail at Thousand Hills: Hike a short portion of this trail or enjoy a 10.25-mile backpacking adventure. This natural surface trail goes through forested terrain, passes through savanna restoration units and goes along Forest Lake. There is plenty of wildlife in the woods, so expect to see animal tracks, and maybe a deer or wintering birds.
Lake Trail at Watkins Mill State Park: The eight-foot wide paved trail circles the 100-acre Williams Creek Lake and includes a number of bridges along with an overlook. The trail includes six wooden bridges and one metal truss bridge. In winter, geese and occasionally bald eagles can be seen on the ice or flying over the lake.
For more on Missouri State Parks’ trails, visit mostateparks.com or get yourself a copy of “Trails of Missouri State Parks” to read about more than 230 trails in our parks and historic sites and plan your next winter adventure. Missouri State Parks is a division of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.
Written by Bill Bryan, director for the Missouri State Parks.