Fall hiking in Missouri and Illinois

Castlewood State Park

By Susan Hunt-Bradford, Publisher

Fall is finally underway, and my hiking boots have been staring at me all summer. It’s time to brush them off and go for a hike with both of my dogs. Fall is my favorite time to hike, not just because of the colors but also because it’s cooler. Winning, all the way around. 

 I always want to try a new trail, but I usually end up going to the same place so this time I’ve taken an informal social media poll and these were mentioned as great places to hike in Missouri and Illinois, below is a list for both sides of the river. Check their website before you leave on a hike. Some trails allow dogs, some trails are more challenging than others, etc. As they say, know before you go. Don’t forget your baggies to pick up after your doggy. And double check the website of whatever trail you’re going to in case of closures. 

If I don’t include your favorite place drop me an email at thpsusan@yahoo.com and let me know your favorite place to hike. 


Giant City State Park, 8 trails from easy to moderate to rugged. One of the trails is designed for disabled people. Trails range from less than 1 mile to 12 miles. 235 Giant City Rd., Makanda, IL 62958. Two hours from STL. See more information on page 5.

 Pere Marquette. Variety of trails from beginner to advanced. Trail maps are available in and outside of the Visitor Center. Dogs must be leashed. There are 12 miles of marked trails. They also have a lot of other park activities and even guided hikes. 13112 Visitor Center Lane, Grafton, IL 62037. One hour from St. Louis. www2.illinois.gov/dnr/parks/pages/Peremarquette.aspx 

Shawnee National Forest There are several different day hiking areas.They vary from easy to rugged. There are 9 different areas for day hiking at Hidden Springs Ranger District, 9 areas at Mississippi Bluffs Ranger District, River to River Trail and 3 Wilderness Areas. 50 HWY 145 South, Harrisburg, 62946, 2 hours and 30 minutes from STL. www.fs.usda.gov and search for find a forest. 

Starved Rock State Park, 13 miles of trails. Majestic bluffs and canyons. Trail maps are located at all trail access points, intersections and points of interest. Leashed dogs allowed. One Lodge Lane, Oglesby, IL 61348. 3 hours, 40 minutes from STL. www.starvedrocklodge.com click on activities. 


Pets allowed leashed in most Missouri state parks. Check out the Missouri state website for rules and tips for enjoying pets in a park.

Babler State Park 7 trails. Everything from 0.2 miles to 6 miles, 4 minutes to 6 hours. Some trails are rugged, some are paved, easy to moderate to rugged. 800 Guy Park Dr. Wildwood, 63005

Castlewood State Park, 8 trails. Variety of miles 2-5 miles…natural to rugged, easy, moderate, 2-4 hours, views of the river, birdwatching, wildlife viewing, bluffs, etc. 1401 Kiefer Creek Rd., Ballwin, 63021.

Katy Trail State Park, 239 miles. Most of the trail follows the Missouri River. The Katy Trail is the longest developed rail-trail in the country. Part of the trail has been designated as an official segment of the Lewis and Clarks National Historic Trail. The park begins in Clinton and ends in Machens. Check out their website katytrailmo.com for a lot more information. 

Mastadon State Park 3 trails. 2 miles rugged, .8 miles easy, .5 miles easy. This park contains an important archaeological and paleontological site: The Kimmswick Bone Bed and the American Mastadon. 1050 Charles J Becker Dr., Imperial, 63052. 

Meramec State Park in Sullivan. 6 trails: ½ mile to 8 miles. Most are easy to moderate, and one trail is strenuous. 30 minutes to 8 hours. Lots of caves and great views of the Meramec River. www.meramecpark.com 670 Fisher Cave Drive, Sullivan, 63080

Rockwood Reservation, 7 Trails, 13 miles of foot trails of varying length and difficulty. 300 yards up to almost 5 miles. There are scenic overlooks, all in the heart of west St. Louis County. Designated by Audubon Missouri as an Important Bird Area. Off of highway 109, 2751 Glencoe Rd, Wildwood 63038. www.mdc.mo.gov

Snacks to bring along: Of course, I must include my favorite healthy snack. What’s a hike without a bottle of cold water and some healthy trail mix. Trail mix sometimes gets a bad rap for too much sugar and fat but if you make your own trail mix you can control that. The great thing about trail mix is that you can throw together whatever YOU like. Nuts, seeds, dark chocolate, dried fruit. I like all that, but I also really like chickpeas in my trail mix. I throw in a few Lily’s chocolate bits since they are sweetened with stevia and not sugar. Bake the chickpeas, after they cool, include any nuts you like, any dried fruit, and a little bit of Lily’s chocolate or dark chocolate goes a long way. Nothing could be easier or more delicious than that. And don’t forget water for your doggy. 

How to bake chickpeas to include in your trail mix

  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C).
  • Blot chickpeas with a paper towel to dry them.
  • Toss chickpeas and 2TBS of olive oil in a bowl. 
  • Season to taste with garlic salt, onion salt, pepper or whatever you like, toss again.
  • Spread chickpeas on a baking sheet.
  • Roast until browned and crunchy, 30 to 40 minutes; watch carefully to avoid burning theem. Flip half way through while roasting.