words + images by Kristen Kellogg

When I was growing up, one of my favorite things to do with my family and friends from my competitive cheerleading team was taking camping and canoe trip adventures to different areas of Missouri not far from St. Louis. Needless to say, when I find myself returning to this part of the country and spending a day outdoors, I get a little bit nostalgic. The landscapes, the wildlife, and even the fresh smell of the midwest outdoors still ring in as a place I feel ‘home’.

Every time I make a return trip to visit my family, who live just 15 minutes from St. Louis, I make it a point to head out and explore at least one new trail.  I pack up for the day and hit the trails with either or both of my sisters or my friend Carrie (who recently joined me on an active adventure in Costa Rica) in search of fresh air and inspiration.




Arizona is not the only place you’ll be amazed by a grand canyon.  Just about two and a half hour drive from St. Louis, Little Grand Canyon Trail at Grand Gulf State Park in Pomona, IL looks just like it sounds. The trail top overlooks the Muddy River (and a small campsite area) below while the trail leads hikers through sandstone walls and grottoes of the canyon. At the end of the trail is a natural stone staircase, often slick from water – make sure you’re wearing proper footwear to climb up. Because of natural waterfalls and ledges, the hike is higher on the difficult scale for maneuverability, however in a cardiovascular sense, it’s a moderate two and a half hour hike.

Little Grand Canyon Hike in Illinois


Drive the Great River Road and spend an afternoon hiking at Pere Marquette State Park. Whether you prefer exploring the forests of Pere Marquette of the towering bluffs over the river or a combination of the two, this hike offers a variety of trails, ten in total, with nine scenic overlooks back down to the river below. 



Pull out your headlamps! If you’re not afraid of the dark or afraid of getting up before the sun, then this hike is for you. The Lewis and Clark Trail is excellent for catching the sun rise. The 7.4 mile hike lead to some incredible views of the Missouri River Bluffs and is thought to be the most scenic trail in the area. – Recommended by Missouri local Carrie Kotowski


The 6 mile North Loop at Hawn State Park was our hike of choice…though it actually threw us for a little loop itself and wen need up on the South loop as well. We didn’t intend to take the path less traveled, but confusions with marked signs ended up guiding us slightly off of the main trail.

Hawn State Park North Loop

The trail was filled with overgrown golden tones, tall skinny trees, boulder to climb up, a small river, campsite, and expansive views scattered throughout. This particular hike took us about five hours to complete and thankfully found our way back just as the sun set.

Hawn State Park North Loop


Castlewood State Park’s trails are spectacular. If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t want to work too hard to get an Instagram-worthy photo, try the Lone Wolf Trail – a quick hike with a spectacular view. If you are one of those who prefer the journey rather than the destination, the River Scene Trail will keep you in awe all 3 miles with its panoramic views and old ruins. – Recommended by Illinois local Nicole Kellogg

– When hiking, always make sure to leave a note in your car and tell someone where you are (or check in on Facebook).  Also, sign in at the trailheads so that if someone comes looking for you, they’ll be able to tell where you’ve been. Safety first!

– Make sure you bring plenty of water and don’t forget to pack snacks/lunch! Not only is it necessary to refuel during day-long adventures, but there is also no better spot for a picnic than with a spectacular view. That being said, if you want to enjoy the natural scenes around you and let others have the same experience, make sure everything you bring leaves with you as well – pack in pack out.

– Bring a backpack or hiking bag that doesn’t put too much strain on your back. Not only is it bad for your posture, but it will leave you sore and uncomfortable during and after the hike.

– Have a flashlight, matches, charged cell phone, and a map of the area in your bag at all times.

– Wear non-slip shoes with ankle support and proper clothing — you have to feel your best to do your best! You’ll want to be comfortable and supported on those 4 hour hikes so that you can focus your attention on your surroundings.

– Take note of what plants and animals to avoid in your hiking area — it’s much more fun to leave with photos and memories than a rash from the Poison Ivy you didn’t avoid.

– Make sure you know what time the sun sets and allow yourself plenty of extra time to get back before that. I know that I’m prone to stopping to photograph all too often, so it usually takes me almost double the predicted time to complete the trails.

Ever hiked in Missouri or Illinois? With a few more trails on my ‘hoping to soon explore soon’ list ( including Garden of The Gods, Johnson Shut-In’s State Park, and Elephant Rocks State Park), I’d love if you’d share some of your favorite so I can keep the list growing! What are some of your own Best Hikes Near St. Louis?




  1. Diana November 30, 2016 at 6:05 pm - Reply

    It’s so cute! I love going on hikes but here in Miami is hard to find a good place. Also, great tips for beginners as I would have gone on a hike without knowing time or bring enough snacks lol

    • kristen November 30, 2016 at 9:18 pm - Reply

      So true – Miami you can hike up and down the beaches all day which isn’t so bad 🙂

  2. Lily November 30, 2016 at 6:18 pm - Reply

    I didn’t even know there were that many places nearby! I’m in Chicago so not too far from me. I have a close friend who lives here, but goes back home to St Louis often and this would be right up her alley! Sharing!

    • kristen November 30, 2016 at 9:15 pm - Reply

      When I was younger all I wanted to do was go everywhere else and I didn’t have the appreciation I do now for where I’m from. Love that you’re in Chicago! I’ll have to let you know next time I’m in town 🙂

  3. Elise November 30, 2016 at 6:25 pm - Reply

    Love these tips! So handy for any hike. I’ll be using them if I ever visit St Louis!

    • kristen November 30, 2016 at 9:16 pm - Reply

      Thanks Elise! The hiking here is great – now I just need to get back for a summer visit!

  4. Christie November 30, 2016 at 6:34 pm - Reply

    Gorgeous shots! I would’ve never thought to hike while in St. Louis but I love hiking so this is awesome. If I ever go I’m for sure going to check some of these out!

    • kristen November 30, 2016 at 9:16 pm - Reply

      You should! I still have so many t check off my hiking bucket-list!

  5. Sherri King November 30, 2016 at 7:18 pm - Reply

    Great article! All of these hikes sound great and the views are amazing. I love the crunch of the leaves on the hiking trail. It would take me all day to do one hike as I’d be taking too many photos, too!

    • kristen November 30, 2016 at 9:17 pm - Reply

      Me too! Crunching leaves this time of year make me so happy! And I’m the same with the picture taking haha

  6. Carrie November 30, 2016 at 7:23 pm - Reply

    The midwest has some of the best hiking! There are so many hidden gems that most people don’t realize are in their backyard. I want to do more exploring!

    • kristen November 30, 2016 at 9:17 pm - Reply

      Thanks so much or sharing these experiences with me! Always a fun time hiking with you!

      • Carrie November 30, 2016 at 11:01 pm - Reply

        I hope that little dog found his way home!

Leave A Comment