We hiked this lovely trail back in October. In fact, we hiked this trail the weekend after we hiked at Taum Sauk Mountain. I’m well aware that it is now April, and there aren’t many excuses for this. I had written the majority of a post for it in December, but whaddya know? I’ve returned to a missing draft. Obviously, much of this hike is a bit hazy to me now, so I apologize in advance for an abbreviated post. But I still have many great pictures to share and some basics to give you.
Meramec State Park is a massive park in Sullivan, Missouri. There are a wide variety of activities to participate in, including hiking, canoeing, kayaking, cave tours, camping, swimming, and fishing. The Wilderness Trail, its longest trail, explores many kinds of terrain and winds through the Meramec Upland Forest Natural Area.
Upon arriving at this trail, we were greeted with the usual trail summary as well as a bear warning sign. This sign is not unusual to see in the Ozarks, and it’s nothing to be particularly worried about. However, every time the boyfriend and I see this sign, we have the same conversation…
Him: “Bear Aware? Yes. This is it. We’re going to see a bear today.”
Me: “No, we’re not.”
Him: “But I want to see a bear. We’re going to see one.”
Me: “I don’t want to see a bear. We better not see one.”
Him: “Just a little one!”
And we’ll go on the hike and enjoy ourselves, but at some point he’ll look off into the woods a say, “There’s a bear up there. I can feel it. I want to see the bear!”
We did not see a bear on this day. Instead, we enjoyed a wonderful hike through a forest in full-on fall. The trees were vibrant oranges and yellows and the sounds of leaves rustling and falling was enough to make me want to just sit there and forget about school and work for a while.
There were a couple of small caves throughout this park, all of which were off limits. The White Nose disease has taken a large toll on the bat population in Missouri. In an effort to prevent it from being shared between different bat populations, many Missouri parks require a permit to explore caves. It is also for this reason that it is suggested that people do not go from one cave to the next when checking out areas that are not necessarily owned by parks (for example, when floating certain rivers in the Ozarks).
We stopped by one of the caves along the Wilderness Trail to take a break. This cave was at the bottom of a large, wall-ish cliff. A small creek seeped through it and trickled around rocks and the air was nice and cool.
I truly wish that my camera could accurately portray how beautiful everything was. I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen such bright fall colors in my life before this hike.
Aside from the colors, my favorite part of this hike was the variety of terrain and tree populations through this park. We spent a good portion of this hike in covered forest, but suddenly found ourselves in open glades. More than ones, I found myself looking around, hoping to see a lizard warming itself on the dark rocks. And it truly would have warmed itself! It was an abnormally warm, beautiful day.
We eventually found ourselves in cover again, and kept on hiking. Near the last quarter, we had a flashback to the Whispering Pines Trail! Pine needles and cones carpeted the floor, and I craned my neck back to glance up at the tall pine trees. I’m not sure there’s a better smell in the world than pine forests. Unfortunately (or fortunately, perhaps, as we were getting pretty tired by this point), this section of the hike did not last long.
I highly recommend this park to people who don’t get out of the city and suburbs very often. There are a ton of trail options here, making this park great for leisure hikers and serious hikers alike. Maybe next October, we’ll have an abnormally warm day again and you’ll want to see the colors.
Summary and Tips for Potential Hikers
Blazed in orange, 8.5 miles
Tips: The Missouri State Parks website has labeled this trail “rugged” and does not recommend it to beginners. I found that it was the length more than the terrain that was difficult. I found my ankle to be somewhat sore by the end of the hike. As usual, I recommend wearing a good pair of hiking boots. This trail is fairly popular, but it still becomes difficult to follow in autumn when the leaves have fallen, making it very important that you stay aware of your surroundings and know your whereabouts. The caves along the trail were off limits during my hike due to the White Nose disease among some bat populations, and I suspect that they still are. Signs will be posted by caves to inform hikers of any limitations.
Miles hiked this day: 8.5
Miles hiked of goal: 27 (Pre-Winter)