Enjoy this helpful guide to some of the best kid-friendly hikes in the St. Louis area!
One of the greatest desires I have for my boys is that they have a genuine love of nature and the outdoors. Sure, I’m a plant-based eating, camping loving, sport playing mom of two boys, so that may be easy for me to say. However, the more I talk to educators and other parents, I find that most kids long for time outdoors. They long for a playground to run and explore. They long to be thrown into the backyard to create games of their own. They long for neighbor friends to play with on endless summer nights. While we can’t have all of these things all of the time, we can do our best to facilitate outdoor time for our children.
As a lover of the outdoors, I have done this for my kids since they were born. I still run into people from my neighborhood who will ask how old the boys are. While they don’t know my name, they know me as the mom who walks because from the day I brought my boys home from the hospital, I put them into the stroller, and I walked. We walked through the neighborhood in the morning, we walked more when they fought naps, and then when they got big enough, we walked to parks. Walking was a huge part of their early development. As the boys got bigger, they had a little more to say in what they did. However, I’d like to think that the way they started has brought out a deep passion for the outdoors.
My older son, Trace, went on his first trip to Colorado when he was just nine months old. We got off the airplane, drove up the mountain, strapped him in a backpack, and hiked for a couple of hours. There are pictures of him taking in the mountain views, pulling my hair, and eventually falling asleep on my back.
As he has grown bigger and his brother joined our family, we have gone from backpack hikes to short walks to full-blown three-mile hikes with my two little ones. There is nothing that makes me more proud than watching them get back to the trailhead, see our car, and get excited for what they have accomplished. While St. Louis may not be Colorado’s level of hiking, there are a lot of wonderful hikes to be found in our area. Even if you are not a mom who truly loves the outdoors, hiking is a great way to get your kids outside.
Here are some tips to get them started:
Choose hikes that are small and close to a playground. There are plenty that are a quarter-mile to a mile long and just a blip of the time among a day at the park and playground. Local parks including hikes like this are Love Park, Kirkwood Park, Queeny Park, Longview Farm Park, and Watson Trail Park.
Once you are ready to venture out on longer adventures Powder Valley and Laumeier Sculpture Park are great next-level hikes. Powder Valley has paved trails and an indoor nature center so you can push a stroller in case midway help is necessary, and you can escape inside for more nature-inspired activities. Laumeier has sculptures throughout the wooded trails, which always kept my boys’ interest when they were first getting into hiking.
When you are ready for longer hikes, I have a few tricks up my sleeve to keep my kiddos moving. I always bring snacks, but I never tell them I have them when we are just getting started. When they begin to tire out, I use the snacks to motivate them to get to the next resting spot and then give a bigger snack when there is an appropriate time for a longer break. One of my favorite snacks to bring is fruit snacks because my boys don’t typically get them at home, and I use them as bribery to give them one at the top of a tough spot or just when they are feeling extra tired out. When a trail offers creeks, we throw rocks. When one provides a lookout, we stop and look for what there is to see. We take what the trail offers and use it to keep the kids motivated. Sometimes we bring walkie talkies, binoculars or bug catchers to keep them interested in the nature around them.
We also always use the AllTrails app to check for trails nearby, current trail conditions, and to consult as we are hiking to make sure we are still on the trail. This is an excellent resource to find hikes wherever you may be in the country.
Once you are ready to move into some longer hikes, here is a list that we have enjoyed around the St. Louis area.
The full loop is 4.1 miles, but there are various cut-offs throughout the trail
The longest loop is the 2 mile Bluff Creek Trail
Loops from 1.7 to 4.1 miles and has a playground for before or after hiking
A 2.2 mile trail
A 1.5 mile trail amidst a residential neighborhood
3-mile loop in Rockwoods Reservation
Various mileage in West Tyson County Park
hikes of various mileage and a fun outdoor natural playscape for kids
Several trails of various lengths, a playground, and a great wading creek for summertime
Hiking with my kids has truly become a favorite activity for them and me. Do they complain sometimes? Sure. Do they tire out on long hikes? Of course, they do. Do they ever ask to go hiking? Yep! All the time. Even though it is hard work, my boys truly love exploring nature and pushing themselves on the various hiking trails throughout the St. Louis area.