This post originally ran in July, 2018 but is worth sharing again, and again!
Exploring new hiking trails has always been something my husband and I enjoy doing. We plan out where we should go, check out the trail maps, pack our backpacks, and head out to explore. Hiking allows us to be in nature which is relaxing, provides a nice little work out, and creates good, quality time together. Now that we are parents, we want to continue the fun and bonding experience of hiking and exploring trails. The trails we do are moderate, so I wanted to find safe and intriguing trails that not only offered hiking, but also some learning areas as well.
Mastodon State Park is located in Imperial, Missouri. The park has three trails, one of which leads to where bones and artifacts of mastodons were found. Your child gets to be a bone explorer, how cool! The Spring Branch Trail is .80 miles long but is great for strollers and is wheelchair accessible. After your hike, take the little one to the museum that displays ancient artifacts, fossils, and a mastodon skeleton replica. The museum is $4 per adult but free for kids 12 and under. The park also has a playground, a wildflower garden, and two picnic areas so you could make a day of it. The website offers a trail map and a bird checklist that lets you check off any of the 119 bird species that you spot in the park. This park is a fun and safe way to explore history and nature.
Powder Valley Conservation Area is located in Sunset Hills, Missouri. The park has three trails in the 112 acres of oak hickory forest. The trails are paved which makes it easier for strollers. Tanglevine Trail is the shortest trail at 1/3 mile but is wheelchair accessible and passes by a pond. After exploring the forest, take your child to the museum where they can birdwatch and check out the exhibits. They have a living beehive, live snake exhibits and you can even watch a live fish feeding in the 3000 gallon aquarium on Saturdays at 2pm. Also, they have a wildlife viewing area, hands-on exhibits, a reading room, and naturalist-led programs that can let the most outgoing or shy child explore nature at their own pace. Admission is free to the museum. This park allows you to get a nice dose of nature while providing many educational options to learn about nature right in the heart of St. Louis.
Shaw Nature Reserve is located in Gray Summit, Missouri. Shaw Nature Reserve is a division of the Missouri Botanical Gardens. They offer 17 miles of hiking trails varying in distance so you can make your hike as short or as long as you like. The website offers a trail map so you can plan your hike and lets you know what areas can handle wheelchairs. They recommend having a stroller with large tires for the hiking trails.
At the reserve, you can enjoy indoor and outdoor activities for all ages. They have a nature explore classroom and a sense of wonder woodland that your kids can enjoy. Bring a change of clothes, though, because these areas allow your kid to get wet and messy. They have geocaching hikes for older kids and offer a backpack at the visitor’s center to unlock activity boxes on the short Little Acorn Trail.
It’s $5 admission for adults, and kids age 12 and under are free. If you happen to have a membership to the Missouri Botanical Gardens, you get in for free. I know this is a bit of a drive but this is a full day of activities for kids of all ages that allow them to be the ultimate explorer.
There are so many options in Missouri for families to explore. These three offer hiking but are also educational options to really engage children and hold their attention. I also wanted to find options that had something for children of all ages and options for families that may need wheelchair accessibility. Now go pack some sunscreen, bug spray, water bottle, snacks/lunch, hiking shoes and take a hike!
Websites and trail maps for the suggested hiking spots:
Mastodon State Park: https://mostateparks.com/park/mastodon-state-historic-site
Spring Branch Trail at Mastodon State Park
Powder Valley Conservation Area:
Shaw Nature Reserve: