60 Hikes within 60 Miles: St. Louis
by Steve Henry (Menasha Ridge Press)
© 2010 Steve Henry/Menasha Ridge Press. All Rights Reserved.
We hiked the Big Sugar Creek Trail on a beautiful day. It had rained 2 days earlier, but the high and rocky parts of the trail were fine. Here's the problem we ran into: Horse usage. The trail is clearly marked NO HORSES, and has a wooden maze entrance. All the lower parts of the trail, at least half of it, were ruined. It's deeply rutted, and the mud is slippery and sticky. We were forced to walk through knee-high weeds (which made us itch like CRAZY!) The erosion is extreme in some places. Beautiful area, but not a pleasant hike- very difficult to manage. At the end, our shoes were soaked and caked with mud and we each got dozens of chigger bites, despite having sprayed ourselves with OFF! first. Be advised...
Just as a word of warning, the orientation of the map in the trail guide is completely wrong, at least for the Lone Spring Trail. I'll update as I try the other trails. Orient the map in the trail guide upside down, so that the North arrow points to the East, and that is the actual correct direction for the trail. I didn't have time to pick up the trail map from the office (too late in the day on a sunday) but it's most likely correct.
The trail itself was well marked and easy to follow, and in good condition. A good short hike if you cut through the connector. Since I didn't realize the map problem until I got back to route KK I actually walked along the road from the western intersection of the path back to my truck.
My brother and I had an excellent trip at Cuivre River. Using the Equestrian Trailhead, we hiked a combination of the Cuivre River, Big Sugar Creek, and the Hamilton Hollow trails to make a nice 8 mile, overnight loop. We stayed at the backcountry camp at junction no. 20 where we could make a camp fire. It made the 30 degree night extremely pleasant.
The Cuivre River Trail on the west side of the park is really a gravel road suitable for car traffic. Many of the other trails in the southern half of the park are made for equestrian use. Even if they aren't, horses go there anyway. This has its good point -- it made following the trails, which were very obscured by all of the fallen leaves, easier to follow. Many of the trails I followed could be better blazed for easier traveling. But my GPS and compass, with the great map you get at the visitor's center, made the trails fairly easy to follow.
I heard a yowling at about 5:00 to 5:30 in the morning that came from what I think was a bobcat. It was a sound that seemed other-worldly and unnerving. And it was relatively close. We saw lots of deer, including a few bucks that didn't seem to be that frightened of us. Hunting, I'm told, is not permitted in Missouri State Parks.
The backcountry camp was great! Don't forget your compass and a map, or you might be spending more time in the park than you intend.
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