Missouri’s Little Oasis
Every now and then I crave the simple; the near and known type of hikes that offer heart pounding peace. Contradiction? I believe there is considerable beauty in an environment that has formed itself into a chameleon- one that can be challenging and tranquil, and all at the same time. In the heart of St. Louis, Missouri there’s a state park near and dear to my heart- Castlewood.
Most of the sought-after hikes of Missouri are out towards the Ozarks, and though mesmerizing, it’s a hidden treasure to have a bountiful state park just a few blocks away.
My dog and I hopped out of the car, wagging tail and smiles all around ready to see what awaited us. Nearby my specific parking area was a trail head, Grotpeter Trail, 3 miles. Its’ entrance led directly into the woods with a narrow dirt path and promising tree canopy. We hopped along and immediately felt at home. There was a cool breeze swimming through the branches, just light enough to tease the sweat droplets emerging on my arms. I couldn’t believe how submerged I felt, that in the city of St. Louis I was hiking a trail that wasn’t paved, crowded with feet or noisy with voices. I could enjoy the silence of nature, breathe in the clear air and explore the muggy smells all while chasing my dog up and down the winding path- which included tripping and stumbling on hidden tree roots and rocks. It was authentic and I loved every minute of it.
The entire path swayed as if it was exhaling and inhaling itself, providing views of stacked trees as well as close enough to be brushed by them. Every now and then I heard deer running nearby, and constantly saw squirrels and rabbits rummage around. Quick changes in elevation kept me on my toes, while challenging my breathing and allowing room for more views of the land.
Castlewood offers a myriad of trails, each one proved to be urgently satisfying. Lone Wolf trail was probably the most popular choice for newcomers. It’s a light, one-mile trek up an easy path. Its end goal is scenery. Encompassed with five breathtaking stops overlooking the river, it’s hard not to derail your pace to take it all in. Three of these are clear views while standing on the edge of a cliff, and the other two are balcony walk-outs. Personally, I chose to prop myself up on a boulder and guess how many miles away the woods reached.
The Take Away
Essentially, Castlewood State Park is 1,818 acres of various opportunities all of which are seeking new personalities. There is a trail for everyone- the runner, dog lover, family duo, biker, photographer, writer, scenic chaser, relaxer- you do not have to be a specific type of person to enjoy a hike. And Castlewood doesn’t ask for one, but many. In a city that has city written all over it, where it’s known for the downtown and thrilling games, you wouldn’t expect a place like this- I know I didn’t. I assumed any worthy place of hiking had to be far and out of reach. Falling into this state park altered the way I now research hikes.
I encourage you to take a leap of faith next weekend, pack a book or your old, dirty shoes and take a trail for a spin. Find relaxation and freedom within a tenured city, instead of packing for a long trip to a bucket list one.
For more detail on the park visit: Castlewood State Park