Take a Hike, St. Louis!
trails offering a lot of diversity. The area has an 8.7-mile auto tour that will take you to six short trails that show off the surprising variety of habitat found here.
The first is Fallen Oak Trail, which starts beside the parking lot at the main entrance. This .7-mile trail travels through woodland, past a wild bird viewing station and a pond. The grade can be moderately steep at times, but you'll never be out of breath.
The next trail on the auto tour is Pine Trail. This short one-half-mile loop takes you through a stand of mature pine trees. The sights, sounds and scents will please your senses as you walk on a thick carpet of pine needles. Don't skip this trail.
The Dardenne Creek Trail is the next stop on the tour. The trailhead is just north of the dam at Lake 33. This .4-mile loop features streambank stabilization and habitat.
The Woodland Trail, a .2-mile loop, passes through an oak and hickory forest as it moves down and then up a hillside. The grade is moderately steep at times, but the path is clear and provides fine footing.
Next you will come to the Wildlife Management Trail. On this .4-mile loop, you'll see examples of habitat management, including amphibian ponds, brush piles and forest edges.
The .2-mile Prairie Trail is the last trail on the Auto Tour. It winds through tallgrass prairie. Bring your wildflower field guide along for this hike.
The 3-mile Busch Hiking Trail is not part of the auto tour. You can reach the trailhead by car then hike this loop trail past fields, woods and the dam of Lake 19. At some places this trail uses roads that are open to auto traffic, so keep a sharp eye.
As you're driving through Busch Memorial Conservation Area, look for the ammunition bunkers left from the days of World War II.
The Busch Area is on Highway D, off of Highway 94, just south of Highway 40 in St. Charles County.
Forest 44 Conservation Area
Though new to St. Louis, Forest 44 boasts several miles of mature trails. The Dogwood Ridge Trail will give you a good idea of what Forest 44 is all about.
The long loop covers 2.5 miles and, as its name implies, much of that is along a ridge. There's an invigorating climb to the top, but once you're there, the breeze that passes over the ridge will cool you off. Along the way you'll pass two amphibian ponds that provide habitat for salamanders and frogs. The short loop covers 1.3 miles.
Whichever route you choose, listen closely as you hike along the creek. At one point you'll notice that the stream that has been happily bubbling along beside you has suddenly gone silent. Actually, the water disappears under a boulder and emerges about 300 yards downstream as a spring.
More trails are planned for Forest 44. A disabled-accessible .6-mile trail was completed in July of 1996. One of the highlights of the trail is a platform that overlooks a small marsh area.
There are also more than eight miles of horse trails that hikers are welcome to use now. These, of course, require an extra degree of vigilance, but they're worth the effort.
Forest 44 is off Hillsboro Road, about a half-mile south of Meramec Station Road, southwest of the intersection of I-44 and Hwy. 141 in southwest St. Louis County.
Hiking is one of the best ways to enjoy the natural world.
By keeping in mind a few simple guidelines, you can enjoy the trail even more.
- Always wear the right clothes. Dress for the season, wear a hat and don't forget sensible shoes.
- Consider bringing extra gear to enhance your experience. A canteen, map, compass, field glasses, pocket microscope, guidebook and hiking stick will help you enjoy the natural world even more.
- Bring along your conservation ethic. Don't stray from the trail, don't litter and don't remove anything that properly belongs in the natural environment.