So gorgeous, and so close.
LaBarque Creek Conservation Area is located southwest of Eureka. Go west on I-44 to the Eureka, MO 109 exit. Go south on 109, which ends at a T intersection. Go right on FF three or four miles, past the parking lot for Young Consevation Area to where FF intersects with F. Go left, then turn immediately right on Doc Sargent road. After less than a mile, look for a narrow gravel road on the left, with a small sign announcing the area. Turn on to the gravel road, and proceed for a hundred yards or so to the parking lot.
I don't like driving my car on gravel roads, but I do anyway. I go slow and try to avoid the big potholes.
Google Maps has record of the area:
For more information and better directions, see the Missouri Department of Conservation's website.
You'll drive past Young Conservation Area to get to LarBarque Creek CA. The two areas can fit together in one outing.
LaBarque Creek Conservation Area is a jewel from front to back. The trail is single track, and appears to have been laid out especially for hiking. The trail crosses only about half of the conservation area, which suggests that the other half forms a trailless sanctuary for wildlife. The trail passes along a tributary of the LaBarque Creek. The tributary, which likely runs dry in summer, meanders across the bottom of the shallow canyon, perhaps thirty or forty feet deeper than the surrounding slopes. Other than the trail, the occasion tree that's been removed for one reason or another, and a trivial section of barbed wire in the bottom of the canyon, there's not much evidence of human use. Considering that the area is so close to St. Louis, its beauty is astounding.
The trail is a lollipop, with a short stem from the parking lot to a loop trail. Total distance is about three miles. When it's wet, some parts of the trail are surprisingly slick. In every respect, however, it's a wonderful trail.
I'm planning on going back just because the area is so pristine. It really is spotless, and it deserves sloser attention. I'm especially intrigued by the large portion--as much as 500 acres--that is trailless. Given how pretty the trailed portion is, there's no telling what wonders are beyond it.
If you get a chance to go after a rain, do so. The trail passes along a small watershed, which features a couple of small, but interesting waterfalls.