A big area, with miles of old woods roads. The Conservation Department closes most of the trails in the area during hunting season, although it's still possible to get a good, long hike through an area where hunting is off-limits.
When I went during hunting season, naturally. It wasn't rifle season, but there many have been some sort of black powder season on . . . who can keep these things straight? There were signs closing some of the trails, which I obeyed. But I did get a nice walk in, enough to get a sense of the place.
The short version? It's basically wooded. Thick timber and brush in the creek bottoms, and more open on the slopes above. A paved loop trail through a stand of non-native pine (I'm finding a lot of non-native pine on the Meremec River basin--what gives?). A long out-and-back, single track hiking trail that winds through the river bottom, then climbs up to a ridge overlooking the Meremec. A maze of woods roads, which I didn't get to explore.
The Meremec Conservation Area would make a good part of a week-long camping and hiking trip based at Meremec State Park. Between the Park and the Conservation Area, there's more than enough hiking for four or five days.
You can find out more at the Conservation Department website.
Google doesn't know where the area is at:
But it's easy enough to find: it's right across the Meremec River from Meremec State Park. To get to the State Park, you go south on MO 185 from I-44. To find the Conservation area, continue south on 185 across the river, then up the ridge leading out of the Meremec River Valley. The turn for the conservation area is on the left (east).
Lastly, no hike in the Meremec River bottom would be complete with finding at least one discarded beverages. Last time, it was a can of Milwaukee's Best. This time, it was a Sprite:
It's easy to image the sequence of events that led to the Sprite ending up in my backpack. A canoe overturned, dumping the contents of a cooler into the river, perhaps miles upstream. Beverages floated downstream, and eventually lodged in riverside brush. A flood came along, freeing the Sprite, and depositing in the river bottom.
I tried to figure out how old the Sprite was. Two years old, if I recall correctly. I do recall that it was a cool day, and that it went down nicely.