An hour from home, with trails enough to fill a day.I have fond childhood memories of the park. There's a scout ranch a little farther down 67. When my mother would take my brother and I to summer camp, we'd stop off at St. Francois for a picnic. Fried chicken, usually, not the thickly battered kind, but my mother's floured version, peppery and crisp.
The park is an hour south of South St. Louis County. Go south on I-55, then south in 67. You can't miss it. DNR has the usual information on its web site. It's all high speed highway to the park entrance, and paved to the trailhead. The park road passes along the Big River, and especially past one deep pool where I saw more smallmouth stacked up than I've ever seen anywhere . . . but that's information for some other blog.
Google knows where it's at, more or less. Don't be fooled by the bit about "old route 67." To enter the park, you make a left on the main, four-lane, divided highway 67.
The trails pass through thick woods (see thumbnail). It's nice on a warm day (I last went around Labor Day, when temps were in the low nineties). There are some hills, but nothing too taxing, and you can hike as much or as little as you want.
The place has a complicated history, some of which you can gather from DNR's web site and trail maps. But there doesn't seem to be much left on the ground. I came across this, right next to the trail:
I'm not sure what it is . . .
The best natural feature is the Coonville Creek:
Even in early September of a very dry year, there was still water running in it, and water moving in its small tributaries. The park seems to have a lot of little seeps and springs, and the healthy forest mitigates the impact of drought. Back in the city, lawns were brown--and in a lot of cases, dead. But the forest seems to be getting along nicely.
I'd like to get upstream from where I took the picture of Coonville Creek. There's no trail going in that direction, so it's definitely a trip best done on winter when the ticks aren't a problem.