Rockwoods Reservation

We seem to have rather abruptly transitioned into spring here in the St. Louis area, and last weekend my wife and I decided to go for a hike -- but where? We knew that Queeny Park would be packed, as would the nearby bike trail, so we had to think a bit. Castlewood? We've been there many times. Shaw Nature Reserve? Same there -- have visited quite often. What about Rockwoods? Neither of us has ever been there, so it was decided!

Rockwoods Reservation is an 1880-acre conservation area on the western edge of the St. Louis metro area. We decided to take the long way there, driving down 44 until we hit 109 -- that stretch of Interstate 44 is really quite beautiful at almost any time of year -- and about 30 minutes later we reached the conservation area.


We pulled into the first parking area that had space (it's not that the place was packed, it's just that the parking areas were small) and got out to review the map, not knowing what hiking trails were available and where we could access them.

It turns out that we had stopped at the "Hillside Picnic Area", and decided upon the "Rock Quarry Trail" which not only had more parking but the Education Center. At about 2.25 miles it was a decent length for a first hike of the year, and the name promised some interesting views.

So off we set, and the trail quickly climbed upward. Missouri is quite hilly (unlike Illinois, a fact that is reinforced whenever I drive up to Chicago) and so we got some nice views immediately:

We saw lots of rocky outcroppings:

And there were spots where we could examine the rocks up close:

That's lichen, right? It really was that black -- it's not just a trick of the camera!

Oh, and the moss. What beautiful mosses I saw!

Sometimes mixed with lichen...

...sometimes mixed with ferns...

So nice!

On the way downhill there were more wonderfully hilly views:

And then finally a glimpse of the trail's namesake...

The quarry!

Obviously abandoned long ago, it was still fun to explore:

Big rocks distract me, but I remembered to look down too! There wasn't too much "Spring" showing yet though:

But plenty to see!

This really is the best time of year for moss lovers in this part of the country. I bet later in the summer this old rock mound will look much different:

Moving on...

Hmm, something visible through the trees...

... caves! We had to go investigate...

...but couldn't get as close as we really wanted to:

Such a wonderful hike, even though the ground was quite squishy in places (thawing above, still frozen below) and there were some people who apparently like talking (loudly, constantly) more than enjoying Nature. Grrrr.

So that's a look at what this part of Missouri has to offer in way of terrain. We're definitely returning for more hiking here, and it will be interesting to see how it changes during the seasons!

Although the area is wooded now, we learned at the education center that the entire are was cleared about 70 years ago. Now I'm imagining what this place would look like with old-growth forest...


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Mark and Gaz  – (March 11, 2015 at 11:26 AM)  

Quite a sight with those bare tress contrasting with the lush moss!

outlawgardener  – (March 11, 2015 at 1:18 PM)  

Nice first hike of the season! Beautiful mosses, lichens, rocks! Sorry you didn't get to explore the caves.

Gerhard Bock (Succulents and More)  – (March 11, 2015 at 4:55 PM)  

It's pretty now, but please do go back when the trees have leafed out. It'll be spectacular then!

Charlie@Seattle Trekker  – (March 11, 2015 at 10:07 PM)  

I love the first hike of the year, the first chance to be in the woods again...Your photos are fabulous, I enjoyed your walk.

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