Missouri Day Hiking: The LaBarque Hills Preserve

Day hikers looking to explore one of the most unique outdoor preserves in the Ozark Border region need to explore the LaBarque Hills Preserve.

Located 41 miles southwest of St. Louis in Jefferson County, the preserve is a scenic gem that’s seldom visited.

“The LaBarque Hills offers a sense of adventure, great off-trail hiking, remoteness and some scenic streams,” says Bill Bens of the Hike Club of St. Louis.

Owned by the Nature Conservancy, the preserve’s 335 acres feature some of the most picturesque sandstone formations in the Ozark Border region. The preserve’s hills, canyons, ridgelines, glades (Missouri’s version of desert), bowls and pools make for some great trekking and the preserve’s hills guarantee a killer workout.

No Maintained Trails
There are no established or maintained trails at the preserve. Map and compass skills and a good sense of direction (and a strong pair of legs) are all that is required to explore one of the least-visited parks near St. Louis.

Here’s a view from Labarque Hills Preserve.

Day hikers can expect to hike between five miles to seven miles of off-trail trekking. The preserve’s most scenic areas are found along its three seasonal streams. The first stream is located in the northwest corner; the second stream is found just west of the preserve’s center; and the third stream is in the preserve’s southeast and eastern corners. The preserve is best explored by bushwhacking along these seasonal streams, and the middle stream is arguably the most attractive. No matter what area you prefer, be sure to bring a camera, as the preserve is a great site for outdoor photography.

The LaBarque Hills Preserve is located in the Dakota Hills subdivision, so be sure to contact the Nature Conservancy for specific directions. Access to the property is located at Wade Road and Dakota Hills Drive. There is a wooden gate that shows a “no trespassing” sign, but the Nature Conservancy owns a 40-foot easement along this drive, and you will find yellow Nature Conservancy markers along the gate and along the easement. Follow the signs to the preserve’s boundary, and there are two stream crossings to get to the property. Do not block the gate, and there is parking for approximately three vehicles outside of the gate.

More Trails Nearby
After the trail, if you’re looking for a post-hike fuel up, visit the nearby Red Cedar Inn in Pacific, Mo., along the old Route 66 Highway; and if you’re looking for more trails to explore, the Hilda Young Conservation Area is a 10-minute drive from the preserve.

The LaBarque Hills Preserve is best visited in spring, winter and fall. Avoid the area in July and August due to high heat and humidity. Ticks and chiggers are also plentiful in the summer.

Making The Trip
Fore more information and maps of the preserve, contact:
The Nature Conservancy of Missouri
2800 S. Brentwood Blvd
St. Louis, MO 63144

To get to LaBarque Hills Preserve from St. Louis: Take Interstate 44 west to Hwy. 109, go south on Hwy. 109. As you go south of I-44, Hwy. 109 turns into Hwy. W. Continue south on Hwy. W to Hwy. FF. Head west on Hwy. FF to Hwy. F. Make a right and head west on Hwy. F to Hwy. O. At Hwy. O, make a left and head south to Hwy. NN. Continue on Hwy. NN to Wade Road (look for a Dakota Hills subdivision sign), follow Wade Road to Dakota Hills Drive and look for the above mentioned gate.

For a fine selection of hiking footwear, click here.

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