St. Louis Day Hiking: The Hilda Young Conservation Area

So long, San Francisco. Take a hike, Tacoma.

St. Louis, long known for its Arch, National League baseball team, and Budweiser beer, is an undiscovered day-hiking Mecca. From county parks, to conservation land, to state parks, St. Louis has it all.

And just a short 30-minute drive from the Arch takes day hikers to a micro-wilderness — the Hilda Young Conservation Area. So if you’re looking for hiking nirvana, lace up your boots, load up your pack, grab your water bottle, and step out to the Hilda Young Conservation Area.

About Hilda Young
Located 34 miles southwest of St. Louis in Jefferson County, the Hilda Young Conservation Area is one of St. Louis’ most scenic and least discovered trekking locations. Situated in the Ozark Border region, the 970-acre preserve is a day hiker’s dream — from spectacular waterfalls, to cascading pools, to rocky chutes — Hilda Young is the place to go for solitude and stunning scenery. The preserve has over six miles of maintained trails and endless bushwhacking opportunities may be found in the preserve, too.

Hilda Young Conservation Area is filled with beautiful scenery including waterfalls.

Located next to the picturesque LaBarque Creek, an Ozark stream known for its clear water quality, scenic sandstone formations, and awe-inspiring views, the natural beauty of Hilda Young is a must-see for any hiking aficionado. But there’s more: the park is open to foot traffic only — no equestrians, ATVers, or mountain bikers — so no trail conflicts are had and the solitude is hard to beat.

While the waters of LaBarque Creek are clear and clean, it’s the seasonal streams that feed into the LaBarque that are eye-catching and offer the best trail-blazing opportunities.

Hike To Waterfalls, Pools
Day hikers can trek the 2.5-mile Taconic Loop, but for the best hike, head to the yet-to-be-named 3-mile back loop. Located along the banks of two seasonal streams, the back loop is full of seasonal waterfalls, chutes, and pools. Two nice hill climbs add a little workout to this spectacular trail. The forested preserve of oak, hickory and maple makes for a delightful outing.

In the winter, hikers are treated to icicles and a stunning combination of frozen pools and cascading water. Spring wildflowers increase the already charming area, and in the fall, the papaw and maple trees explode with color and brighten up the forest’s floor and hills with an autumn display of red, gold, and yellow.

If you’re looking for more great hiking trails, be sure to visit the nearby Nature Conservancy’s LaBarque Hills Preserve, and if you’re looking for a post-hike fuel up, the nearby Red Cedar Inn offers great food in a historic Route 66 landmark location.

Making The Trip
For more information, contact: Regional Forest Supervisor, Missouri Department of Conservation, 2751 Glencoe Road, Glencoe, MO 63038; 636-458-2236.

Here are the directions to the Hilda Young Conservation Area from downtown St. Louis: Interstate-44 west to Hwy 109; south on Hwy 109, after you go under I-44, Hwy 109 turns into Hwy W; continue south on Hwy W over the Meramec River to Hwy FF (the “T” intersection); make a right on Hwy FF west 3 miles to Hilda Young’s trailhead parking lot.

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One Response to “St. Louis Day Hiking: The Hilda Young Conservation Area”

  1. Heidi C

    This beautiful place has changed in a bad way that conforms to new radical environmental U.N. agreement mandate crap, as in: they have overloaded plantings near creeks and along trails that are so dense you canonly not see the creeks and ponds, etc., you can’t even get to them like you did before. The grasses are so tall you cannot see the landscape around you or in the distance to not only enjoy its beauty. but get off the “walled” trail or get a grip on where you are! I was so disgusted the last time I was there I did not bother to continue on the trails to get up higher. I don’t even know how wildlife gets through the dense “jungle”! It may be different this time of year with vegetation. I do not know how bow hunters, etc. are even able to hunt there any more, unless they walk up to the higher elevations. But there are creeks up there too. It seems like it would be more dangerous if they can’t see where people or pets may be! The other park I have noticed that has similar crap going on is at Cliff Cave park by the Mississippi River. If all you can see when you visit is the backside of other hikers, you may as well stay home! These are NOT people friendly, and it seems, that’s the idea!