ST. LOUIS — Enjoy the great outdoors – and indoors – in St. Louis this fall. Whether you’re a “leaf-peeper” looking for fantastic fall foliage or an outdoorsy-type who loves a hiking or biking challenge, there’s something for everyone in the Gateway to the West.
Wine lovers can sample award-winning vintages, tour cellars and nibble on snacks from well-stocked groceries among the rolling hills of the Missouri River valley. Immigrants from Germany’s Rhineland planted vineyards, constructed wine cellars and created America’s first official wine district. Missouri Weinstrasse, or “Wine Country,” features more than a dozen wineries, including several perched atop river bluffs overlooking Hermann and Augusta, Missouri. Visit Chandler Hill Vineyards (chandlerhillvineyards.com), Mount Pleasant Winery (mountpleasant.com) or Stone Hill Winery & Restaurant (stonehillwinery.com) for great views and great vino, and make plans to visit during the annual Oktoberfest celebration. Activities include everything from live music and grape-stomping to wine cellar tours and tastings.
Take a guided, narrated and leisurely-paced bike tour through historic Forest Park (stlouis.missouri.org/citygov/parks/forestpark). The 1,300 acre park opened in 1876 and served as the site of the 1904 World’s Fair. Today, the oasis of greenery is home to many of St. Louis’ favorite attractions and offers two 7.5-mile paths – a soft-surface for walkers and runners and a hard-surface for cyclists and skaters. Forest Park also has handball and tennis courts, stocked lakes for fishing, and the chance to float the park’s tranquil waterways in rowboats or pedal boats at the Forest Park Boathouse. Steinberg Ice Skating Rink is a popular gathering spot during the colder months, and it features sand volleyball courts during the summer.
Bike St. Louis (bikestlouis.org), a new 20-mile on-street bicycle route, connects Forest Park to the Gateway Arch and gives riders access to other regional bike trails. The marked route also winds through the historic neighborhoods of Soulard, Lafayette Square and Tower Grove, allowing visitors to explore some of St. Louis’ favorite parks and cultural attractions at their own pace. For more information and a route map, visit www.bikestlouis.org.
A paved and tree-lined 1.7-mile walking/jogging route through the Gateway Arch (gatewayarch.com) grounds offers a fabulous view of the nation’s tallest monument. With 175 parks in St. Louis City and St. Louis County, you’re never far from a green space to call your own.
Hikers and bikers will find happy trails on the Confluence Greenway, a 200-mile riverside park network of biking and hiking trails, or travel the Riverfront Trail (trailnet.org), a 12-mile paved recreational greenway that begins in Laclede’s Landing and parallels the Mississippi River. At the north end of the trail, the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge – one of the world’s longest pedestrian and biking bridges and a Route 66 landmark – offers breathtaking views of the river. Just a short drive north of the bridge, you can hike to the Columbia Bottom Conservation Area (mdc.mo.gov/areas/areas/bottom) at the unspoiled confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, or visit the Edward “Ted” and Pat Jones Confluence Point State Park (mostateparks.com/confluence.htm).
On the Illinois side of the Chain of Rocks Bridge, bikers can connect with the Confluence Bikeway, a 16-mile trail that passes the Lewis & Clark State Historic Site at Camp River Dubois, the Great Rivers Museum at the Alton Locks and Dam and continues along the Meeting of the Great Rivers National Scenic Byway through Alton and Grafton to Pere Marquette State Park. Grant’s Trail in south St. Louis County takes outdoor adventurers on a path that leads to the Grant’s Farm wildlife preserve and White Haven, President Ulysses S. Grant’s home.
Serious hikers can take a walk in the woods and learn about the life cycle of trees at the 112-acre Powder Valley Conservation Nature Center (mdc.mo.gov/areas/cnc/powder). Located only 20 minutes from downtown St. Louis, Powder Valley offers three trails of differing lengths and topography providing a perfect path for trailblazers of every skill level. Folks can get their kicks on the seven miles of hiking, bicycling and horseback riding trails at Route 66 State Park or wander among the native Missouri plants at the Shaw Nature Reserve.
The scenic 185-mile KATY Trail (bikekatytrail.com) – the nation’s longest rails-to-trails project – begins in nearby St. Charles, Missouri just 30 minutes west of downtown St. Louis. The trail is perfect for bikers or hikers of all ages and abilities. Named for the old Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad line – and nicknamed Katy – the flat path is made of crushed limestone gravel. Bicycle rental services are located at trailheads along the route of the 8-foot-wide, wheelchair-accessible trail, which passes wineries, shops and great scenery along the Missouri River valley.