Hiking at Castlewood State Park
Castlewood State Park is one that I have had on my radar for a while now. The hike was SOOOO much fun! I REALLY love hiking. Can ya tell?!?!? Hiking has so many benefits like exposure to vitamin D. It also strengthens the bones by putting pressure on them. That being said, it’s always nice to find a new place for a hike. Castlewood State Park is about 40 minutes from where we live. Even with it being a bit far away, it was well worth the drive.
Hubby decided to take the day off last Friday. So we decided to go for a hike at Castlewood State Park. The weather was perfect, no rain, partly cloudy, and a high of 59! Personally, I would have preferred Summer weather, but this was nice considering it’s November. It had been a while since we had gone for a hike. So making this a date was wonderful! (Lately, we’ve been shooting for a weekly date. More on that in an upcoming post.) We got to the park a little bit after 9:00 AM. Near the lot where we parked, we saw two trails to choose from; River Scene Trail (3.25mi) and Lone Wolf Trail (1.5mi). We chose River Scene Trail, as it was the longer one. I also wanted to tackle the famous stairs.
In the early 1900s, the area that’s now Castlewood State Park was a popular retreat for partying St. Louisans. The dance clubs are gone, but the winding Meramec River and the lush valley that surrounds it remain. Castlewood State Park has hiking and mountain biking trails that range from those great for first-time riders to ones that even the most experienced will return to time after time. The park is considered one of the best mountain biking locations in the St. Louis area. Good fishing, broad meadows filled with wildlife, and plenty of recreational facilities make the park a favorite for people who want an adventure or just to get away.
The River Scene Trail at Castlewood State Park features the most spectacular views of the park. This trail is open to hiking and bicycling. However, the bluff portion is hiking only. The first quarter mile wraps around a forested hillside and then turns sharply uphill toward the top of the bluffs. Once on the bluffs, the trail splits off into two. The right side is for biking; the left for hiking. The trail follows the edge of the bluffs for about a mile past overlooks that provide stunning panoramic views of the Meramec River valley 200 feet below.
Along the way, we passed several remnants of foundations. After researching the park a bit more, I found out these were foundations from the 1920s and 30s. At the end of the bluff, a wood boardwalk descends into the river valley past the crumbling remains of the “Grand Staircase” to a tunnel under the Union Pacific railroad. This area was the site of the Castlewood Railroad Depot and the steps provided access to the resort cabins on the bluffs. The trail passes through the tunnel and then turns left as it meets the Meramec River.
We stopped along the beach area and let Rocky go for a swim. He loved every minute of it! The trail remains level as it follows the river over the next two miles, traveling through seasonally flooded woodlands and a large open field that was the past site of the hotel known as Lincoln Lodge. The lodge was across the river from Lincoln Beach, which was the prime gathering spot of fun-seekers during the resort era. After going back under the railroad tracks at the Kiefer Creek Road underpass, the trail then follows Kiefer Creek Road back to the trailhead.
We stopped quite a few times for pictures because the views at Castlwood State Park are BREATHTAKING. The entire 3.25 mi hike took us about 2 hours. We definitely plan on doing it again before the weather gets too cold.
*Some information obtained from Missouri State Parks.