There is no place in Missouri quite like Pickle Springs Natural Area. A National Natural Landmark, Pickle Springs is between Ste. Genevieve and Farmington and boasts a 2-mile hiking trail with more than 12 geological features. The natural area is also home to numerous uncommon plant species and plenty of aquatic animals.
Follow the Trail Through Time from the park's nondescript parking area as it loops through the park. If you hike clockwise, the first feature you'll encounter is The Slot. The aptly named slot canyon is narrow at places and riddled with small damp caves. The canyon ends at the first of several waterfalls located throughout the park. The trail continues through a rock double arch and The Keyhole, a small rock tunnel. There are several large boulders that are tempting to climb in this area. Continue along across several bridges before arriving at Spirit Canyon, which features wet passageways with trickling waterfalls. Next, Dome Rock provides sweeping views of the area, and then the trail leads to the park's namesake and another waterfall: Pickle Spring. The spring actually flows out of sandstone, creating a small pond at the creek's headwaters. Next you'll climb through Rockpile Canyon where you can take a short side trail to Headwall Falls. When you reach the end of this side trail, be sure to look up to see a hoodoo, a pillar-like sandstone rock formation.
With hoodoos, arches, box canyons and sandstone rock formations, Pickle Springs' geology is reminiscent of the natural areas in the southwest. And kids are sure to love clamoring over rocks, exploring shallow pools at the base of waterfalls and the cool waters of Pickle Creek.
Plan to spend about two hours in the gorgeous park to truly explore its geographic features. Parents should note that the trail is full of rocky sections, exposed tree roots and a few steep cliffs. There are no restrooms or water stations at the park, but a variety of services are available near the interstate.
Pickle Springs is about an hour from South St. Louis County and completely worth the drive. From southbound Interstate 55, exit at Missouri Highway 32 (exit 150) and travel west. Turn right on State Route AA and left on Dorlac Road (gravel road). The parking lot for Pickle Springs will be on your right.