Tag Archives: spring

Hike #5: Laumeier Sculpture Park

(This is the fifth post of my Twelve Hikes, Twelve Months series.)

I know, I know. How can a sculpture park possibly count as a hike?

Well, I can promise that if you’ve never been to Laumeier Sculpture Park, you’ll find yourself in for a bit of a hike when you go. It might not be one of the entirely rugged, natural type, but I found it a unique way to experience art in a natural setting.

Located near the 44 and 270 interchange in Kirkwood, Laumeier Park offers three short trails and participates in St. Louis County Park’s 30/30 Hikes Program. Two of the trails go through woodlands, and the main, paved path stays mostly out in the open and leads walkers past the most prominent art installations in the park, such as Tony Tasset’s Eye and Alexander Liberman’s The Way, both shown below.

On this particular visit, my friend Stephanie and I stayed on the Central Pathway, the main .64-mile trail, because we had decided spur of the moment to attend the Mother’s Day weekend Art Fair. This annual event attracts artists from all over and offers a variety of food vendors. So, even if you’re not feeling up for a long walk, you can still see some of the main attractions, eat some delicious food, and peruse artists’ wares.

After visiting the food vendors (toasted ravs, anyone?), we followed the Central Pathway trail to the back of the park to escape the crowds and stretch our legs a bit. Works of art are everywhere – a tree trunk covered in hammered metal, a chain of steel buoys tucked just into the woods, a pavilion with a roof shaped like flower petals. Visiting in the late afternoon also provided beautiful golden hour light.

If you’re looking for an out-of-the-box hike, I recommend giving Laumeier Park a chance. I’m looking forward to my next visit to complete the Art Hike Trail once real spring arrives.

Know Before You Go

Address: 12580 Rott Rd, St. Louis, MO 63127

Admission: Free, except for special events like the Art Fair.

Trails: Three trails are available, each less than a mile long. Laumeier’s detailed trail map also shows locations of the sculptures and works of art you can expect to see on whichever trail you choose.

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Hike #3: LaBarque Creek Conservation Area

(This is the third post of my Twelve Hikes, Twelve Months series.)

March’s edition of the Twelve Hikes, Twelve Months challenge took me to a truly new place. Until a few days before the hike, I had never heard of LaBarque Creek Conservation Area, a 1,200 acre park about an hour southeast of St. Louis.

As per usual, I discovered it while scrolling around Google Maps. This challenge has really put that unusual pastime to good use. I spotted a cluster of parks in northern Jefferson County, including LaBarque Creek, Young Conservation Area, and the Myron and Sonya Glassberg Family Conservation Area. I was curious to visit at least one of them, and LaBarque Creek ended up fitting the bill.

My friends Erica and Josh were game to join me for a nice Saturday morning hike. We met in the gravel parking lot at the foot of LaBarque Creek’s only trail. I say foot of, because this trail is a three-mile adventure in hills. If you conquer the trail clockwise as we did, you will find a nearly continuous gain in elevation on the first half. It made for a challenging and satisfying workout.

The trail travels in a loop through woods, along a scattering of short rock formations atop a ridge, over a stretch of exposed rock (possibly sandstone) leading to a cliff, and finishes by briefly touching the path of LaBarque Creek. It was scenic throughout, showing off a scrubby and rugged landscape. I couldn’t help but pause several times to photograph the surrounding beauty.

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Although spring had yet to touch the woods, the ground was coming alive with green. The views through the leafless timber, especially along the highest part of the ridge, were arresting.

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We crossed paths with a few hikers but mostly enjoyed having the trail to ourselves – one of the benefits of an early start. I burned through a water bottle easily from the strain of continuous hill-climbing. After reaching the trail’s highest point around halfway through, it was a delicious feeling to descend back into the valley on the second half of the loop.

The back half contained some of my favorite scenery, including some exposed rock, contrasting light and dark ground cover, and views of LaBarque Creek. Near the end, the trail also skirted someone’s property, so we got to observe horses grazing in a field to the left of the trail. The trail became a well-defined path etched into the hillside as we approached the bridge leading back to the parking lot.

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I was surprised to learn later, while looking into the history of the park, that it has only recently been designated as a conservation area. The land was dedicated in 2010, due in part to the work of a group known as the Friends of the LaBarque Creek Watershed.

It is wonderful that this glimpse of Missouri’s original landscape has been preserved for generations to enjoy. Go challenge yourself to the loop – and enjoy this example of the beauty and diversity of the Missouri landscape.

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Know Before You Go

Address: Valley Dr, Pacific, MO, 63069 (Detailed driving directions are provided on the Missouri Department of Conservation’s website.)

Admission: Free.

Facilities: Good sized parking lot, but no picnic tables or restrooms. The nearest city is Pacific.

Trails: LaBarque Creek has a single, looped trail around 3 miles long.