I’ve been attempting to get this posted for a few weeks now, but between my work schedule and the Mississippi flooding her banks leaving sections of the river road closed, I haven’t been able to get back to take a few more photos to help fill the visual aspect of my post. So having to make due with what I have, here it goes.
If you’re in the St. Louis metro area, or more exact on the Illinois side of the river and you want to go hiking, there’s really only one option available that resembles anything close to a “real” hike like you’ll find in hilly or mountainous area of the country. That place is Pere Marquette. It’s located about 1 hour from downtown St. Louis, MO or about 30 minutes from Alton, IL depending on where you’re coming from, and is well worth the trip for an afternoon of hiking and some great views of the merging of the Illinois and Mississippi rivers.
From either location, the only way to get to Pere Marquette is by a drive up the river road. It runs along the the Illinois bank of the Mississippi river until you pass Pere Marquette, at which point it begins to follow the Illinois river upstream. Along the way you’ll pass through a few smalls towns, one in particular called Grafton which is worth checking out if you have the time. There’s a winery, some good restaurants to eat at, antique shopping, craft stores, and one weekend every month a flea market. It’s a popular place so don’t be surprised to find it busy.
Moving back to Pere Marquette, most of the trails are what I consider to be easy to moderate hikes, and although they’re not always well maintained, they are fairly well marked so it’s hard to get lost. Since Pere Marquette is located along both the Mississippi and Illinois rivers, the hiking you’ll be doing here takes place along the bluffs the area is famous for. This means that there will be a few areas with steep inclines the closer you get to the top, but the view is more than enough reward for your hard work.
The hiking here is very much both kid and pet friendly so don’t hesitate to bring them along. I always make a point to steal my parents dog Ellie for the afternoon when I go for a hike because I think she loves it more than I do, and have never had an issue with it being too difficult for her, nor have I encountered any aggressive animals.
Once you’re done with your hike, there is a lodge at Pere Marquette worth checking out. I haven’t been inside it for years (and was hoping to get photos to aid this section), but it’s air conditioned, has clean restrooms and has a dinning room which is convenient if you don’t want to hassle with finding parking in Grafton or didn’t pack a lunch. There is also a large chess set with child sized pieces that seems to always be in use and is pretty cool for kids to play around with. All in All it’s a pretty good place to spend an afternoon and is by far the best place to go for a hike in the area