Pickle Springs Natural Area hiking trail is one of the most scenic trails in all of Missouri. If this is your first time you are in for a big treat because this Missouri hike is hands down one of the best hikes in the state!
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Pickle Springs Natural Area
Pickle Springs trail is located in Pickle Springs Natural Area near St. Genevieve Missouri. This popular two-mile hike (2-mile one-way loop) winds through a dense forest with rocky terrain, geological formations, and scenic views all laid out on 256.5 acres of conservation area.
Pickle Springs trail seems to have it all. Expect to find:
- unique geologic features
- magnificent towering rock formations and other interesting geologic features
- scenic overlooks, stairs
- wooden bridges and walkways
- a beautiful pine glade
- plant and animal life
- blooming flowers and maidenhair fern
- natural springs, streams and waterfalls (water flow in area creeks was minimal when we visited, at other times you will be treated to rushing water and will find the waterfall in full flow)
- and you’ll navigate your way through scenic sections of slot rock formations.
What a great way to spend a day!
Pickle Springs is so special that it made the National Parks Service’s national natural landmark list! While not an actual state park, Pickle Springs is protected by the Missouri Department of Conservation.
*Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission. I only recommend products I would use myself and all opinions expressed here are my own.
Pickle Springs History and how it got its name
The name pickle dates back to the pre-Civil war era. The creek, spring and park are named after William Pickles, somewhat of a local legend, who was murdered during the Civil War. Do you love a good mystery? There’s a book written about the mysterious death of Mr. Pickles.
Monday through Sunday, 04:00 AM – 10:00 PM
For the most current and up to date information on opening times see the Pickle Springs Natural Area page on the Missouri Department of Conservation’s website. Contact information for the Missouri Department of Conservation, including a contact phone number, can be found on their website link provided above.
Location / Directions to Pickle Springs
Pickle Springs is located 25 miles southwest of Ste. Genevieve, and 73 miles south of St. Louis.
address: Dorlac Rd, New Offenburg, MO 63670
GPS coordinates: 37.801894176455974, -90.30146482883566
Parking is just off of Dorlac Road, Sainte Genevieve
Pickle Springs Hike
Pickle Springs Natural Area Trail Map
From the parking area it’s a short walk to the trailhead. At the end of this short trail, you’ll find a trail map.
At the beginning of the trail, you will find this sign which directs you to head left onto the trail.
Snap a photo of the map so you can keep track of sites along the way. You shouldn’t need to worry about getting lost because the trail is very well-marked.
along the way you’ll encounter:
- The Slot: narrow slot-like canyons
- Double arch
- Cauliflower rocks
- Pickle Creek bridge
- High Crossing
- Twin Bridges
- Mossy falls, the falls on the trail are wet weather waterfalls meaning that they are flowing during wet weather, a trickle at other times.
- spirit canyon
- owl’s den bluff
- dome rock
- Pickle Spring
- Rockpile Canyon
- Headwall falls
- Piney glade: the pines trail is particularly atmospheric.
|estimated hiking time:
Let’s hit the trail!
As you get started you’ll navigate your way through box canyons, rock walls, and rock shelters.
Next up is terrapin rock. Can you see the terrapin? I can! (and made sure you can too, ha!)
LaMotte Sandstone, is Missouri’s oldest sedimentary rock, about 520 million years old. Years of erosion have exposed Precambrian rock in this area. You’ll find LaMotte Sandstone throughout the Pickle Springs Natural Area hiking trail and can be seen in the photos throughout this article: sandstone canyons and sandstone rock formations, examples of a sandstone glade, sandstone cliffs.
Want to know more about the Geology of Pickle springs? Check out this Youtube video from Ozark Outsider.
The Piney Glade area can be accessed from a short spur trail off of the main trail so don’t miss it!
The large canyon at the end of the trail is a good place to stop and rest, or just sit for a spell, before you attempt the climb out.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about Pickle Springs MO:
can I camp at Pickle Springs?
Camping is prohibited in this area.
can I bring my pets to Pickle Springs hiking trail?
Although the sign found at the trailhead states that no pets are permitted on the trail (#4 which I have covered) the area manager who has jurisdiction over this trail has informed me that this sign has incorrect information. Leashed pets are indeed permitted on the trail. The sign will soon be fixed. (per a conversation on 2/3/22)
(Chapter 3CSR 10-11 Rule Number 120 Pets and Hunting Dogs: Pets and hunting dogs are permitted but must be on a leash or confined at all times.)
How difficult is Pickle Springs trail?
If you are looking for a short easy hike then keep looking. This trail is rated Moderate but can be somewhat challenging. The posted 2-mile length of the trail can be deceiving. I found it to be somewhat challenging but well worth the effort.
The sign says it will take an hour, but I think you would have to be walking this at a determined pace to achieve that goal. Great for exercise but you may want to stop and take in the beauty, or a few rests as we did. This is a rugged trail so bring your hiking shoes. I found myself wishing I had brought my hiking poles as well.
When is the best time to hike Pickle Springs Trail?
The trail is open year-round. However, it is my opinion that there are certainly times when the trail has more wow factor than others. We visited in early April when winter was still casting its dreary shadow, and there weren’t any leaves on the trees yet.
I imagine it is simply stunning when bathed in the full lush and green glory of late spring and summer (as is the entire state of Missouri!) and fall in this area is glorious! And have the added bonus of cooler temperatures.
It is my opinion that this is a great trail to explore on hot summer days. The trees and rock formations provide lots of shade to protect you from the hot sun, just be sure to bring along lots of water!
Is Pickle Springs trail crowded?
For obvious reasons, this is a popular hike, particularly during peak season. The parking lot can fill up fast but not to worry because people do park along the gravel road. It does help that the trail is one way so that you at least aren’t constantly meeting other hikers. If you prefer to have a more personal experience with the trail, I’d suggest going very early in the day or very late. Weekday hikes should be somewhat less busy as well.
Is there an entrance fee?
No there is not! Pickle Springs trail is free!
Other things to do in the area
Maramec State Park
is one of many state parks in Missouri. Maramec Spring is the 5th largest spring in the state of Missouri. The emerald green spring is the crowning glory of this park but there are a variety of other activities such as camping, fishing, and exploring the pristine trails.
distance: 65 miles
get more information: Maramec Spring Park!
Cave Kayaking at Crystal City Underground
Want to kayak in a cave? Crystal City Underground in Crystal City Missouri is one of Missouri’s best kept secrets, and an experience worthy of a spot near the top of any bucket list! Glide across this massive cave lake in a kayak!
distance: 45 miles
get more information: Cave Kayaking at Crystal City Underground
other areas of natural beauty
- Hickory Canyons Natural Area (15 miles)
- Hawn State Park (10 miles)
- Castor River Shut-Ins (30 miles)
- Mina Sauk Falls, the tallest waterfall in Missouri (40 miles)
Want to hear more about my travels around Missouri and the rest of our amazing planet? You may be interested in my Missouri page, and be sure to submit your email address to my subscriber sign up at the end of the page and be the first to know when a new blog publishes!