Cliff Cave County Park
We had a break from the winter weather last weekend, so our group and possibly everyone else in the metro area decided to get outside for a bit before the football-related festivities began. Cliff Cave County Park is a popular spot on the Mississippi River with trails for every ability level. It's location close to the city center and its accessibility features make it incredibly popular. The parking lots were crammed full by 11 a.m. on the 70-degree February day. We had a big group for our Meetup.com event with kids ages 3 to 15. And we had lots of company on the paved and dirt trails from humans and pups alike.
Cliff Cave was closed for a while in the last couple years for construction. The county built a new series of trails and a footbridge to link trails on both sides of the road leading to the park. I've heard some people complain about the changes, saying they've "ruined" the park. I have a different view, though: there are so many places to hike on dirt trails away from crowds for those who are able. Just within a short drive of Cliff Cave are two locations on the other side of the river (Stemler Cave and Valmeyer) plus Mastodon State Historic Site to the south just to name a few. (Of course you can pick up my book for dozens more ideas!) My point is that there aren't dozens of parks with trails through pretty woods accessible to people in wheelchairs or those who can't walk on uneven surfaces, not to mention parents with strollers. But there are for those who can hike on dirt trails.
Maybe our group would have enjoyed a more rugged wilderness experience. But we didn't quite have time before the Super Bowl activities. Mud was also a concern after all the rain so the paved trails were a nice option.
The park is very now different then the description in Best Hikes with Kids St. Louis. To be clear, there are still dirt trails on the bluff above the cave and across the road below the overlook. It's got something for everyone -- but expect to share the trail with lots of people if it's a pretty day.