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St. Louis, MO: Pere Marquette

An exposed fault above the Illinois River and 30-mile views of St. Louis make this 3.5-mile loop in Illinois’ largest state park a worthwhile escape from the Gateway City.

Rating

This clockwise loop combines three trails in Pere Marquette’s 12-mile system. From the visitors center, begin on the Goat Cliff Trail (and look for bluebells and red trillium in its lower portion during the spring). Here, you’ll climb beneath the remnants of the 60-mile Cap-au-Gres fault toward a lookout platform at mile 0.8 and the top of 828-foot McAdams Peak at mile 1.2. Views of the Illinois River valley from this ancient Indian burial ground explain its long-held sacred appeal and make for an excellent picnic backdrop.
Just below the peak, the route turns east on the wide, easy Hickory Trail toward Twin Mounds. This spot offers another dramatic view of restored prairie lands, fall colors and, on a clear day, St. Louis’ Gateway Arch 30 miles to the southeast. Winding along a series of steep bluffs, this route continues east along the Hickory North trail before crossing the park road near mile 2.5 and turning west then south, dropping into a shaded ravine near trail’s end. For a post-hike treat, hit the Great Room at the park lodge for a peek at the 50-foot fireplace or a game of chess on a life-sized board.
All trails in Pere Marquette are well-marked and color coded, but many are also lined with poison ivy. Be sure to sharpen your leaves-of-three identification skills before heading out.
-Mapped by Ted Villaire

To Trailhead

From St. Louis take US-67 10-miles north to Alton, Illinois. Turn left onto SR-100 and drive 21.1 miles before turning right into Pere Marquette State Park. In just a few hundred feet, turn left into the Visitors Center parking lot and trailhead.

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