Well worth the hour drive from St. Louis, this clockwise loop begins at a gravel parking lot and heads east for 100 yards before splitting to begin the loop. The recommended clockwise approach heads downhill and turns east through a set of slot canyons toward a forest of formations known as “Cauliflower Rocks,” and past a set of head-high arches. Sub-surface seeping and sheer cliffs combine to create cool, damp conditions that encourage ice-age like species of ferns and mosses on this trail, but also beautiful displays of spring flowers. About a half-mile in, a sturdy wooden bridge crosses Pickle Creek for the first time.
The east end of the loop dips toward the 50-foot walls of Spirit Canyon at the half-way mark, but mostly traverses a forested trail sprinkled with a dusty layer of sand—it’s also flanked by poison ivy, so stick to the trail. Dome Rock and Owl’s Den Bluff overlook the forested valley to the west before the trail descends again to cross Pickle Creek near a delicately dripping fall. The observation platform at Headwall Falls is less than 0.25 mile from the trailhead and is a memorable stop before closing the loop.
-Mapped by Bill Yearout