St. Louis, MO: Cliff Cave Spring Valley Trail

Loop around sinkholes on this easy, 2.6-mile lollipop loop that skirts a historic cave and a frog-filled pond in St. Louis' Cliff Cave Park.
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Loop around sinkholes on this easy, 2.6-mile lollipop loop that skirts a historic cave and a frog-filled pond in St. Louis' Cliff Cave Park.

The Spring Valley Trail is the shortest of the three trail options in this heavily wooded 222-acre park on St. Louis' south side. From the main parking area, the trail parallels the road and dips west into a wooded ravine. After 500 feet, turn left for a quick visit to Cliff Cave's main entrance.
Just past the spur to the cave, the trail turns sharply uphill for 0.25 mile to a T-junction where the 1.9-mile loop begins. Tackle the route's most challenging section to the top of the karst plateau, then hike across rolling, oak- and hickory-shaded singletrack. You'll wind around sinkholes and over small hills to a small pond at mile 1 before turning south and touching the edge of a development at mile 1.7. A sharp left turn marks the loop's easternmost point, just before the trail hugs the edge of the cliff above the cave entrance and backtracks downhill to the parking area.
-Mapped by Bill Yearout

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 4.2

Waypoints

CSV001

Location: 38.459123, -90.290847

The trail begins on the west side of this restroom-equipped parking area. You'll parallel the road for the first few hundred feet.

CSV002

Location: 38.4590665, -90.2927417

A left-hand spur trail leads 100 yards toward Cliff Cave's namesake feature. Turn left to take the 5-minute detour to the cave entrance.

CSV003

Location: 38.4589825, -90.2927953

Cross the small, natural spring at the base of the ravine.

CSV004

Location: 38.4585625, -90.2937824

Cliff Cave has over 4,000 feet of mapped passageways but its entrance--which has served as a saloon, cow-thief hideout, and storage facility for Anheuser-Busch--is fenced. The St. Louis County Parks and Recreation Department allows access to the cave's passageways to groups with advanced reservations. Look for hibernating bats before backtracking to the Spring Valley Trail. Next, return to Waypoint 2 and turn left.

CSV005

Location: 38.4590875, -90.294469

The 100-foot climb to this T-junction is the most difficult section of trail; exposed rocks and roots are a good excuse to take it slow to this point. Turn right to continue uphill a few more feet.

CSV006

Location: 38.4592009, -90.299871

This small trailside pond is home to frogs and other wildlife, including mosquitoes. Arm yourself with bug spray for this hike, especially during peak mosquito seasons.

CSV007

Location: 38.4556471, -90.2971566

Though the oak and hickory forest hides most of the city views on this loop, the southern edge of the loop runs right up against a subdivision. Continue winding east and away from the houses.

CSV008

Location: 38.4580332, -90.2927256

The rolling trail levels off as it takes a hard left and follows the edge of the cliff above the cave entrance. Return to Waypoint 5 and turn right. Retrace your steps to the trailhead.

Cave Entrance

Location: 38.4586045, -90.2936107

Cliff Cave is long--over 4,000 feet of it is mapped--but its mouth is fenced and it is only accessible with a permit through the St. Louis County Parks Department.

Cave Walls

Location: 38.4585877, -90.2936214

The walls flanking the cave entrance were built in the 1800s, and Cliff Cave has a long history of commercial use, even as a beer storage facility.

Trail

Location: 38.4596546, -90.2945065

Oak and Hickory shade most of this trail.

Pond

Location: 38.4592093, -90.2997637

Home to frogs and other wildlife, this pond is a fun place to spend a few minutes exploring.