St. Louis, MO: Sam Dale Conservation Area

An easy, family-friendly dayhike, this 2.8-mile loop tours the mature forests and wildlife-festooned shores of the Sam Dale Lake Conservation Area.

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Rolling across the north side of the Sam Dale Lake Conservation Area, this 2.8-mile counterclockwise loop is a great addition to fishing or swimming trips to Sam Dale Lake. Begin at the signed trailhead in the area’s northernmost campground and stay left at the trail junctions to follow the loop through pine groves and wild-flower studded woods. The easy path winds under mature oak and across a sandy creek bottom before a brief stretch along an abandoned park road. Continue east to the shore of Sam Dale Lake, a 200-acre fishing hole that’s popular with local anglers.

The second half of the hike stays just inland of the lake—watch for wildlife, including turtles, beaver and wild turkeys—as the trail traces finger-cove contours under an oak-hickory canopy. At mile 2.4, the large nature trail loop closes, but a smaller loop leads left before landing back at the trailhead. This short detour takes you past a massive pin oak (3 feet in diameter) standing alone in a grassy field.

-Mapped by Ted Villare


Trail Facts

  • Distance: 4.5



Location: 38.5441246, -88.5924149

The trail begins at the northernmost campground, just to the left of a map board providing trail details.


Location: 38.5456772, -88.588356

Stay left @ T-junction. This route combines three smaller trail loops: Turn left at all trail junctions.


Location: 38.5457993, -88.5880737

Turn left @ T-junction and head north, away from the lakeshore.


Location: 38.5473862, -88.5856628

Pass through a thick grove of pine trees and stay to the left @ the third T-junction. Look for mayapples and violets growing in the bottomland wooded areas.


Location: 38.54689, -88.5823345

The trail crosses gently rolling terrain beneath 100-foot trees in a mature oak-hickory forest.


Location: 38.5465126, -88.5808945

Cross a sandy-bottom creek with ferns and wildflowers growing on the banks. In springtime, be prepared for mud as you cross a series of small, trickling streams in bottomland stretches.


Location: 38.5463562, -88.5792389

Turn left @ T-junction following a wide, straight, trail (a former park road).


Location: 38.5430972, -88.576777

The trail reaches Sam Dale Lake at mile 1.3. Take a break near the shoreline and enjoy the strong scent of loblolly before continuing west.


Location: 38.5442048, -88.5792768

Stay left @ T-junction and take in long views along this stretch of trail. See any wild turkeys?


Location: 38.5453415, -88.5842056

Continue following the lakeshore. Look for beaver-felled trees, water birds, and big, soft-shell turtles basking in the lake.


Location: 38.5456657, -88.5879745

Stay left at two consecutive T-junctions, retracing a short section of trail, but turning south to add a smaller loop to the trailhead-bound route.


Location: 38.5443459, -88.5893631

Pass under the fanned-out branches of an old pin oak. The lonely specimen (3 feet in diameter) sits in a grassy field just a few hundred yards from the trailhead.


Location: 38.5468216, -88.5822754

Mature oaks, some 100-125 feet tall, create a causeway lining the trail. © Ted Villaire

Sam Dale Lake

Location: 38.5428772, -88.5768433

Sam Dale Lake is a narrow 200-acre body lined with fingers and coves popular with local fishermen. © Ted Villaire


Location: 38.5441589, -88.5792313

Tall trees and a relatively open understory allow for long views and glimpses of local wildlife. © Ted Villaire

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