Interlude: Onondaga Cave State Park
St. Louis has some of the most self-deprecating residents of any major city that I have lived in or visited. Part of that has to do with conflated crime statistics (believe me, STL is by no means the “most dangerous city in America”), and part of it has to do with rust belt issues (ie. population loss, factory closures, etc.). To my wife and I, who decided to move here from Chicago, this attitude is wholly crazy. After all, not only do St. Louisans enjoy free cultural amenities that other cities’ residents would pay a pretty penny to attend, like the Saint Louis Art Museum and St. Louis Zoo, and have an enviably low cost of living (our three bedroom, two story, Art and Crafts home cost less than a one bedroom condo in Chicago), but they can drive an hour or so out of the city and feel like they have arrived on another planet.
Onondaga Cave State Park is one of our favorite planets to visit.
Onondaga Cave State Park features enough to require multiple visits or at least an overnight camping trip to see everything. No doubt, the most notable attraction is the cave itself, which I’ll be covering in a later post. However, the Park also possesses several great hiking trails, covered below.
Onondaga was originally explored in the late 1800’s when a mill was established at the source of a spring (pictured at beginning of post). Though the mill is long gone, traces of the manmade water channel leading from the spring are still easily visible, and are among the first things you encounter on the connector trail from the visitors center to the campsites/hiking trails.
Trail 1: Deer Run Trail
Deer Run Trail is a pleasant 2 mile hike that passes the entrance to the Park’s other cave, Cathedral Cave. It also winds over bluffs with views of the Meramec River. Though somewhat short, the trail’s terrain is tough enough to feel rewarding.
Trail 2: Oak Ridge Trail
Oak Ridge Trail is a winding, up and down trail that crosses over upland glades, passes through sometimes dense forest, and even crosses over a shallow stream in wet weather. At just over 3 miles, the trail is definitely the more challenging of the two, although it doesn’t feature those dramatic bluff views.
An avid hiker could complete both trails back to back without much issue, or you could combine one of them with the 1.5 hour cave tour (a great way to cool off).
In addition, the Wilander Bluff Trail (will include in the later post), named after the tallest bluff over the Meramec, is nearby, and would make an excellent addition to any visit to the park.