Whether you’re new to hiking with your baby or toddler, or you’re looking for a new trail to explore, the Hike it Baby community is a valuable resource for finding family hiking trails around the country. In this article, we share three kid-friendly hikes in Missouri to explore with babies and young children.
Old Kate Trail at Parkville Nature Sanctuary (Parkville, MO)
Right in the heart of Parkville, Missouri, is Parkville Nature Sanctuary, a 115-acre wildlife preserve with about 3 miles of trails. There are a few options to choose from when it comes to trail distance. For the easier trail, take the .9-mile Old Kate Trail, which is a loop that travels along the valley floor and is very toddler-friendly and relatively flat except for a few short inclines that are doable for little legs. There are a couple of interesting stops along the way worth noting, as well as plenty of benches along the trail for breaks to nurse, eat, sightsee or simply relax. The Girl Scout cabin provides picnic benches, making it a great stopping place for snacks and to let the kids down from the carrier and get their wiggles out. But the highlight is the waterfall, and the best time to see it is after a heavy rainstorm when it’s at its fullest.
This is my family’s favorite trail because it’s 5 minutes from home and our go-to when we need a quick outdoor fix. Because it’s so close, we go in all seasons – especially when it rains and snows. People tend to stay away during those times, so the whole place is ours to enjoy at our leisure. In fact, when my youngest was born, he refused to nap as a newborn, so we would pack up every day and go for a hike so he could get some Zzz’s. We love to visit in the fall and winter, but especially during or right after a snowstorm because we’re the only footsteps on fresh, fallen snow. It’s quiet and magical. –Vong Hamilton
- PNS is a wildlife preserve, so keep a lookout for deer, wild turkey, birds and other small animals. Dragonflies and butterflies also live at the sanctuary, so make time to stop and enjoy them. If you’re still, they’ll land on you and hang around for a bit.
- Two great events for families to attend at PNS are Haunted Ghost stories and Santa’s Trek.
- Bikes and dogs are not allowed on the trails; but there’s a dog park nearby for Fido.
- If the kids are looking for additional adventures, there are a few geocaches hidden on the trails. Just download the app to locate the hidden treasures – but remember to leave something if you take something.
- If you want something longer, add on White Tail Trail for another 1.5-mile loop with a bit of an uphill climb.
Photo by Vong Hamilton.
Devil’s Honeycomb Trail at Hughes Mountain (Potosi, MO)
Hughes Mountain is a combination of igneous glades and three types of forests. The precambrian rock outcrops on Hughes Mountain are among the oldest (approximately 1.5 BILLION years old!) exposed rocks in the United States. The rhyolite formation, known locally as the Devil’s Honeycomb, is one of Missouri’s geological wonders and is the highest point on Hughes Mountain. The out-and-back trail itself is only about a half mile up to three-quarter mile hike to the top. The terrain can be a little tough in spots when you reach some of the tricky rocks, especially for little people. But the views are worth a little rough terrain. Read more about the trail here!
The rock formations are interesting enough, but when you refocus to the surrounding countryside … wow! I’d say definitely one of the prettiest views in Missouri. Right up there with the Bald Knob on Buford Mountain. The rock formations are some of the most interesting natural sights I’ve ever seen. I would compare them to a 3-D version of Tetris. They are truly unique to this area and I don’t know of anywhere else that has a similar landscape. –Katie Martinez
- Watch carefully! There’s just one little sign that indicates parking for the trailhead. It’s easy to pass this one up!
- Sorry folks, but there are No Restrooms!
- Make sure to bring plenty of water because there isn’t any here. Not even a stream or creek to filter water from either.
- This trail is great anytime of the year. Unlike some trails, the 360 degree views are visible all the time, even if the trees are full of leaves. That being said, there is no shade at the top! I would recommend going in the spring or fall when the temperatures are more comfortable. But don’t forget your sun protection no matter what time of year!
- It’s okay if you throw in a little “moonwalk” when you get to the top! The rare rock formations make the summit of Hughes Mountain seem very “otherworldly!”
Photo by Katie Martinez.
West Ridge, Harpst & Paved Trails at Weston Bend State Park (Weston, MO)
Not too far northwest of Kansas City is Weston Bend State Park, which offers camping, picnic sites and miles of trails for hiking and biking. West Ridge Trail is 1.25 miles and offers panoramic views of the Missouri River and hiking along the bluffs. Before starting the hike, head over to the Overlook for a view of the Missouri River and peek through the large binoculars across the river (which acts as the state line dividing Missouri and Kansas) for views of the city of Leavenworth, Kansas. West Ridge Trail runs parallel to the Missouri River and is rated as moderate. It connects to a small portion of Paved Trail, which welcomes bikers and walkers and is a 2.75-mile hilly loop. After walking a short portion of Paved Trail, West Ridge connects with Harpst Trail, a .7-mile loop, that leads back to the parking lot.
When we need to get out of the “city,” we head over to Weston Bend State Park for a hike and to enjoy the views. We do the entire distance connecting with Paved and Harpst Trails and it’s perfect for my 5-year-old, with just enough steep climbing for a bit of variety in terrain. Fall is our favorite time for a hike with all the colors and cooler temps. –Vong Hamilton
- Fall is a great time to visit as the panoramic views offer an explosion of fall colors.
- Make sure you get a map or pay attention to park signs for the Overlook, which is where the trail head starts.
- Reserve a campsite and make it a weekend trip for the whole family with hiking and camping.
- Dogs are welcome on the trail but must be on a leash.
- There are sudden drop-offs so watch the kiddos closely!
- Take time to visit the old abandoned tobacco barn and read up on its history of tobacco production.
Photo by Vong Hamilton.
More Resources for Families with Young Children
- Hike it Baby calendar (or connect with the local branch)
- Hike it Baby Family Trail Guide
- Missouri state parks
- Hike it Baby: 100 Awesome Outdoor Adventures with Babies and Toddlers – New Book by Hike it Baby Founder Shanti Hodges
- 3 Kid-friendly Trails in Kansas for Young Children
- 3 Memorable Hikes in Colorado for Families with Young Children
- 3 Kid-friendly Hikes in Iowa to Explore with Young Children
What are your favorite hikes in Missouri for families with babies, toddlers and young children? Leave a comment below!
Written by Vong Hamilton and Katie Martinez.