I recently had the opportunity to explore Hickory Canyon Natural Area near Ste. Genevieve, MO with my friend Jason Gray. It has been on my list of places to visit for a long time, but I have constantly passed it over for places with longer trails. So when Jason suggested checking the area out, I quickly agreed.
The day we went ended up being rainy (which seems to be a trend with our hikes), so I was feeling hesitant to go: but man am I glad I did!
The canyons were phenomenal; I know I say this with almost every place I visit, but this Natural Area easily became one of my favorite places (I think I’ll make an actual list of my favs some time). You can read Jason's take on the trip here
Exploring The Canyons
At the end of our 78 minute drive was an unassuming dirt parking lot just off the shoulder of Sprott Road. The the area was surrounded with forest which was beautiful in its own right, but the trees concealed the wonders just beyond.
From the lot we were confronted with two trails, so we opted for the longer of them. We didn't have to go far to realize what an amazing place we were at. The trail had slowly sloped downhill before quickly dipping into the canyon, the eroded sandstone emerging from the ground in the form of rocks, outcroppings, and bluffs. The air was cool, Water was running along the path and down the canyon walls, and we could hear the distant sounds of a river.
Along the main trail many smaller paths split off to explore various areas. Signs were posted to stay on the trail so as to protect the area, but it was hard to know what was an official trail and what was just a worn down path from previous visitors.
There were a handful of stream crossings along the trail. Each time we confronted one, we would assess our options only to find out there was no good way to cross. With no other choice, we would just forge through, and hope for the best. Luckily we never got very wet.
Despite my reservations about the rain at the beginning of the day, it wound up being one of the best parts of the trip. It never rained more than a light drizzle, but the mist gave an amazing atmosphere to the woods. The wet weather also made colors appear more saturated which was not only beautiful, but it was also great for photography.
The First Waterfall
I never would have guessed Missouri had so many waterfalls. It seems as though more parks than not have some variety of seasonal fall. Some are rather small, but then there are ones like at Hickory Canyon: the truly impressive ones.
The water poured over the canyon edge before cascading down the rocky face, the many outcroppings and ledges along the wall sprinkling the area with a cool rain. I was glad to have my rain jacket as I explored.
From the fall our path lead out of the canyons, up to the creek that fed the waterfall. I was surprised to see how small it was in comparison to the fall it produced.
Another Canyon, Another Waterfall
Once we returned to the car, we decided to check out the other trail. It was only a half mile round trip, so there was no harm if it was a bust.
The trail forked not far in: one path heading to another canyons edge, and the other descended into that canyon. We made our way down the trail and alongside one of the walls. To our left, a stream ran the length of the canyon dividing it in half.
As the trail ended we came across a second waterfall, even more impressive than the last! The stream I mentioned above originated from a pool at the base of this fall, which meant we didn’t have much room to explore.
I was able to make my way to the other side without getting wet, but I didn’t have a way back without getting in the water. I tried to take advantage of my angle, but unfortunately my SD card was running low on space. After I filled the card up, I tossed my boots and socks across the water, rolled up my pants, and stepped in.
The water was so cold! After putting my boots back on we headed back to the car, excited to get back and look through our photos form the day.
Small Parks Are Great Too
In total we spent around four hours exploring this area. I had been avoiding this natural area because I didn't think I would have enough to do to make the drive worth it. Not only did this turn out to be wrong, but this visit has made me rethink some of the other places I have yet to go because of their small size. Even a small park can have amazing features!
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