For hikers longing to escape northern Missouri's rolling plains, Cuivre River State Park is the closest you can get to an Ozarkian oasis north of the Mississippi: a mere 50 miles from downtown St. Louis. Hike the rugged terrain of any of the nine winding trails along the park's forested hills; follow Big Sugar Creek Trail, which traverses seven miles through limestone glades and bottomland forest alongside the crystal-clear, rock-bottomed waters of Sugar Creek. You're likely to see a solemn great blue heron flying low overhead, fishing for bluegill, in addition to kingfishers and wood ducks. In autumn the forest consists largely of colorful species of white oak, northern red oak and sugar maple, and it serves as a migratory stopover and breeding habitat for several rare birds, including warblers and wood thrushes. Follow Cuivre River Trail along Goedde Creek and ascend Frenchman's Bluff, a 120-foot-high Burlington limestone bluff overlooking Big Sugar Creek Valley, where you'll be rewarded with one of the Show-Me State's best views.
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