Point your car away from the St. Louis area, and an hour's drive in any direction will enable you to leave the city and the suburbs behind and get your nature on. But if you're looking for the biggest bang for your time-and-gas-mileage buck, the Weldon Spring Conservation Area delivers top dollar. Off Interstate 64/Highway 40 just across the Missouri River, this 8,400-acre parcel beckons bird watchers, mountain-bike enthusiasts, hunters and fishers alike. And also hikers. Rising up from the banks of the Missouri and the Katy Trail, the easternmost chunk of the WSCA is explorable via a pair of hiking loops, the Lewis Trail and the Clark Trail. Both routes are off-limits to hunters, but neither is for the woods-walking weenie (the Missouri Department of Conservation classifies 'em as "Difficult"). Be assured, though, that the surroundings and the views of the river valley are worth the sometimes-steep going. Clark is the shorter of the two trails (a tad under five and a half miles); Lewis encompasses the Clark loop and then some (eight-plus miles in all).
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