Best Of 2015

Sports & Recreation

Sports & Recreation
Once you've partied till dawn at the city's most thrilling live shows and tasted the best barbecue in town several times over, there's nothing left to do but get outdoors and start detoxing. Our staff choices for everything from Best Running Trail to Best Yoga Instructor will take away all your excuses -- and get you moving again.
Be forewarned: The Huzzah Conservation Area is not for the delicate. This state-owned, 6,225-acre woodland, which sits about an hour-and-a-half southwest of St. Louis in Crawford County, has only a pair of outhouses and no water service. But don't let that keep you from exploring its isolated corners. A scenic seven-mile section of the Ozark Trail winds through the hills here, and it includes a spot called the Narrows, where bluffs drop steeply into the Courtois Creek bottom. There are two caves in the area to explore — though they're occasionally closed to protect the resident bats. You can also visit the former site of the Scotia Furnace and Iron Works, which operated from 1870 to 1880, and if it's between September 15 and May 15, you can even pitch a tent and camp under the stars. on.mo.gov/1JPPBio.
Climb Bell Mountain. It’s the second-highest peak in the state, as well as our pick for Best Day Hike.
Sometimes, an urge for serious nature overtakes even the most committedly urban among us, resulting in an itch that Tower Grove Park just can't scratch. Luckily, we live in Missouri, which is directly adjacent to Missourah. And Missourah is home to some stunningly beautiful parklands, such as the Bell Mountain Wilderness and Trail, a rigorous and beautiful day-long tromp through the St. Francois Mountains in Iron County. The trail wends its way through the Mark Twain National Forest, and the ascent up Bell Mountain provides the kind of breathtaking view that makes scraping your carcass out of bed at 7 a.m. on a weekend seem totally worth it. Shut-In Creek and Joe's Creek crisscross the landscape, with boulder formations and a variety of tree types providing homes for plenty of critters. You might go the whole twelve miles without seeing another human. Be warned — this isn't a stroll. You need hiking boots and lots of water, and probably an energy bar or two. It takes two hours just to get there from the city, so plan on it being the kind of all-day excursion you cap off with pizza and Netflix. Highway A, seven miles west and five miles south of Highway 32. Belleview, 63623, 573-364-4621.
Stretching for eight miles through south St. Louis County, Grant's Trail offers the perfect route for runners of all abilities. The paved path is easy on the feet, and without the hustle of traffic, it is easy to fall into a deep trance on the relatively flat terrain. It is a quiet path, winding through scattered woods and open fields, though plenty of welcome distractions exist along the way. In fact, five and a half miles from the trail's western starting point, the path crosses through Grantwood Village, and runners can sneak a peek at the Anheuser-Busch Clydesdales as they make their way past Grant's Farm. The trail is exquisitely clean and well maintained, and large maps and mile markers are posted at regular intervals. bikegrantstrail.com.
Neighbors celebrated when Marquette Public Pool reopened this summer.
Summers are sweltering in the red-brick homes of Gravois Park and Dutchtown, so the L in the L-shaped Marquette Park Pool might as well stand for "lifesaver." Owing to a faulty pipe and funding issues, the pool was shuttered last year. But cool waters are flowing once again, thanks to a joint effort by 20th Ward alderwoman Cara Spencer and the city's parks department. Marquette is the city's largest swimming hole, and it's now five feet deep throughout — the deep end has been raised to make more room for the 200 swimmers who come on an average weekday. The setup is bare bones: The only chairs are fold-outs, the only shade is under a pair of sycamore trees and the only concessions come from vending machines. But entry is absolutely free — you don't even need proof of residency — and the lifeguards bring their own speakers to pump out old jams. 4025 Minnesota Avenue, St. Louis, 63118. 314-353-1250.
Chesterfield has all the accoutrements of a well-to-do suburb: sprawling subdivisions, meticulous landscaping, strip malls for days. Out here, surprises are hard to come by — that's how these 'burbs are designed, after all — and so when you find them, like at River's Edge Park, it's especially wonderous. The park opened this spring in an unlikely location — directly behind Taubman Prestige Outlets (you have to park in Taubman's lot to access it). Walk up a small hill, cross the perfectly smooth bike path and in no time you're surrounded by nearly 200 acres of untamed trees, tall native grasses, wildflowers, wetlands and water bugs. In here, there's no sound of the just-purchased Aston Martins from the nearby luxury-car dealership, no sight of newly sculpted noses from the neighboring St. Louis Cosmetic Surgery center, no shopping bags from the outlet mall, and there's no hunting — bargain or otherwise. The two-plus miles of crushed limestone trails ring a 38-acre lake (bring your kayak and a picnic!), and they hook up with the Great Rivers Greenway. It's a glimpse of how beautiful the suburbs can be when nature is allowed to do its thing, wild and free. 17017 North Outer 40 Road, Chesterfield, 63005.
Roxanne Krummenacher is a human ray of sunshine, which is a pretty useful attribute for a yoga instructor. She's got the kind of relentless positivity that makes you certain that, despite your Ben & Jerry's habit or years of indolence, you can in fact go upside-down and sideways if you only give it a shot. And if you try and fail despite her safe and straightforward guidance, she's a big proponent of laughing big about hitting your ass. Krummenacher came into the bendy arts in 1999, after having her first kid. Two years ago in July, she opened her own studio, Practicing Yoga. It's got a devoted community of yogis and classes that suit all levels of fitness and experience. Her "Fundamentals" classes for newbies are a hot ticket, and the studio is routinely filled mat-to-mat. One class a week is donation-based, and the proceeds support a local charity. If you make it through an entire class of Krummenacher's without hearing the words "love" or "awesome" (which you won't), you should probably ask her if she's OK. She'd do the same for you. 5755 Chippewa Street, St. Louis, 63109. 314-399-0491, www.practicingyogastudio.com.
When practicing yoga, you're supposed to look to your inner strengths and limitations, and let those serve as your guide. That's much easier to do when you're in a calming space with a knowledgeable instructor. Yoga Six provides the great vibes you need — and much more. With excellent deals for newcomers, along with comfortable matted floors and natural light, this studio makes your inner yogi feel welcome and supported. Classes include both not-hot and hot options (along with locker rooms with showers, should your practice leave you drenched in sweat), as well as advanced sessions and opportunities for yoga novices to grow their practice. Not into yoga? Class options range from boot camp to meditation. 5724 Oakland Avenue, St. Louis, 63110. 314-802-7447, www.stlouis.yogasix.com.
With origins in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Orangetheory Fitness now has its first St. Louis location in Rock Hill. At just 2,500 square feet, the studio may seem smaller than its supersized competitors. But while all the usual equipment is offered (rower, bike, treadmill, weights), Orangetheory has a philosophy all its own, with a regimen based on interval training and heart-rate monitoring. Everyone wears a monitor while working out, tracking their heart rate by looking at the two large screens on the wall. This is not a workout for lone wolves: Members exercise together in hour-long classes, although they work toward individual goals. An instructor conducting the class explains each exercise and its modifications for injuries and fitness level, providing ample motivation. Memberships range from four classes per month to unlimited access, depending on what you're willing to pay. Is Rock Hill inconvenient? Not to worry. It won't be St. Louis' only Orangetheory option for long — a second gym is already slated to open in Chesterfield. 9434 Manchester Road, Rock Hill, 63119. 314-736-1170, www.orangetheoryfitness.com.
Jefferson Barracks' 4.2 miles of paved bike trails carve a figure eight through the center of the park, with no shortage of scenery along the way: The Dennis A. Shick Trail is flanked by native woods, meadows, a Frisbee golf course, ballparks, an archery range and historical markers from the Civil War. The path has moderate rolling hills that keep your body and mind alternately challenged and rewarded as each incline is conquered. The main trail filters into the Mississippi River Greenway, which runs parallel to the river, cuts between a flower-filled meadow and ends behind River City Casino. The breeze from the water is a welcome relief on a hot day, and the flat surface — save for the hill on the way down — makes it easy for a family of cyclists with varying skill levels to enjoy the beautiful Missouri landscape. 533 Grant Road, St. Louis, 63125. 314-615-5000, www.stlouisco.com/ParksandRecreation/Trails/JeffersonBarracksTrails.