After my weekend roadtrip got pushed back, I decided not to let this fantastic fall day go to waste. The trail I was on was crowded with lots of people and families, which I'm not always crazy about, but granted this was a Saturday afternoon, and the first sunny day we've had after what feels like almost two weeks of straight rain. It was sunny, cool but not cold, and the fall colors were breathtaking... can't hold it against people to want to take advantage of that! I had no trouble parking or anything, and there were still moments of my hike where I was alone.
This hike was very similiar to the Lewis & Clark trail hike I did a few weeks ago in the sense that it had a variety of scenes, both rocky bluffs looking out over hills of trees and a river (the Meramec River this time), as well as long walks through the woods. However the second half of the Lewis & Clark trail was really more deep wood walking, while this trail had a more relaxed trail, very flat, that just followed the river (and was very muddy, but again the rain is to blame there). There was really almost no hard parts, except maybe one incline right at the very beginning, with all the steeper descents helped along by wooden steps leading down to the river banks. There is a mix of outlooks that are both free rocks and then platforms as well. The trail itself is mostly rocks on the bluff part, which with all the leaves on the ground made it a little hazardous for a clumsy person like me, and the river trail is mostly packed dirt (or lots and lots of mud in this case). The scenic outlooks over the Meramec River and the fall foliage was absolutely beeeautiful, and I would definitely recommend this time of year for this hike.
My main problem was the lack of trail markings. The trailhead for the Scenic River Trail was actually to the side of the parking lot and then right when you start, I couldn't figure out if there was a trail leading to the right as well as left before noticing the red marker nailed to a tree on my left showing where to start. There weren't too many problems with keeping to the trail on the bluffs section, except for a few times were it looked like the trail split off-- usually both split offs ended up joinin back together within a minute, and a few signs mentioned which trail was the bike trail as opposed to the hiking trail. However once you get to the trail that follows the river, you cross into a large open field and a crossroads that I found incredibly confusing. Going to the left, I find a sign pointing to a different trail, and the red marker pointing back the way I came. Another sign points out the parking lot. Then to the right, the trail through the field continues back to the river through the woods, with no sign saying which trail it was, though a little way in there was another red marker that COULD have been orange. The map that I got at the park office and the map in the 60 Hikes within 60 Miles book were of no help because it was really hard to tell where you were on the trail. None of the trail maps I found along the way had markers to say where you were or a name of the trail, so I could only assume I was still on the Scenic River Trail, or at least one of the spurs that were described in my book. Then at the end of the trail (I kept following ht river), I was confused because I hit the actual road again, and went under a bridge and walked along the road until I found the parking lot I'd started in. So super confusing, and even a couple that I stopped had no idea what trail they were on or where they needed to go.
Overall, despite the confusion, it was beautiful and a great hike. The views were fantastic, the walk was relaxing and I had a great afternoon. I didn't want to miss the last chance I might have to enjoy not only the fall weather,but he changing of the leaves.