This January marks two years since the launch of Terrain magazine, and if we’ve learned anything it’s that you don’t have to travel across the country for an unforgettable outdoor experience. We have plenty in store right here. With 2016 in sight, there’s no better time to make a bucket list and get ready for your most awesome 365 ever. Here are 12 ideas to get you started, one for each month, from epic quests to simpler pleasures.
January: Go Sledding at Art Hill
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch first reported World’s Fair workers slip-sliding down Art Hill on folded chairs in 1905. All these years later, things haven’t changed much, except the sleds look less like partyware and more like neon-colored spaceships. The long, wide slope in front of the Art Museum in Forest Park is still considered by many to be the best sledding spot in St. Louis. Just be sure to bail before you reach the lake at the bottom. Afterward, head to the Loop for a bite and a cold beverage — better yet, make it a hot toddy.
February: Take the SandMine Challenge
This is not your normal trail race. In fact, the 4-mile/12-mile run held inside an old mine in Crystal City, Missouri, was named one of the “10 Ultimate U.S. Adventures” by CNN. The course winds through a vast network of tunnels and caverns, some reaching up to 40 feet high, strewn with sand dunes, man-made obstacles and water hazards. Bring a headlamp and dress smart — the cave is 56 degrees year-round. Event proceeds benefit PayBack Inc., a St. Louis nonprofit juvenile restitution/community service agency. Register for the February 20 race at sandminechallenge.com.
March: Run with the Irish
Get swept up in a sea of green at the St. Patrick’s Day Run, one of the largest 5-mile races in the country. You’ll pace alongside elite athletes (this is part of the national Michelob ULTRA Race to the ULTRA Series) as well of runners of all ages and abilities. The route begins on Broadway and hits Market, Olive, Chouteau and South Tucker before a 400-meter sprint to the finish at 8th Street. Celebrate your achievement in the Irish Village at Kiener Plaza, awarded “Best Post-Race Atmosphere” by Big River Race Management and featuring food, drinks, music and more. The race is on March 12; get details at irishparade.org/site/run/.
April: Thru-Hike the Ozark Trail
There’s no better way to find yourself than by getting “lost” in the wilderness for days at a time. The largest contiguous stretch of the Ozark Trail, stretching from Onondaga State Park in the north to the Eleven Point Western trailhead in the south, offers 230 miles of soul-cleansing freedom and rugged beauty, in addition to all the services you need (water, campgrounds, caches and shuttle services are accessible along the way). But it’s still not easy with a 50-pound backpack. Daily elevation change can top 1,500 feet, with sections of challenging rocky and rooty terrain. Springtime brings variable weather but also less bugs and humidity. Plan your trip at ozarktrail.com.
May: Enjoy a Daycation
Temperatures are warming up. School is winding down. Grab the kids and play hooky for a day at Elephant Rocks State Park in Pilot Knob, Missouri. Here, billion-year-old granite boulders stand end-to-end like a giant train of red pachyderms. A self-guided trail walks along the geologic wonders and takes you past what remains of the 19th century mining operation that worked in the area. When you’re done at Elephant Rocks, drive to nearby Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park and splash among the water-smoothed rock chutes and natural swimming pools.
June: Ride Across Missouri
With new sections set to take it into downtown Kansas City, the Katy Trail offers the best way to bike Missouri from state line to state line. So, grab a riding partner, load up the panniers and prepare for 240 miles of mostly flat crushed limestone punctuated by soaring river bluffs, open prairies, inviting wineries and historic towns. Plan the trip yourself or sign up for Missouri State Park’s annual Katy Trail Ride, scheduled for June 20-24, which includes SAG vehicles, outdoor camping space each night (or shuttles to nearby hotels), hot showers, and daily breakfast and dinner. See mostateparks.com/2016KTRide.
July: Float the Current River
Is there any outdoor activity more custom-made for a scorching-hot summer day than a float trip on a clean, crisp, smooth-running river? The Current is formed by seven springs — including Big Spring, one of the largest in the world — and is central to the Ozark Scenic Riverway, America’s first national park for the preservation of a wild river system. The verdant forest, towering bluffs, fascinating caves and protected wildlife offer an array of shore excursions, but it’s the river that connects it all. Canoe, tube, swim, fish, camp, explore or just drift, paddle in hand, without a care in the world.
August: Ramble in the Moonlight
You haven’t fully experienced downtown St. Louis until you’ve ridden its streets on a bicycle — active, engaged and enjoying the sights and sounds around you. Throw in thousands of fellow cycling enthusiasts, and you’ve got yourself a rollicking street party on wheels. Moonlight Ramble is the longest-running nighttime bike ride in the U.S., having started in 1964, and is held at midnight near the full moon every August. The event inspires neighborhood parties before and after and showcases a parade of illuminated bikes, costumes, music and art like nothing else. Visit moonlightramble.com for details on the 2016 ride as they become available.
September: Hit the Great River Road
The Great River Road follows the Mississippi for 3,000 miles from northern Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico, weaving through 10 states and hundreds of towns. It is arguably the longest and most scenic byway in America, and is also a flyway for millions of migrating birds during the spring and fall. Ride the Rivers Century (trailnet.org) makes use of the road as cyclists log 100 miles in Illinois and Missouri in September. The Great River Road Run (altonroadrunners.com) in November is a 10-mile trek down the byway and back from Alton; this run’s post party at Fast Eddie’s Bon-Air is nothing short of legendary.
October: Vault Over the Edge
When was the last time you jumped off a perfectly good building? The first weekend in October is your chance, as Over the Edge invites you to rappel 17 stories from the rooftop of the Hyatt Regency St. Louis at the Arch. Those wanting to participate must raise a minimum of $1,000, with the proceeds going to support the athletes and programs of Special Olympics Missouri. So, take your fundraising to new heights and experience an adrenaline-pumping new view of downtown. Don’t wait to get involved; the event is limited to 160 participants. See somo.org/edge for more information.
November: Climb Taum Sauk Mountain
It’s been called “a natural stair-stepping machine,” rising to 1,772 feet above sea level, making it the highest point in Missouri. Taum Sauk Mountain is part of the St. Francois Mountains and located within the untamed confines of Taum Sauk Mountain State Park. Trails here lead to the state’s tallest waterfall, Mina Saul Falls, dropping 132 feet into a rock-bottom pool; the state’s deepest valley, with up to 700 feet of vertical relief; and the Devil’s Tollgate, an 8-foot-wide passage that cuts through 50 feet of volcanic rhyolite standing 30 feet tall. Campsites, picnic areas, water and restroom facilities invite extended stays.
December: Dive Bonne Terre Mine
Divers come from around the globe to explore the billion gallons of gin-clear water inside the old Bonne Terre Mine just south of St. Louis. The 80-square-mile labyrinth of tunnels and caves is the world’s largest freshwater dive resort, boasting 150 feet of visibility and a constant 58-degree water temperature year-round. Some 500,000 watts of lighting brighten the underground lake, illuminating 24 trails that take divers through mammoth archways, past beautiful calcium falls, around gargantuan pillars and to the many abandoned mining artifacts: oar carts, scaffolding, slurry pipes and elevator shafts. It’s eerie, serene and totally unique — the ghost-town stillness disturbed only by the movement of other divers.
Author: Brad Kovach is the editor of Terrain magazine