There’s a magical section of singletrack on Bluff View Trail, maybe two-thirds of the way to the top, where you suddenly find yourself going downhill while going uphill. Don’t ask me how it’s possible. It just is.
One moment you’re climbing, the next you’re cruising ever faster toward the scenic overlook and its beautiful panoramic of the Meramec River Valley (pictured above).
This amazing fragment of hard-packed earth comes after a steady, quarter-mile ascent out of a creek bed, almost precisely when you’re ready for a breather. Tell me that’s not divine intervention, or at the least praise-worthy trail design.
Bluff View was built by Gateway Off-Road Cyclists (GORC) and AmeriCorps volunteers and opened in 2013, making it one of the newest trails in St. Louis County. It’s a solid intermediate-level route, with prolonged gradients and a number of moderately technical features spread across its two and a half miles.
A series of roots and rock outcroppings greets you at the lower end of the trail (welcome!) before a couple of tight switchbacks lead into dense forest with nice, flowing lines. Watch for the bluebell fields and the short, steep drops at the creek bed; then it’s up, up, up the rise, with a few twists and turns to keep things exciting.
The most deceptive part, aside from the downhill-slash-uphill section mentioned earlier, is the half-mile after the overlook. It might not appear very steep, but your groaning quads will tell a different story. Where the singletrack tops out at Old State Road amid the stone ruins of long-abandoned estates, a new trailhead named Bluff View Park offers room for multiple vehicles and horse trailers.
The land on which Bluff View sits was leased to the City of Wildwood on the condition that it be open to equestrian use, said Gary Crews, superintendent of Wildwood Parks & Recreation. And while some have voiced concern about horses impacting the condition and character of the trail, “I think things have gone fine over at Greensfelder Park [where equestrian use is also permitted] and everyone will get along,” Crews said.
The elevation change on this compact trail is approximately 220 feet, so it’s a thrilling descent from the top. Be mindful of the tight turns and technical features, as these may seem simple to negotiate when going uphill but take on new danger once your speed has increased.
Bluff View Park provides the most direct access, but for now you can also find Bluff View Trail via Al Foster Memorial Trail, about a half-mile from the main trailhead at Washington Avenue. This will change, though, as new singletrack is built that will join Bluff View with the Rock Hollow (Zombie) Trail currently under construction.
“At present, the Department of Natural Resources discourages the use of the Al Foster Trail by equestrians, and those taking a horse on the Al Foster could be issued a summons by State Park Rangers or St. Louis County Police,” said Crews. “Plans are being formulated to connect the [Bluff View and Rock Hollow] trails without having to utilize the Al Foster. What we’ll eventually have is an 11-mile loop accessed from Bluff View Park.”
While significant headway is expected to be made on the loop this winter and spring, there is no official timeline for completion of the project. “It really is dependent on weather, GORC, and AmeriCorps,” said Crews. “But considerable progress should be made in the next year.”
Bluff View Trail
Length: 2.5 miles
Surface: Dirt singletrack
Hours: Open daily, from half-hour after sunrise to half-hour after sunset
Best for: Hiking, running, mountain biking, equestrian
Parking: Available at Bluff View Park off Old State Road
Amenities: Picnic tables, trash receptacles, and portable restrooms will be available when Bluff View Park officially opens
Author: Brad Kovach is the editor of Terrain magazine