Thinking of packing your hiking boots away for the season? Think again. Winter is a great time to hit the trails; the crowds, the bugs and the heat are gone, and the stark scenery can be stunning, especially after a fresh snowfall. Wear layers to keep warm, stay fueled and hydrated, and be sure to take it slow and steady — the ground can be slick until fully frozen. Here are five fun winter hikes in our area.

Trail Among the Trees, Rockwoods Reservation
An interpretive pamphlet (grab one at the trailhead) leads hikers to a variety of natural and man-made features. Wooden bridges, creek beds, old rock quarries, ascending stairs, a cave and a ridge-top scenic overlook are all in the offing on this 1.5-mile, mostly paved path.

Spring Valley Trail, Cliff Cave Park
It begins with a steep climb on pavement to the top of the hill — over a creek and past the park’s signature cave. From there, the 3.75-mile trail consists of two concentric loops of twisty, flowy single track with connector spurs between them.

Clark Trail, Weldon Spring Conservation Area
Well maintained yet naturally rugged and undulating, this 5.3-mile loop offers stunning views from 100-foot-tall Missouri River bluffs. There’s one creek crossing, after which you need to take the fork that heads left (north); otherwise you’ll end up on the 8.2-mile Lewis Trail.

Goat Cliff Trail, Pere Marquette State Park
Investigate sharp rock formations, stand on the Cap au Gres Fault Line and pass by springs gushing out from under the trail. The 1.5-mile pathway ends at McAdams Peak, where hikers can gaze into three different bodies of water and see a Native American burial mound nearby.

Lone Wolf Trail, Castlewood State Park
This 1.5-mile route starts with a steep gravel hill climbing to the top of the Meramec River bluffs, then descends through switchbacks and stony, forested hillsides into the Kiefer Creek valley below. En route, hikers can see remnants of the former speakeasy that gave the trail its name.

Author: Brad Kovach is the editor of Terrain magazine