Trail Running in St. Louis

Destination Dirt: St. Louis, Missouri provides St. Louis area trail running resources for new and experienced trail runners alike.

By on July 16, 2010 | Comments

Destination Dirt logoThe St. Louis Arch, also known at The Gateway to the West sits right on top of the muddy Mississippi River. Don’t let the flat nature of this flowing body of water confuse you as to what the area has in store for you. The St. Louis area is loaded with miles upon miles of every type of trail imaginable. Paved, gravel, rolling prairie, smooth packed dirt, and gnarly technical single track is all within your grasps when you enter the largest city in the “Show-Me-State” of Missouri. Not only do the trails around the city offer variety, but they also ton of learning opportunities and a path through history.

The first place we’ll look at is Forest Park. Located just a few miles west of downtown you will find almost 1300 acres of park to explore. Through the park you will find many miles of winding blacktop and crushed limestone paths to explore the various venues throughout the park like the St. Louis Zoo, the St. Louis Science Center, the Art Museum along with many other attractions for this historical park that opened in 1876 and served as the site of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition (better known at the Worlds Fair) in 1904.

Looking to get a little closer to nature? If so, then “Head West Young Man!” Just west of the city you start to work your way to the foothills of the Ozark Mountains. Chubb Trail is located in West Tyson Park and easily accessible from Exit 266 off of Interstate 44. The Chubb Trail is a trail runner’s delight. Chubb has of all sorts of variety, including sharp rocky footing on steep descents to winding dirt paths that hugs the banks of the Meramec River. The Chubb Trail is a 13 mile out-and-back that will take you from West Tyson Park to Lone Elk Park.

If you are feeling adventurous, you can even head into Lone Elk Park to cruise along some single track and run through the herd of Elk inside the park. You also have the option to jump onto some of the intersecting trails that Chubb connects with to cover even more ground, including the Castlewood Loop and the 3-mile Flint Quarry Loop. Chubb Trail is home to the St. Louis Ultrarunners Group (SLUGS) popular Double Chubb 50k/25k, which sold out in a little less than two weeks this year.

bluff to Meramec River

Heading down the bluff to the Meramec River.

Really want to test what the St. Louis area has to offer for technical trail running? Then head out to the Green Rock Trail. Green Rock is a 10 mile one-way singe track jaunt that will have you climbing and descending 2,000′ each while dancing around sharp limestone and bombing down steep downhills along the way. There are two trailheads, one off of Fox Creek Road and one in the Rockwoods Reservation.

Green Rock Trail is a favorite training ground for the SLUGS and is located next to Six Flags theme park. You can even hear the roller coasters in the background when you crest some of the tallest climbs. Come prepared. Ticks can be out in full force in the summer months so you’ll want to bring some bug repellent. Also, don’t take this trail lightly. Even the swiftest of the SLUGS are pleased to break the 4-hour mark when taking on the whole 20 miles.

Green Rock Trail Head Fox Creek

Green Rock Trail Head at Fox Creek.

For those looking to really get in some serious miles, you might want to think about a cross state trek by means of the Katy Trail. The Katy Trail is the nation’s longest Rails to Trails project. The trail starts in St. Charles, MO and finishes over 225 miles later in Clinton, MO, almost crossing the entire width of the state. The Katy Trail covers some of the route taken by Lewis and Clark as it follows along the Missouri River. There are many maps and resources available to help you navigate the trail as well as learn some history along the way.

Other Trail Systems
Since St. Louis sits right on the state line between Missouri and Illinois, it’s just a short drive to take advantage of some on the trails on the other side of the river in Madison County.

  • Madison County Trails – Over 85 miles of paved and pea gravel trails running through Madison County, Illinois are available to keep you moving and safely out of traffic.
  • SIUE Trail System – Located on the campus of Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville, IL you can find lots of winding single track to keep you busy.
  • Silver Lake Nature Trail – Just off of Interstate 70 is 4.5 miles lollipop single track trail in Highland, Illinois.

Trail Resources

  • MoTrails – An excellent resource for lots of trails in Missouri. Check out the EastCentral Region section for info around St. Louis.
  • St. Louis Ultrarunners Group – A friendly group of folks with great knowledge of the area and always happy to show someone around.
  • Gateway Off Road Cyclists – A great group of mountain bike riders that take great pride in riding and maintaining the trails.

SLUG Ultramarathons

St. Louis is home to the St. Louis Ultrarunners Group, so finding an ultra or five is not hard to do. Along with the normal Fat Ass and Fun Runs that take place throughout the year, The SLUGS also put on:

Non-SLUG Ultramarathons

Non-Ultradistance Trail Races

Call for Input and Questions
We’d love for folks who have trail run in the St. Louis metro area to share their favorite local trails and trail running resources. We’d especially love to know the particulars of your favorite routes as well as any great trail systems that we did not include.

For those of you knew to trail running in St. Louis or who may be visiting the town, please share any questions you have and we’ll try to find an answer for you.

Travis Liles

Travis Liles is a gear reviewer at iRunFar. He’s been reviewing trail running and ultrarunning gear (and occasionally penning an article) for over 15 years. He is married to his Junior High sweetheart, has two amazing daughters, and works as a solution architect for a large software company. Originally from the Midwest but now based in Portland, Oregon, Travis is an avid trail runner and ultrarunner. Over the past 18 years, he has competed in many ultra-distance races and has completed 15 100-mile races, including Ozark Trail, Leadville, Big Horn, and HURT 100. He is a recovering RD and enjoys pacing friends, trail work, and volunteering at local events.