Trail Report Week 14: LaBarque and Sandstone Canyon Trails

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The woods are so impenetrable you would think you were miles away from civilization. But at just 20 miles southwest from the urban core of Saint Louis, Missouri, The Don Robinson State Park offers city dwellers a chance to have total immersion in the heart of the wilderness.

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Less than two years old Don Robinson is Missouri’s newest State Park.  The park is set in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains and has over 9 miles of trails.

Given the sparse development of the area, you would never even know there was a metropolitan area of almost three million just a short drive away. The park is situated on a massive Sandstone Canyon and the surrounding bluffs and offers two trails one which goes into the canyon itself and the other which runs above it.

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The Park’s two trails are the Sandstone Canyon Trail which is a four-mile circuit with a connector trail that allows hikers to cut back half way and the LaBarque Hills trail a three-mile trail that has a scenic overlook. 

The park is named after Don Robinson a St. Louis businessman who made a fortune marketing a cleaning product called “Off.” Mr. Robinson took his profits and purchased the land that is now the state park. Upon his death, he bequeathed the estate to the state, and the park was opened to the public on January 1st, 2017.  

 

The land is located in the upper watershed of the LaBarque Creek. The creek contains some of the purest water in the state and supports over 40 species of fish. The land includes Sandstone Cliffs, box canyons, outcrops, and numerous shelter caves. The caves were begging me to explore them, but I avoided doing so given the caves are home to a vast clan of Black bears.

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From the research I have been able to find, there have been no attacks by bears on hikers. But the Rangers strongly request you be aware of the possibility of an encounter.

Nature abounds on the trail

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Robinson had a mountain cabin built on the property. It was being refurbished at the time of my visit. 
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The Canyon trail is mostly paved. The LaBarque trail is mostly a rocky trail. You can get by with athletic shoes, but hiking boots would be better on the creek trail.

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The LaBarque Creek Trail is much more of a challenge than the canyon trail, but the rustic and unspoiled scenery is tremendously rewarding.

PROS: Less than an hours drive (excluding rush hours) from anywhere in St. Louis area. A very new park so the trail conditions and the infrastructure are first-rate. Very secluded area and low amount of visitors means you really have the full-blown wilderness experience. 

Cons: The Creek trail is hilly and has a loose rock trail, make sure you have good hiking shoes and maybe bring your phone for emergencies. oh and BEARS!! Bears are scary!!

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