I recently came across a section of a newspaper based out of Cape Girardeau, Missouri called the Southeast Missourian, the Pavements Ends. On this site, I found a post about the Royal Gorge Trail at Ketcherside Mountain Conservation Area. This area is about 2 hours south of St. Louis. After passing through Ironton, the parking lot will be a few miles down on the right hand side of the road. It is labeled with the Ketcherside Mountain Conservation Area sign.
There are actually two hiking trails that leave from this parking lot. The first one is the Ozark Trail which will eventually pass through Taum Sauk Mountain. You can see my post HERE on that state park! We decided to hike the fairly new Royal Gorge Trail. This trail is a 2.3 mile lollipop style trail. The trail head is actually across Highway 21. Look for the yellow sign for where to enter the woods. Keep an eye out for the trail markers to find the trail. It can be a little difficult to see at first.
The trail winds through the woods and crosses a creek. The creek was pretty dry on the day that we visited, but I bet this area would be pretty in the spring.
The trail begins to climb and passes several interesting rock formations. Once you are high enough, several amazing overlooks await. The trees were just beginning to display their fall colors.
The trail is narrow and rocky in places, but it always felt like there was something interesting to look at.
^ El loving the hike & Dex taking a break and enjoying the view! ^
The trail descends and then begins to loop back towards the start. The back half of the trail follows a set of railroad tracks for a while before turning down a gravel access road.
Just before the low water bridge, take a right to meet back up with the main trail back to the parking lot. I really loved this trail. I would like to come back in the spring when there might be more water in the creeks.