By Trent Jonas
Winter doesn’t mean that you can’t get out and enjoy Missouri’s many awesome trails. In fact, in the places that get regular snowfall, you can do it entirely differently: Slap on some boots and skis and hit the trails Nordic style! These are our favorite places for cross country skiing in Missouri.
All but two of the St. Louis County parks are open to cross-country skiing, and some even have occasional programs, lessons, and equipment rentals. Greensfelder County Park is a great place for Nordic skiers of any level. The park’s 1,700 acres is home to miles and miles of trails of varying lengths and difficulty.
The same things that make Cuivre River State Park a hiking and equestrian paradise also make it awesome for cross-country skiing when there’s sufficient snow cover. A good mix of trails, from long and easy grassland paths to trails that skier should just outright avoid, you should find one that you like at Cuivre River.
In Northwest Missouri, Nordic skiers will enjoy the Urban Trail System in St. Joseph. Skiers may have to share this 13-mile multi-use, paved trail with bikers, but they’ll definitely enjoy the ups and downs. Some parts of the trail can be rather steep, but you’ll get your payoff on the downhill side.
Crowder State Park contains more than 1,900 acres of rolling hills, as well as rugged forest. Over 17 miles of trails criss-cross the park, offering cross country skiers plenty of terrain to explore. The North Loop, particularly, offers level, forested bottomland that’s perfect for skiing when there’s snow cover.
Intrepid skiers looking to break their own trails should head over to Rebel’s Cove Conservation area. While the area has no designated trails, about 1,500 acres of the area is grassland, crop land, or field, meaning that you can ski until your heart’s content—or your legs give out.
If you’d like a chance for some awesome wildlife viewing while cross country skiing, Lone Elk Park may be the place for you. The trail is a loop that circles a small lake. A resident herd of elk, along with deer, wild turkeys, and other creatures make this park home. Be careful around the elk—park visitors who’ve approached too closely have been gored.
Bilby Lake Conservation Area is another spot that affords skiers the opportunity to schuss across broad, open territory. There are no designated trails here, but more than 4,500 acres of field and grassland means that you will have plenty of room to ski. Just remember where you parked!