Welcome to the Sixth installment of our “Trail Town” series. Every month we will feature an article about a trail running city that you should put on your bucket list of places to visit! This month we feature the town of Wildwood, in the great state of Missouri.
Located about 25 miles west of Downtown St. Louis, Wildwood, Missouri is located at the foothills of the Ozark Mountains, and offers some of the most scenic trails in the Midwest. For the St. Louis metro area, Wildwood serves as the weekend retreat for outdoor enthusiasts.
The City of Wildwood, which incorporated as a City in 1995, has invested significantly in developing its trail system over the past two decades, and its trails have now become one of the primary features that attract visitors to the area.
The Wildwood culture is all about enjoying the great outdoors, and that goes well beyond the trails. Not only does Wildwood offer an extensive network of over 50 miles of trails, but it is also home to Babler State Park, Rockwoods Reservation, Greensfelder County Park and the Wildwood Community Park, where many opportunities exist to explore off the trails, too. Water recreation is also popular along the Meramec River; and during the winter, Hidden Valley Ski is the only place for winter snow sports in the region. Wildwood is also a very popular area for road cycling and equestrian use.
As for the Wildwood trail system, this trail town has started to attract a number of popular competitive races. The Frozen Feet Trail Half-Marathon (January), Ozark Foothills 25K/50K (April) and Rockin’ Rockwoods 20k/53k (October) have all attracted national competition, and will only continue to grow. For the novice, a number of organized hikes have also been held for many years in Wildwood, including the Cabin Fever Hike in February and the Green Rock Trail Challenge in June (National Trails Day). For younger trail enthusiasts, the Junior Trailblazer Program is available for kids ages 5 to 13 to get healthy and fit by exploring the many miles of trails in Wildwood. Participants in the program work at their own pace to complete the Junior Trailblazer varying workbook activities, depending on their age.
While Wildwood runners are not on the trail, they’re watching it on the big screen. In cooperation with Terrain Trail Runners and B & B Theatres, several special showings of popular running films, including the annual Trails in Motion series, have been offered and well attended.
Although recreational trails and beautiful scenery are not the first things that come to mind when you think of St. Louis, there is a unique gem of a trail town not far to the west in Wildwood. What better way to enjoy a weekend away the big city by exploring the trails of Wildwood, followed by a great meal and a local craft beer on the patio of one of Wildwood’s great local pubs, and ending with some camping at Babler State Park or a more-pampered stay at the Wildwood Hotel.
The City of Wildwood has an extensive trail system, with over 50 miles of trails throughout the community, ranging from rugged single track trails for endurance athletes and hikers to wider paved trails for families and young children. A Citywide Access & Mobility Plan, as well as greater details on specific trails, is available on the City website.
Several of the City’s most popular trails have dedicated trailhead parking areas, including the Al Foster Memorial Trailhead, Bluff View Trailhead and Rock Hollow Trailhead. Additionally, several public parking areas within the Downtown area provide close access to the Wildwood Greenway Trail. The Downtown area is also linked to the greater metropolitan area through Metro Transit Bus Route #57.
The City of Wildwood Department of Parks & Recreation has primary responsibility for managing the City’s trail system. However, certain other trails are also managed by St. Louis County Parks, and Missouri State Parks. Wildwood also has a great partner in the Gateway Off-Road Cyclists (GORC), who have volunteered their time to build several miles of single-track trail in the City. “Wildwood’s trails are one-of-a-kind, and set us apart. Our residents get to experience all the nature, while being part of a major metropolitan area,” said Mayor Jim Bowlin.
The City of Wildwood is the place to go for outdoor recreation in the St. Louis area. There is a great community volunteer group in GORC, and many outdoor enthusiasts, both Wildwood citizens and visitors from outside Wildwood, come here to enjoy use of the many scenic trails.
In addition to the locations listed under the Coffee and Beer sections, Wildwood offers a couple dozen other great restaurants to choose from for a variety of cuisines including Big Chief Roadhouse, Big Bear Grill, Benedetto’s on Main, Parkside Grille and Table Three.
Although a speciality running store has not yet been located in Wildwood, Big River Running is nearby and has served as a great partner in offering top-of-the-line running gear, and well as managing the timing for several of the City’s races. Wildwood also has a great partnership with Terrain Trail Runners, who manage a couple of regional ultra marathon events on the trails of Wildwood (with a third currently being planned).
The City of Wildwood has a unique set of users, including walkers, runners, cyclists, and equestrian use. Most trails accommodate all users, and have signage and other public education material regarding sharing the trails with all users. For younger users, Wildwood also offers a Junior Trailblazer Program.
Locals love the opportunity to race on the network they train on. Competition on the trails of Wildwood is continuing to grow. So far, there are three major endurance trail races, with more in the works:
Several local groups have also organized 5k runs on some of the City’s trails.