Hawn State Park, located at the eastern edge of the St. Francois Mountains near Ste. Genevieve, is one of Missouri’s premier parks. Spring-fed streams meandering through stately pine and oak forest have cut deep into Lamotte sandstone bedrock to create canyon-rimmed valleys with tall vertical cliffs. In some areas the streams have exposed underlying igneous rock to create “shut-ins” where water rushes through granite outcrops. This diversity of rock exposures has resulted in a diverse and unique flora, with many of the park’s 660 species of trees, shrubs, ferns, and wildflowers known from nowhere else in the state.
I first visited Hawn some 25 years ago. It quickly became one of my favorite spots for insect collecting and hiking. While most of my insect collecting activities now take place outside of Missouri, it remains one of my favorite places to hike. The 1-mile Pickle Creek Trail follows the lower banks of the stream, offering beautiful views of the sandstone cliffs and granite shut-ins, while the 6-mile north loop of the Whispering Pine Trail traverses the upper bluffs and through the 2,080-acre designated wilderness area. A 4-mile south loop can be added onto the north loop to create a spectular 10-mile hike. I have hiked these trails many times throughout the years, though not recently, and my daughters Mollie (11) and Madison (8) had never been there, so I decided it was time to return for a family day trip.
Pickle Creek flows through igneous granite “shut-ins”
The girls take a break while ascending to the bluffs
Lamotte sandstone cliffs overlooking Pickle Creek
The best views from the cliffs are during winter, while in spring the area abounds with native azaleas