Photo from Missouri Department of Conservation

Pickle Springs Conservation Area is in Ste. Genevieve County, on the eastern edge of the Missouri Ozarks. It’s a sandstone landscape, unlike the granite and limestone/dolomite regions farther west and south, and because of that difference it has some amazing geological formations, sculpted by wind and water.

It has a two-mile trail that contains some of the most interesting and varied terrain in the state. You start on the ridgetop, then descend through the weathered stone into a deep creek valley that always seems moist and cool, no matter what the weather is like up above. The spring itself is small but beautiful, and as you can see from the photo above there are wet-weather waterfalls, drips, and seeps all through the valley, creating a lush landscape of ferns and mosses. It’s a marvelously calming hike, although the climb out of the valley is strenuous.

If I lived in Farmington, Ste. Genevieve, or anywhere nearby, I’d be out there every week.