Emmenegger Nature Park Takeaway. One of the best hikes for kids 4 to 7 in the Saint Louis area. A 1.5-mile loop that takes an hour with two snack breaks. The first quarter mile is straight uphill. Then, half a mile down. The final ¾ of a mile is flat along a river bed. Easy snack checkpoints. Ample parking. Bathrooms at the entrance. Dogs are allowed on leashes; no bikes. Conveniently located off of the I44/I270 interchange.
Emmenegger Nature Park Rules
The rules of the park are pretty straightforward:
Emmenegger Nature Park Entrance
EmmeneggerNature Park is a great hiking trail right off of the I270/I44 interchange.
It's located directly across from Powder Valley. When you first drive into the park, you pass the Powder Valley entrance first. Many a friend has taken the wrong turn into Powder Valley, so make sure to continue left past it until you see the first Emmenegger sign.
The proper entrance to Emmenegger Nature Park backs against a giant field. One of my buddies told me that when they first started hiking it seven years ago, it was actually a lake, but now it's bone-dry, just grass.
There are three different parking lots. There's an upper parking lot that's the biggest, a side parking lot, and some gravel near the entrance with room for four or five cars. There are bathrooms at the upper parking lot but no bathrooms on the trail.
Emmenegger Nature Park Trail
The Emmenegger Nature Park loop that we do is about 1.5 miles long, and it's the perfect length for four to seven-year-olds. They can walk the whole thing with light handholding for the younger guys and gals.
You'll find the entrance to the trail at the bottom of the hill near a green bike sculpture.
It starts on the paved trail that crosses the creek over a little bridge. That leads to a small paved loop that acts as choosing your adventure for beginning the hike.
We go clockwise through the loop, but you could do counterclockwise to take the inverse path. And there are also some shortcuts.
You walk the first tenth of a mile on the pavement until you encounter the hiking trail. When you hit the trail, you ascend immediately with the river on your left side. The first quarter of a mile is just straight uphill - the most challenging part of the hike. My almost-four-year-old walked the whole thing by himself with minimal breaks.
Carrying him the weekend before on my back with a backpack was quite the workout. An extra 35 pounds is a lot to trek up the hill.
When you reach the top of the elevation climb, there is a lovely lookout area with big, flat, giant rocks to sit on. This stop is where we have our first of two snacks. The view is excellent when no leaves are on the trees, but you can't see much in the spring and summer.
After you stop for your snack break, you have a tenth of a mile at elevation where it's flat. At that point, you hang a right and start going down the big hill you just came up. It's about half a mile down, a relatively gradual decline with some steeper parts. It's these steeper parts where I had to hold my son's hand for a bit.
At the bottom of the descent, you hit the creek bed. This checkpoint is typically our second snack break location, as the kids can play on the creek bed and throw rocks into the creek. Depending on the season, you'll either have a running creek or the remnants of one.
When we started going three years ago, water ran down the creek. My son fell into the middle of the stream in the winter, and my buddy grabbed him by the coat to pull him out. He had one very wet sock.
The creek was so dry this time that we walked in it for a good quarter mile. Usually, you walk along the stream for the remaining ¾ of a mile hike back to the paved circle entrance.
There's a nice little log that crosses over the creek bed that every little kid will want to cross. Little guys need a handholding, but older guys can probably cross it alone.
Hang a left on the pavement, cross over the bridge you started at, and you're back at the green bike. Your little ones will run in the field, climb the gate, or play with the bike for ten minutes while you debrief and plan lunch with your friends.