OUTDOORS: Winter can be a hiking wonderland in the Glassberg Family Conservation Area | Sports

Although winter has its drawbacks, it can still be a good time to get out and enjoy nature. The warmest of us don’t mind a bit of cold weather, but almost anyone can find relatively warm afternoons a good time to hike this time of year.

The bare trees and wide views can actually be considered an upgrade for the three-mile loop trail in the Glassberg (Myron and Sonya) Family Conservancy in far northwest Jefferson County. Its characteristic belvedere of the Meramec River, which is worth the detour at any time of the year, benefits from a clear horizon.

The trail explores about half of the 634-acre recreation area. Its 300-foot elevation change is mostly gradual, and the back half of the trail follows ridgelines for most of its length. There are enough climbs to remind you that this is a hike and not just a walk in the park, but the trail was well marked and worn when we visited in the fall.

Other than a few small clearings, the majority of the property is typical Missouri Ozark oak and hickory forest. About 500 feet from the parking lot on the FF highway, the loop forks. If you choose to stay to the right, you reach the lookout in just over a mile. The entire walk is uphill, but only a few spots seem steep. The views up and down are worth the effort.

Retracing your steps from the river view down the hill would shorten the walk to about two miles instead of three, and avoid a few ups and downs featured on the back half of the loop. If the walk seems too long, this might be a recommended alternative.

Hikers who choose the full loop are rewarded with a long north-south walk on top of a ridge with beautiful valley views on both sides of the trail. When the hike returns to the parking lot, the descent is only interrupted by a short climb.

The official state Department of Conservation area map does not show a trail to a 3-acre fishing lake on the site, but other online hiking platforms show an internal loop. The alltrails.com review board includes reviews that the trail is not well marked or always passable. We took a quick look at the path and kept trying it. Perhaps future development in the area will add better access to the pond.

The western half of the conservation area does not include trails, but provides remote sites for bowhunters. Shotgun hunting for turkeys, squirrels, and other upland game is also permitted, but not as common as deer hunting with a bow and arrow.

The estate is closed from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m., and bicycles and horse riding are prohibited. All pets must be kept on a leash.

The Glassberg area is part of an overall effort to protect the Labarque Creek watershed in Jefferson County. A stream crossing the trail empties into Labarque Creek in the adjacent Hilda Young Conservation Area.

LaBarque Creek is over six miles of continuously flowing stream. It is home to 52 species of fish with an underlying sandstone geology that produces spectacular landscapes including steep and narrow valleys, canyons, cliffs and shelter caves.

The LaBarque watershed covers approximately 13 square miles and more than half of the area is publicly owned, including three Department of Conservation properties and the more than 800-acre Don Robinson State Park, which is owned and is managed by the state Department of Natural Resources.

The Glassberg Family Conservation Area is on the FF Highway, less than half a mile from John McKeever Road.

John Winkelman is director of marketing for Liguori Publications near Barnhart, Mo., and associate editor for Outdoor Guide Magazine. If you have story ideas to share for Leader’s outside news page, email [email protected], and you’ll find more outside news and updates at johnjwink.com.