Sandstone Canyon Trail 

Finally, a day just right for Russ and I to get back out in the woods and explore! The weatherman said the high would be around 82°.  Not bad for Labor Day weekend! It was so hot this summer, too hot for hiking, especially after Russ had been working out in that heat. Then there was his hand issue, which is still a bit of a mystery but steroids and anti-inflammatory meds seem to be helping some. So we set out for Sandstone Canyon Trail at Don Robinson State Park in Cedar Hill, MO. The park opened in January 2017. Several friends have hiked it and said it’s great. The reviews on alltrails were good, mentioning the box canyon, caves, waterfalls, creeks…they sold me!

The first .50 mile was paved, with a wheelchair accessible trail going around it to cut down on the elevation. At the end of the paved trail is a nice pavilion with picnic tables. I don’t like walking on pavement but it was a pretty walk.


The first mile or so was just walking through the trees, nothing spectacular except for a huge funnel spiderweb. I tried and tried to get a picture of the whole thing where you could tell what it was, but it was just too tall.


Eventually we came to the beginning of the canyon area. The trail was really steep going down and I was really glad it wasn’t muddy! At the bottom was a creek and as I started to continue on to the right Russ spotted through the trees across the creek, what he thought might have been a broken up concrete bridge/road. He has to know what unnatural things are when we come across them so we left the trail, crossed the creek and explored. Russ decided that these huge slabs of concrete, some laying helter skelter on one side of the creek and in the creek, and others still standing going back over 100 feet to the canyon wall, must have been a dam. My pictures don’t tell the story very well as there was so much vegetation it was difficult to get good pictures. We have done a little research and can’t find any information about it. It’s a massive amount of concrete and we are as puzzled by what it really is, why it was built as we are by how in the heck did they get all of that concrete down there! So this thing is well over 100 feet long (if it were all still standing), about 2 feet thick and about 15 feet tall. That’s a lot of concrete!


Russ would have been happy to go home then! But the hike kept getting better and better. Several creek crossings, not much water…piece of cake. In places we were right next to the canyon wall. The closer to the canyon walls we were, the trail was mostly sand. That was nice to walk on! Most of the time the trail was along the rim of the canyon. It was beautiful but again so much vegetation my pictures were terrible. We saw several places that would have been awesome waterfalls had it not been so dry. IMG_20170902_130047581IMG_20170902_130114333_HDRIMG_20170902_131851965IMG_20170902_135057717

Then…The Canyon! This one is huge and beautiful and I can get some good pictures! I spot a trail down at the bottom and tell Russ we need to figure out how to get down there. Not far away there was a side trail going down to the bottom of the canyon! Oh boy!


It was even better than I thought it would be! And bigger! I’ll just let the pictures tell this part of the story.IMG_20170902_135915429IMG_20170902_140009171IMG_20170902_140158109IMG_20170902_140229776IMG_20170902_140238993IMG_20170902_140833631IMG_20170902_141029216IMG_20170902_141057000IMG_20170902_141145677_HDRIMG_20170902_140615308

Back on the trail there was an old crumbled down cabin, slowly sliding into a creek. IMG_20170902_142003259

By the time we climbed out of the canyon, we’d been out in the woods over 3 hours and had only gone a little over 2 miles! We tend to take a long time when we explore, we still had 2 more miles to go but Russ’s back was done. We took a shortcut trail and came across a nifty natural stone bridge. Met a couple & they told us about a few other good hiking places. And I found a funky woodpecker tree. Shortcuts are good things! img_20170902_145004932.jpgIMG_20170902_145234012_HDRIMG_20170903_195110_236IMG_20170902_151432153

I’m still amazed by the beauty I keep finding in my own state…Missouri! I can’t wait to go back and see what we missed. I’m definitely going back in the winter. My friend Scott sent me these pictures today from his hike in January. The temperature was 8°…yikes! I don’t think I’m that crazy, but I love winter hiking! .facebook_1504658289165.facebook_1504658250889

Hike #2 With My BFF – Matthiessen State Park

Dells Canyon and Bluff Trail. We changed the name to Stairmaster From Hell Trail! This is the park Crystal and I went to on Friday afternoon, took a look at all of the stairs at the trailhead and said “No thank you!”. I hate stairs! I fell down icy stairs a few years ago and broke my ankle and heel and split a tendon. Eventually had surgery to remove a piece of bone and repair the tendon which resulted in major nerve damage and the tendon repair failed. A second surgery to attempt to repair the damage resulted in a severed nerve and I’m pretty sure the tendon repair has failed as well. Half of my foot and my heel are numb and I walk with a weird gate and take stairs one at a time, leading with my left foot. Over time, this has effected my knees…they don’t like stairs either! It all hurts like heck, but I finally decided I needed to get up and start moving, I have the rest of me to take care of. My feet are going to hurt no matter what I do, sitting at my desk, watching TV or getting outside and enjoying nature and my friends and getting much needed exercise! So, I decided to conquer those stairs! With my BFF at my side, I could do anything! I wish I would have counted all of the stairs we went up and down that day. We did count one section going up from the lower dell to the middle trail…142 stairs! We went down 75 of them from the bridge into the lower dell. That was just a small portion of the stairs we went up and down!

We were at the trailhead by about 8:45 am. The parking lot was almost full! I have mad parking skills and always get good parking places, which I did. We took our time going down the stairs. We had no idea what we’d find once we got down there. Tons of people and a bridge over a stream and waterfall/lake! And of course, more stairs if you want to go down into the dells and get to the stream!

First chunk of stairs at the trailhead
Second chunk of stairs down from the trailhead
Looking back up a chunk of stairs we had just descended
View looking over the bridge into the lower dell
Stairs descending into the upper dell

Crystal and I headed for the upper dell stairs. Just going down the stairs it was beautiful!  The stairs end right in the water but there are round concrete stepping pillars to use. I didn’t take many pictures in the upper dell because there were so many people. I feel funny taking pictures of random strangers unless they’re far away or really cute guys, haha!


After exploring the upper dell and dodging people, we went back up the stairs and followed the road-like trail to a sign that said Lower Dell and yep, more stairs! A lot more stairs! A family…grandma (younger grandma), dad, pregnant mom and 3 little ones had gone down the stairs before us…pregnant mom carrying a toddler 😲…I was impressed! Down we went. I’m guessing 150+ stairs until we got to another bridge. Crossed the bridged then another 75 stairs (I did count these) down to the stream. It was even more beautiful than the upper dell! And more people. The weather was beautiful, people were taking advantage it and I don’t blame them. This time, the sun was just right for most of my pictures. I think they turned out pretty good for a phone camera. Once we got to the end of the canyon where the waterfall was, there were several caves I would loved to have explored but I didn’t have a flashlight and there were a lot of people going in and out of them in the dark…just didn’t want to go there! There’s a big stone face carving in front of one of the caves that’s really cool. I have no idea how old it is. While searching for information about the carving, I found a website with a really good article about Matthiessen State Park and the dells.                     

I’d love to go back and do this trail & yes, the stairs, again in the fall when the trees are changing but I can only imagine the crowds! So maybe I’ll try to get back there in the winter when the trees are bare and maybe not so many people. Ottawa is about 70 miles from Chicago, 250 miles from St Louis…it’s a beautiful area to visit, a fun weekend getaway.