Hibernation may seem a logical (and perhaps biological) option for the months when Earth‘s tilt moves the Northern Hemisphere as far away from the sun as it can. Instead of napping, though, why not don a few layers, plop a hat on your head and head out into season. A brisk walk in December or January will pump blood into your cheeks and give you a fresh perspective on the stark beauty of winter.
Following are a few favorite walking and hiking destinations. The list isn’t comprehensive; it’s meant more as inspiration to get up and out to enjoy the season.
If you’re not a nature-lover by nature, that shouldn’t keep you from a brisk walk and some lovely sights—just head for one of the area’s best loved neighborhoods. Take a loop through the Loop, where you can window shop and admire the holiday lights strung overhead. And downtown districts in Webster Groves and Kirkwood offer equal opportunities. The city’s Central West End or Candy Cane Lane are other great destinations. Just don’t duck into one of the many restaurants and coffee shops until you’ve covered several blocks and your toes tingle a bit.
Parks and paths
For nighttime walks, consider Missouri Botanical Garden, which has Garden Glow going this year—thousands of strung lights, warming fire pits and even s’mores (though we recommend earning one first). The Saint Louis Zoo’s Wild Lights display is up and twinkling; hike past the animals (some slumbering, some not) and take in the holiday lights.
If you like your nature just a little more natural, Tower Grove Park’s paths might be the right place for a winter constitutional. There are trails and paths to wander in Queeny Park (which also has a skating rink) and Laumeier Sculpture Park, too, both of which have particular beauty in winter. Or you can walk the paths at Powder Valley, then head indoors to warm up by a fireplace lit on particularly cold days and watch the birds gather at the feeders just on the other side of tall windows. Forest Park has acres of walking paths, from hills to flat stretches. Snow days bring sledders to Art Hill, in front the Saint Louis Art Museum; Steinberg ice rink is a favorite for skaters.
Cahokia Mounds is another good destination; the hike to the top of the tallest mound will get your heart pumping. Cahokia celebrates every solstice, too; the winter one, December 22, begins at Woodhenge at 6:50 a.m. And, finally, why not start a new New Year tradition by making the drive to Shaw Nature Reserve near Gray Summit, Mo., for the first walk of 2014? If we have snowfall on New Year’s Eve, the hike will be spectacular.