Indulge in family friendly, outdoor activities during this unseasonably warm Christmas weekend


Bill Motchan , Special to the Jewish Light

Winter officially began last Tuesday, but the forecast this weekend will be positively spring-like. Here’s an idea for outdoor activities to take advantage of the mild weather: hiking and biking. Since many businesses will be closed over the Christmas holiday, it’s a great opportunity to check out the wealth of trails in eastern Missouri.

Among the cyclists who plan to hit the trails is Galit Lev-Harir, a member of Congregation B’nai Amoona and the Israeli American Council.

“What people may not realize is that there are over 100 miles of trails in the St. Louis area that are maintained by volunteers from an organization called GORC, which is Gateway Off Road Cyclists,” she said. “We go out on a regular basis and do trail maintenance.

“Here in Missouri all of our trails are multi-use trails,” she said. “That means that they can be used by hikers, runners, bikers or equestrians.”

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One of Lev-Harir’s favorite locations is the Zombie Trail. The main trailhead of the 22-mile trail is located at 777 Ridge Road on the parking lot of Ridge Meadows Elementary School.

“It’s so pretty,” Lev-Harir said. “There’s nothing like it. There’s an overlook where you can look out and see the whole valley below. It’s a phenomenal view.”

According to Sierra Club outings coordinator Jim Rhodes, there are “literally hundreds of trails in and around the St. Louis area. We’re lucky here in this part of Missouri to have such a wealth of great trails.”

In addition to the Zombie Trail, Rhodes suggested the Al Foster Trail in Wildwood. The 30-mile trail offers scenic views of bluffs, forest areas and the Meramec River.

“The Al Foster Trail is easy to get to and it’s very easy to maintain a six-foot distance from other hikers there,” he said.

Rhodes recommends the book “60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: St. Louis” by Steve Henry for a detailed list of trails in the region. If you’re a novice hiker, it’s a good idea to wear a sturdy, comfortable pair of walking shoes or boots and take a pocket-sized first aid kit and compass. A rugged water bottle is good to have, and a walking stick may offer stability on uneven terrain.

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Another family friendly outdoor option beginning this weekend is the Gateway Arch Park Foundation’s Winterfest in Kiener Plaza at 500 Chestnut Street, in downtown St. Louis. The Winterfest is open from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Dec. 25 and 12 noon to 8 p.m. from Dec. 26 through Jan. 2.

The Winterfest will also feature holiday lights, music, festive beverages and food, cozy igloos and s’mores. Families can ring in the new year on Friday, Dec. 31 at the Winterfest’s New Year’s Eve Neon Nights Celebration. The event will include Neon Nights with DJ MaKossa, face painters, a balloon artist, a skating “Wild Lights” juggler, fire dancers, photo ops, giveaways and fireworks at 8 p.m.