- Stunning views of the Illinois River valley from high up on bluffs
- The drive to get there along Great River Road is spectacular
- Lots of great historic structures from the WPA days
- Short hikes with high reward make this a great spot to take young kids
- The scenic drive through the park in Fall is spectacular.
- Lots of other things to see and do in and around Grafton to make a perfect day trip including wineries, great restaurants, ferries, Two Rivers Wildlife Refuge, and much more.
- Great place for bird-watching
- Perfect spot to catch a sunset
- Beautiful historic lodge that offers unique places to stay and dining
- Nice, beginner-friendly rock climbing bluffs (but you’ll need your own gear).
- During Spring floods, sometimes the Great River Road is shut down
Getting ThereGoogle your way to Alton, IL and then take the Great River Road up to Pere Marquette. It's just under an hour drive for us but it is by far my favorite drive in the area.
I’m amazed at the number of St. Louisans who have never driven the Great River Road from Alton up to Pere Marquette State Park. In my eyes, it is an absolute must-do day trip. Once you get a couple miles north of Alton on the Great River Road, you’ll have that, “Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore…” experience where the landscape has transformed into something very different.
The Mississippi is more like a fairly-wide lake than what you’ll find around St. Louis due to the dam at Alton. If the weather is nice, you’ll generally see lots of pleasure boats cruising around enjoying themselves. During sunset, the water can even get a nice blue hue to it. Add in the palisades (towering limestone bluffs) on your right and you feel like you have traveled far away when in reality you are only 30 minutes from downtown St. Louis.
Likewise, Pere Marquette is very different from most Missouri State Parks. It’s views from high in the bluffs over the Illinois River valley and Two Rivers National Wildlife Refuge are not to be missed, particularly at Sunset. In addition, the are many beautiful historic structures built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the great depression that provide an awe-inducing sense of living history. My family makes a point to visit there at least once a year and there’s never a lack stunning sites to photograph. I’m particularly a fan of visiting during peak fall colors.
Lots of the best views aren’t far from the road and can be easily enjoyed by families with younger kids or older adults that aren’t into long hikes. The scenic drive that winds through the park has quite a few parking lots that offer easy access to great scenic overlooks and historic park buildings.
A trip to Pere Marquette should also include a visit to Grafton just a few miles to the south. Grafton offers the perfect selection of restaurants, bars, quaint shops, ice cream and desert places, fresh fried fish joints, wineries, and more to visit before and after a hike around Pere Marquette.