Trailhead at Old St. Ferdinand Shrine
The Sunset Greenway in Florissant, Missouri is a biking and walking trail that runs for three miles from Old St. Ferdinand Shrine to Sunset Park on the banks of the Missouri River. No, the trail is not right on Route 66, nor does it cross Route 66, but the trailhead at the Shrine is only a short detour off of the Route 66 Bypass (was Route 66 from 1936-1955) in North St. Louis County.
To get to the trailhead, from either I-270 or Dunn Road, exit onto Hanley/Graham Rd. and head north. After you cross Washington Street, the name of the road you’re on changes to St. Ferdinand. Turn left on St. Francois, and park at the shrine. While you’re there, if you want to tour the shrine, you can contact them in advance and make an appointment. The church building dates to 1821, and St. Rose Phillipine Duschene, cannonized by the Roman Catholic Church in 1988, lived and worked here.
This area is historically significant, but is also special to me personally because I grew up in a neighborhood just to the south and rode my bike countless times to the shrine, Coldwater Commons Park adjacent to it on the north side, and Knights of Columbus Park on the southwest side. Knights of Columbus Park is the site of the Valley of Flowers festival. I can’t begin to tell you how exciting it was hear the noise of the rides from home when I was a kid. The walk up there to the festival seemed to take forever back then!
Ramp Under Lindbergh Blvd.
At the beginning of your ride, you’ll be alongside Coldwater Creek, which eventually empties into the Missouri River at Fort Belle Fontaine Park, a very interesting place in itself with a beautiful hiking trail and imposing and unusual WPA-era architecture. You’ll pass under Lindbergh Blvd. via a neat ramp and enter St. Ferdinand Park, where you’ll cross Coldwater Creek and enter a brief area of suburban backyards. Water is available at St. Ferdinand Park, Sunset Park, and two spots along the trail in between so if you forget your water bottle like I did on one occasion, it need not spoil your ride. After you cross Patterson Road, you’ll follow large power line towers along a wide grassy area on a gently meandering asphalt trail all the way to Sunset Park. There are attractive flowering plantings along the way which do a nice job of softening what could be a fairly stark landscape. Some of the local residents have gardens on both sides of the trail. As you approach Sunset Park, you will be on a long slow uphill climb, which is the only part of this ride that is at all challenging. Just think of how much fun it will be on the way down!
View of the Missouri River from Sunset Park
This route was a favorite of mine for bike rides when I was in eighth grade and high school, but the trail was not there then and I had to use the road which has no shoulder. The trail makes the route a lot more fun now! Once at Sunset Park, you’ll be rewarded with views of the majestic Missouri River. There is a new section of trail under construction in a area where we used to go as kids, but we had to bushwhack then because there was no trail. It will be interesting to see what that new section is like when it’s done.
When you get back to the shrine, you might consider taking in some of the other historic sites in Old Town Florissant – it’s a great area to explore on foot. There are many beautiful and historic homes here, including Casa Alvarez, circa 1790, which is the only structure in the St. Louis metro area that remains from the days of Spanish rule.