Shaw Nature Reserve | Kids Out and About St. Louis

Shaw Nature Reserve

307 Pinetum Loop Road
Gray Summit , MO , 63039
Phone: (314)577-9555
38° 28' 55.4628" N, 90° 49' 28.5852" W
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Shaw Nature Reserve, an extension of the MO Botanical Garden, includes 2,400 acres of natural Ozark landscape and managed plant collections. With 17 miles of trails, a Nature Explore Classroom, 5-acre native wildflower garden, and programs for all ages, Shaw Nature Reserve offers ways for everyone to connect with nature!

Shaw Nature Reserve, on the Meramec River and about six miles south of the Missouri River is in the region known as the Ozark Border. This region encompasses some 13 percent of the state of Missouri and divides the rolling prairie lands of northern Missouri, that were formed by glaciers, from the Ozark Plateau, that was formed by uplift and erosion. The Reserve is near the junction of Highway 100 and Interstate 44 in northeastern Franklin County.

Missouri is known for its rich and beautiful collection of natural habitats as well as for its complex and diverse geology. Since Shaw Nature Reserve sits at the juncture of several of these major Midwestern habitats, the diversity of both plant and animal life is great. This natural diversity provides an exceptional outdoor classroom for scholars and students as well as casual observers.

At the Reserve, the replicated prairie evokes images of buffalo and Native Americans as breezes ripple the sea of native grasses and forbs. Each spring, abundant woodlands burst forth with a multitude of native wildflowers while, later in the year, the same woodlands offer lush green shade, oases from the summer sun.

Wetlands, known for their splendid array of species, offer a close-up look at aquatic plant and animal life. Visitors to this special environment include great blue and little green herons, dragonflies and other fascinating creatures. The slopes, which are the watershed of the wetlands, are cloaked in flowery reconstructed prairie.

The many trails offer easy strolls and hikes that bring visitors in close contact with these habitats. One can explore for an hour or a day—the variety of trails offer many choices. Benches along the way provide resting spots for quiet meditation and observation of birds, butterflies and other wildlife as well as the seasonal parade of both flowering and non-flowering plants.

St. Louis is one of very few metropolitan regions that can boast of a 2,441-acre natural asset such as Shaw Nature Reserve so near its city-based parent organization, the world-famous Missouri Botanical Garden. This proximity allows easy access for children and adults alike to not only experience the natural beauty of our region but also to learn sound environmental stewardship through the Reserve’s numerous educational programs.

The Missouri Botanical Garden’s land purchase in 1925 began the legacy of Shaw Nature Reserve. Originally set up as a safe refuge for the plant collection from the smoke pollution of the 1920’s, its role in the community has evolved through the years. Shaw Nature Reserve has many roles—as a nature reserve, a place to walk and hike, and a good spot for relaxing and for studying nature. It has become a premier educational, research and habitat restoration and reconstruction site.

Over the years, tens of thousands of school children and adults have learned more about nature and the environment by observation and through the guidance of Shaw Nature Reserve’s educational and professional staff. Teachers themselves come to improve their teaching of ecological principles as well as to gain a greater appreciation of the natural world. In recognition of its worth as an educational resource, the Reserve was designated a National Environmental Education Landmark by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior in 1972.


The Shaw Nature Reserve is open year round from 7 a.m. until sunset. Visitor Center hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends. The Bascom House is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Sunday. Shaw Nature Reserve is open to hikers every day, but the Visitor Center and Bascom House are closed on most major holidays.


  $5 adults  
  $3 students and seniors (65 and older)  
  Free Garden members and children (12 and younger) Become a member

Special admission charges may apply for some events.

No pets are allowed on the grounds.


Wheelchair Accessibility:

The Bascom House is wheelchair accessible, as are the restrooms in the house. The Whitmire Wildflower Garden is also wheelchair accessible; however, in addition to paved paths, some of the paths in the garden are of wood chips and therefore more difficult to negotiate in a wheelchair.

The Wetland Trail is ADA approved. The wetland trail parking lot at the bus stop is accessible by car, Mondays through Thursdays, April through November.

The glade overlook (in the vicinity of the Trail House) is down a 50-yard path of finely crushed gravel. The parking lot for the glade overlook is accessible by car, Mondays through Thursdays, April through November.

Shaw Nature Reserve has two heavy-duty wheelchairs available for visitors to use at no cost. When you register at the Visitor Center upon your arrival, we will arrange for you to get a wheelchair.

Stroller Accessibility:

The larger and thicker the tires of a stroller, the smoother the ride on Shaw Nature Reserve's paths. The Whitmire Wildflower Garden and the Bascom House are easily managed with all types of strollers, but we recommend large tires on hiking trails. Most hikers choose to use a backpack carrier for real hiking. There are two heavy-duty jogging strollers available to rent for $3.

Shaw Nature Reserve Trail Map


Your cooperation will help maintain this area for all to enjoy:

  • No pets are permitted on the grounds.
  • No collecting is permitted. Do not pick wildflowers, pine cones, etc.
  • Bicycles permitted on service roads only.
  • No fires, smoking or alcoholic beverages.
  • Picnicking is allowed at the designated table areas only.
  • No hunting, fishing or swimming.
  • Please stay on trails.
Contact Information

If you have questions about Shaw Nature Reserve, please call the Visitor Center at (636) 451-3512 between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekends Central time.

Shaw Nature Reserve
P.O. Box 38
Gray Summit, MO 63039

email our staff by sending a message addressed in the format:

For general Shaw Nature Reserve Questions by email

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Shaw Nature Reserve offers programs for ages 3 and up to learn about Missouri's plants and animals. Programs often involve nature hikes, art projects, and storytime.

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