April is the peak month for wildflowers in Missouri. Flowers can be found along many trails, but one sure-fire location is Seventy-Six Conservation Area in Perry County.
I've visited Seventy-Six numerous times over the years -- including one memorable day filled with armadillo sightings. Each visit, it seems that the Conservation Department has made additional improvements to the area, including the establishment of the "Wilkinson Trail", a looped nature trail.
Presumably named for John Wilkinson, the founder of the long-lost town of Seventy-Six, the Wilkinson Trail provides a nice balance of hills, river views, creeks, open fields, rock outcrops, sinkholes, and wildflowers (as well as armadillos if you're lucky).
Following old farm roads, the trail is a "gut-buster" featuring two major hill climbs. However, the Mississippi River views are worth the effort.
A series of open fields provide a clear view across the river floodplain into Illinois.
At one point, the trail descends to the river level and meets a minor tributary at a rickety wooden bridge. This particular spot is loaded with wildflowers, especially trillium.
The trail begins and ends near Clines Branch, a picturesque stream dotted with chunks of limestone.
Seventy-Six Conservation Area doesn't have spectacular scenery, but it does have a variety of things to explore. It's like the jack-of-all-trades for the outdoors.
From Cape Girardeau, take I-55 north to the Fruitland exit (#105). Then turn right and continue on US 61 north through Fruitland to the junction with Route C. Turn right and follow Route C as it snakes through Pocahontas, New Wells, Altenburg, Frohna, and Brazeau. At Brazeau, turn right on Route D (look for the conservation area sign). Follow Route D to where the pavement ends and continue straight ahead on Perry County Road 437. Just after crossing the creek on a low-water bridge, turn left into the parking lot with the "Hiking Trail" sign.
At the far side of the parking lot, look for the trailhead. Grab a map from the information board if available. The trail will come to an immediate junction; I'd recommend going straight and following the loop counter-clockwise. Skirting along a hillside, the trail will pass through an old limestone quarry before ascending to the top of a ridge. Follow the signs as the trail crosses a series of open fields, then descends back to river level. It then (deep breath) climbs to the hilltop again, meanders through the woods, and eventually turns back toward the trailhead.