The Ozark Trail

It stretches from airy mountaintops covered in swaying pines to impossibly green valleys overflowing with ferns and watered by cool spring creeks. Cerulean and Swainson’s warblers whistle through the riparian corridors and bottomland canebrakes.

Dry, hot glades, like those found on Peck Ranch Conservation Area, are home to collared lizards and coneflowers, while the soggy bottomland fens of Grasshopper Hollow Natural Area and Barton Fen Natural Area host rare plants and the endangered Hine’s emerald dragonfly.

The hike through Ketcherside Mountain CA to Mina Sauk Falls, the tallest waterfall in the state, is stunning. The trail leading from Johnson’s Shut-Ins to Bell Mountain is some of the most rugged hiking this state has to offer. Abandoned mining towns like Midco on Peck Ranch and the Scotia Iron Furnace on Huzzah CA offer an interesting historical perspective on the region.

Relax on a hot summer day by the cold trail-side streams on Rocky Creek CA. Smell the shortleaf pines wafting over igneous shut-ins at Mill Mountain NA. Watch the stars wheel overhead while a gentle breeze rustles hardwood forests and carries with it the yelps of coyotes on distant ridgelines. The Missouri Ozarks are enchanting, and the Ozark Trail could be one of the best ways to experience it.

While the trail itself leads to many wonderful things to see, there are many smaller side trips that can lead to scenic places, such as Greer Spring, Rocky Falls and Council Bluff Lake. Nearly 40 miles of the Ozark Trail run through conservation areas alone, and the trail touches on many fascinating natural areas, including Blue Spring, Royal Gorge and Powder Mill Cave.

The things to see and hear and experience on the Ozark Trail could fill several books. I present just a few of my favorite places to visit along the main north-south trunk of the trail. Some disconnected sections of the trail are not shown on the map on Page 24. For more information, up-to-date trail construction and detailed topographical maps of the trail, please visit www.ozarktrail.com. For detailed information, area maps and area brochures of Department of Conservation lands along the trail, visit www.MissouriConservation.org/2930.