July 22, 2014

20 options for hiking in Missouri - even in winter

If you’re looking to get some exercise and enjoy the beauty of the Missouri outdoors, we have some options for you.

Looking for a way to hike into Missouri’s outdoors? Here are some options.

1. KATY TRAIL (225 miles, from Clinton to Columbia)

This hiking and bicycling path is one of the largest rails-to-trails conversions in the United States. The trail takes hikers and bicyclists to breath-taking view of the Missouri River, along bluffs and through quaint river towns.

2. LAKE OF THE OZARKS STATE PARK (trail system near Osage Beach, Mo.)

This state park offers 10 major hiking trails, ranging in length from one to six miles. The one-mile Coakley Hollow Trail in the Ozarks Caverns part of the state park leads hikers through the woods to a beautiful view of Lake of the Ozarks.

3. HA HA TONKA STATE PARK (trail system near Osage Beach, Mo.)

Trails lead hikers to the spring and the steep bluffs that overlook it, to a castle built in the early 1990s and to the Devil’s Kitchen with its natural amphitheatre.

4, WESTON BEND STATE PARK (trail system near Weston, Mo.)

This state park includes trails for hikers of all skill levels. Trails cut through beautiful forests and climb to scenic overlooks of the Missouri River.

5. BURR OAK WOODS CONSERVATION AREA (trail system in Blue Springs, Mo.)

The five trails in this suburban setting give metropolitan residents a chance to explore the outdoors. The 1.33-mile-long Bethany Falls Trail winds through huge boulders and scenic rocky outcroppings.

6. OZARK TRAIL (550-mile trail from St. Louis area into northern Arkansas)

This trail winds southwest from the St. Louis area through some of the Ozarks’ most beautiful terrain. It eventually connects with the Ozarks Highlands Trail, creating a 700-mile trail system.

7. TAUM SAUK MOUNTAIN STATE PARK (3 miles, near Ironton, Mo.)

This trail leads to some of Missouri’s most striking scenery. The path ascends to Taum Sauk Mountain — at 1,772 feet, Missouri’s highest peak. From there, it winds to Mina Sauk Falls, the state’s tallest waterfall.

8. ELEPHANT ROCKS STATE PARK (trail system near Graniteville, Mo.)

Boulders as big as elephants are the highlight of this system of trails. The trails lead to gigantic pink granite boulders and through other unique geological formations.

9. BELL MOUNTAIN WILDERNESS TRAIL (12 miles, in the Mark Twain National Forest near Potosi, Mo.)

This trail provides breathtaking views of the St. Francois mountain system. The trail climbs to the 1,702-foot-high peak of Bell Mountain and past rocky outcroppings and shut-ins. For experienced hikers.

10. OZARK NATIONAL SCENIC RIVERWAY (trail system near Eminence, Mo.)

The red Alley Spring Mill on the Jacks Fork River is one of the most photographed sites in Missouri. Trails lead to the spring and up steep inclines to overlooks.

11. PADDY CREEK WILDERNESS (17-mile loop trail in the Mark Twain National Forest near Roby, Mo.)

Two portions of the trail — the northern section that is 9.7 miles long and the southern part that is 7.3 miles long — bring hikers through true wilderness in the Ozarks. Scenic creeks, thick forests, rocky outcroppings and overlooks are the features of this trail.

12. DEVIL’S BACKBONE WILDERNESS AREA (13 miles in the Mark Twain National Forest near Ava, Mo.)

This trail system leads hikers to spectacular views from ridges, to spring-fed hollows and caves along the way. For experienced hikers.

13. ELEVEN POINT RIVER TRAIL (30 miles, in the Mark Twain National Forest near Thomasville, Mo.)

This is part of the Ozark Trail, Missouri’s premier long-distance trail. It gives hikers an opportunity to view the scenic Eleven Point River from atop high bluffs and also weave through rock formations at the Devil’s Backbone. For experienced hikers.

14. GREER SPRING TRAIL (1 mile, in the Mark Twain National Forest near Alton, Mo.)

This short trail takes hikers through a mix of hardwoods and pines to Greer Spring, the second-largest spring in Missouri, which feeds the Eleven Point River. A highlight of the trail is an old mill that still stands near the spring.

15. HERCULES GLADE WILDERNESS (31-mile trail system in the Mark Twain National Forest near Bradleyville, Mo.) Another true wilderness experience. Trails lead to Long Creek Falls and to panoramic views of the Ozarks.

16. HAWN STATE PARK (15-mile trail system near Weingarten, Mo.)

Hikers can relax beside a waterfall on Pickle Creek, walk along sandstone bluffs, and take in the view from scenic overlooks.

17. BENNETT SPRING STATE PARK (The 7.5-mile-long Natural Tunnel Trail near Lebanon, Mo.)

The trail’s highlight is a stop at its namesake, the Natural Tunnel, which was formed when water eroded the rock to form an exit in a cave. Small caves, bluffs, rugged hillsides and wildflowers add to the beauty of this trail.

18. JOHNSON’S SHUT-INS STATE PARK (trail system near Lesterville, Mo.)

This state park features trails that take hikers along the spectacular shut-ins, places where water has sculpted deep, narrow gorges.

19. MERAMEC STATE PARK (trail system near Sullivan, Mo.)

The 10-mile Wilderness Trail leads hikers into a remote area that includes springs, bluffs and caves. Five smaller trails cover six miles and also feature some beautiful Ozarks scenery.

20. GRAND GULF STATE PARK (trail system near Thayer, Mo.)

Hikers can explore “The Little Grand Canyon,” a chasm that was created years ago when a cave system collapsed. They also can walk over one of the Ozarks’ largest natural bridges and past many cave entrances.

To reach outdoors editor Brent Frazee, call 816-234-4319 or send email to bfrazee@kcstar.com.

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