Sometimes you just need to go for a walk in the woods. A few hours on a nature trail can do wonders for your mental and physical health. You don’t need any special gear to enjoy time outdoors hiking. Just grab a pair of binoculars, throw a couple of bottles of water in a backpack and lace up your favorite boots or gym shoes. Leave your phone at home. You’ll survive without it for a few hours.
There is somewhere to get outdoors to hike or walk on a nature trail in every Missouri county. State parks, the Mark Twain National Forest, Conservation Areas, nature preserves, wildlife refuges and many other properties offer such trails. Here are five places worth checking out this year.
Ozark Scenic National Riverways
The 84,000-acre Ozark Scenic National Riverways (OSNR) is a destination worth the drive from anywhere in Missouri. The Current and Jacks Fork Rivers are the two rivers of the OSNR. The park has numerous hiking trails offering varying degrees of difficulty and length. The Big Spring Trail System offers the River’s Edge Trail, which is a beautiful 1.8-mile round trip running along Current River. For those wishing to hike further, the Shawnee Loop Trail is 7-miles long, but know you will share this trail with horseback riders. No matter which trail you choose, the OSNR is a premier destination for breathing in nature and recharging your soul.
While there are many great hiking trails in Missouri, none are longer or more challenging than the Ozark Trail. The Ozark is comprised of 392-miles of trail weaving through the Missouri Ozark Mountains. Elevation change is challenging, scenery is incredible and the solitude is deafening. Passing through lands of the Ozark Scenic National Riverways, Mark Twain National Forest, Conservation Areas, state parks, and other public properties; the Ozark Trail belongs to all Missourians. This trail can be hiked in short sections or tackled as one long hike. For those looking for a real challenge, consider a thru-hike. This is hiking the contiguous 230-mile backbone of the Ozark Trail in one trip. The Ozark Trail is a must hike for any serious Missouri outdoor enthusiast.
Mark Twain National Forest
The Mark Twain National Forest encompasses approximately 1.5-millon acres offering 750-miles trail. The topography of the Mark Twain varies greatly. From deep ravines, to rolling hills, to river bottoms, you will be able to find a terrain that fits your desired style of hiking. The Cedar Creek Trail offers 36-miles of trail running through hardwoods and prairie. It is located in the 16,000-acre Cedar Creek District just southeast of Columbia. There are many trails in the Mark Twain National Forest, but one is free to roam at will. Sometimes no path at all is the best trail to take.
Big Muddy National Fish & Wildlife Refuge
The Missouri River has more than one nickname, but Big Muddy maybe the most fitting. This behemoth waterway gave birth to western exploration. Today, the Big Muddy National Fish & Wildlife Refuge is one of many public properties keeping the flora and fauna of the Missouri River safe from development. Those with wanderlust in their hearts can find the solace of nature by hiking in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark through the river bottoms of the Big Muddy. Notable trails are found at the Overton Bottoms South Unit and Jameson Island Unit.
Lake of the OzarksState Park
Scenic overlooks, old-growth hardwood forests, a multitude of wildlife species and a trail system to rival any state park in Missouri; Lake of the Ozarks State Park is undoubtedly one Missouri’s must hike destinations. There are 12 trails in the park. The Honey Run Trail at 12.75-miles is an all day affair. The 1-mile Coakley Hollow Trail is short but rugged. Lake of the Ozarks State Park is a popular camping destination. If you want to camp there on a weekend, make your reservations now.
See you down the trail…
A backpacker depends down a rugged trail in the solitude of wilderness.