60 Hikes within 60 Miles: St. Louis
by Steve Henry (Menasha Ridge Press)
© 2010 Steve Henry/Menasha Ridge Press. All Rights Reserved.
Spent 3 days backpacking. Started at Bell Mountain North trailhead, and finished at Barton Fen, total 31 miles. This is a very isolated hiking area, only passed one hiker in 3 days. Brushy Creek Lodge provided shuttle service for a modest price! The trail was full of wild flowers, turtles and SNAKES, including a rattler. Lots of ticks, but this is Missouri! Scenery was nice, and the hike was enjoyable. Great views from Bell Mountain. Plenty of water once you are down the mountain. Limited camp sites. If you take this route, the first established place to camp is peter Cave Hollow Creek, 10.6 miles. The next available place to camp for the second night is Wolfpen Hollow Waterfall, and it is at mile 24.7. So you are putting in a serious 14 mile hike the second day. But that means you can sleep in the next morning with only about 6.5 miles left. There is a good website where you can plan your own route, get details of each route and it also provides detailed maps and topo maps: ozarktrail,com. When you finish at Barton Fen, be sure to stop in for a meal at the Bixby Country Store on hwy 32.
We walked the Lindsey Mtn Trail to a disappointing dead end.
Trail was vague. We Thought the red markers indicated the trail, but couldn't get past all the overgrowth and downed trees.
So , sadly, no amazing view from the top.
Just to be clear, I don't remember the exact date of the trip, but it was a wonderfully warm March Saturday when we took this trip. All my wife and I had time for was a one nighter, and Bell Mountain did not disappoint. I'm not for sure if we made it to its highest peak, but the views on Bell Mountain were very satisfying, none-the-less. All we had time for was a four-mile hike in and back the next morning. We only ran into two people the entire time, so privacy was great. I was kept up most of my sleep time because of a rock and what I believe was a coyote that must have been hunting something below us. The trail was relatively clear and easy to follow, but there were a few times that I had to stop and make sure we were still on it. I'm glad I had my GPS, however, keeping track of our progress. So, the next morning after waking up, I had no problems getting back to the trail. I definitely want to go back to Bell Mountain.
The Bell Mountain trail and the Taum Sauk section of the Ozark Trail (both of which I hiked on this trip) were easily the best hiking I've experienced in Missouri.
Before I get into discussing the trail, I have to comment on the excellent Topo maps that were made available for free at the trail head. Very impressive and spot on.
For my hike, I started at the southern trail head off of MO-A, and took the full loop, going west down to Joe's Creek and back up around to the summit on the east side.
As much as I prefer loop hikes, I think if I was doing this over I would stick to the east side. Hike from MO-A to the summit and back. The west side of the loop (the Joe's Creek side) was ok, but the east side, and especially the summit, was spectacular. If you've got two cars I would reccommend you park one at the northern trailhead and then hike from the southern trail head, around the east side of the loop. I think that would be a great hike. In any case, don't miss the southern spur between MO-A and the loop. It's a small piece of the Ozark Trail and easily the most difficult part of this hike. The reward, however, is the best views of the hike. The southern vistas are wonderful.
One other really interesting point, for as long as it lasts, from the Bell Mountain peak you can see the dam breach that ruined Johnson Shut Ins State Park.
The woods were pretty, but lacked any striking features. Basically a long walk in the woods.
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