love horseback riding out here, just wish the forestry department would make areas to cut through the woods to avoid the boggy areas. I know there are some deep areas that have been torn up by fellow riders... but please jeep in mind, a lot of the time there is no way for horses to avoid some of the boggy areas. No horse enjoys going through knee deep mud.... & boggy areas stay wet for several weeks when other areas are dry.
I agree with the other reviewers. The trail (Smith Creek Loop) is terrible due people riding their horses when the ground is wet. A lot of the time we had to walk in the woods beside the trails so we wouldn't twist our ankles or step in the deep holes they left. The views on top of the bluffs are beautiful and there some great spots to stop and camp.
Have hiked several of the trails in Cedar Creek system. This time started at Dry Fork. New maps are at trail heads but trails are pretty well marked. The only drawback is that horse and riders have destroyed much of the trail in the whole system. There are huge wash outs and riders keep using the trail while wet which causes the trail to be a sloppy mess.
If you want adventure, this trail is for you. Dad and I rode horses through the South loop--the 22 mile southern part.
Pros: Epically tough. Huge washouts, rickety bridges, fields of longhorn cattle, barbwire, 60 degree inclines, huge boulders, several river crossings--you name it, it was there. Amazing Missouri scenery--both old growth forests, winding prairies, and sloping hills. In one day we made great memories that will last a lifetime.
Cons: So tough it is not really great for either mountain biking or horseback riding. It is not very well maintained, and there is a very good chance that you can get lost due to lack of markers.
Definitly worth doing if you want adventure.
I read the other reviews before heading out, I couldn't find a good map online (which I finally found today, after the hike) so I just went off of the tracks on here and it happened to be the Moon Loop. First I must say that when my non-hiking friends hear me say "I'm going hiking!" this trail must be what they imagine LOL. It's pretty, I can imagine it much more lush in the late spring or fall though. I have uploaded pictures and will probably post a few more. This trail was just a tiny bit longer than it stated... close to six miles is a good gauge. I found it marked fairly well, starting out from Ginn Ln. (park right before the creek crossing on the left-it's not marked from the road) and heading south (right to take the loop at the top of the hill). The first mile or so wasn't too terrible. I imagine the thorns would be overgrown in the summer months. I should start out by saying about 90% of this trail is well marked, only one part I got knocked off of the trail because a very large tree is down (go to the right lol I had to wander over to the right after I passed the tree to get back on track). Much of the trail is pretty rough due to equestrian use. I'd say probably 60% of the trail was muddy which made the horse tracks worse. I straddled or went next to much of the trail due to this. There are two actual creek crossings on this loop (a hand full of small stream crossings that weren't a big deal). There are rocks to cross but your feet may get a little wet in the process, no biggie to me. The last mile before you enter the field is somewhat mundane... lots and lots of pine trees surrounding the trail, and tall grass. Then came the mud! It wasn't a bad experience. It's not traveled very much but it was, overall, a fun experience. I could see myself coming back in the fall but with the fair amount of foliage that's there now late spring would probably be better.
The link I supplied is for the map of the trails in the area.
For a Missouri trail, this is a nice one. Pretty diversified trail. Some sections follow bluffs while other areas follow the creek bed. The downside is that parts of the trail go on the dirt roads. But, it is still worth the hike if you are in the area.
Over the years, I have hiked most of the Cedar Creek trails and have volunteered with the Forest Service for trail clean up. Cedar Creek has some great hiking in many areas. However, heavy use by horses keeps the trail very rough and prone to erosion. Mountain biking is also very difficult due to the rough trail.
Cedar Creek is another portion of the Mark Twain National Forest; situated south east of Columbia, MO. This was a very interesting hike. Not necessarily in a good way. Ill break it down by sections. First, Cedar Creek is over 30 miles long and combines with other trails during portions of itself.
We had decided to hike a portion of the Moon Loop trail and follow the Cedar Creek portion down to the Smith Creek Trail Loop and then back to Moon Loop backpacking somewhere along the way.
First, dont waste your time with Moon Loop. We started on it because it was closest to where we were coming from. We wouldve better to drive a few miles south and start there. Moon Loop is about 7 miles long; we felt that was too short for an overnight stay; so we took it among ourselves to combine trails to make a 12+ mile hike this time. This would be my longest hike to date (yeah)! Moon Loop starts out in basically a pasture. You walk a mile or so and finally enter woods; they are mediocre woods. My local small-town city park is just as pretty if not prettier as far as scenery goes. You cross a dry creek bed and walk up a steep hill. Wind around thru some scrubby looking woods and the best part is an old homestead. See photos below of the bits and pieces we saw. Next you walk through a gate many on the Moon Loop and wide open into a pasture. No blazes, no signs. No direction of where to go next. Of course, cattle graze here parts of the year so what looks like the trail, might end up being a cow path we had to back track many times due to this. After walking out among the wide open pasture for a mile or so, we finally came across Johnson Cemetery Road where we crossed probably wouldve just been best to walk on the road because once we crossed; there was no trail to be seen anywhere for the next mile or so.at this point is where we started our connection between the Moon Loop and heading to the Smith Creek Loop. I guess I had some grand idea that there would be a trail here (as the Cedar Creek trail is supposed to run this way). It turns out, the Cedar Creek trail at this point is the gravel road. Unfortunately after a few wrong turns, we figured this out. Crossed what was another half mile or so of wide open pasture and had to climb across a locked gate no access around for hikers. Here we walked on gravel roads for about 3 miles or so until we reached the trailhead near the Devils Backbone area, technically this was the Cedar Creek trail at this point we took this connector to reach the southwestern side of the Smith Creek Loop. The section of this trail until you reach the Smith Creek Loop is horrible theres barely paths at most points; hardly any blazes to be found; no trail markers; disgusting scenery; once we got to the Smith Creek Loop it improved significantly and we camped there for the night. The next morning we finished the portion of Smith Creek Loop just the western portion of it and then hiked the gravel roads all the way back to our car. In total, we hiked over 12+ miles; half of it on gravel roads.
My advice skip Moon Loop all together. Its not worth the time. If I go back to this area, Ill stick to the Smith Creek Loop and maybe a small portion of the Cedar Creek trail going south from there; just to lengthen the hike since Smith Creek is listed as only 5 miles. Read more details and see pics on my blog: tammyonthetrail.com