Cooley Lake Conservation Area is a 2.5 mile lightly trafficked loop trail located near Excelsior Springs, MO that features a lake and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking and is accessible year-round.
The Cooley Lake Trail runs along a ridge overlooking the Missouri River Valley near an oxbow lake. At the top of the ridge is a lookout tower where you can get views of the Missouri River Valley from Missouri City to Orrick. There are several trailheads, leading from either the lake up the ridge line to the observation tower, or from the observation tower to the lake. The trail is a loop, so you end up back wherever you started. The trail is overgrown and hard to follow in several places.
The trail was so overgrown, it could not be found. :(
Took a trail head at the edge of the tree line it quickly disappeared, so we said screw it and scaled the side of the cliff hill. Great view. Found trail at the top easily. A lot of squatter trash at the top :( we will go back sometime this year and try to find the full trail. It's a nice area try to be open minded about it.
Tried this trail from the top and also from the bottom. Suceded in losing the trail both ways. Love this area though! Beautiful views from the rocky bluffs in the early Spring and late fall. And the valley comes so much to life will hundreds of wildflowers in the Springtime.
It had been approximately nine years since the last time I had been to Cooley Lake and after hiking it again I remember why.
I started at the southern trail head, by the lake, and hiked in on the tractor road between the corn fields. This part of the trail is easy going but lacks any marking on when to turn into the woods. When I found the entrance into the woods the trail quickly disappeared and I was just wandering around trying to find the trail. My goal was to find the viewing tower but ended up having to go to the north boundary road to make it to the tower. I picked up the trail after leaving the tower but quickly lost it again so I went back to the north trail head and headed in again. The north trail head was easier to follow for a short distance but I lost it again and decided to just off road it back to tractor road.
Overall very hilly and brushy, I'm still picking stickers out of my hiking pants.
The Cooley Lake Trail is practically in my backyard, so I was anxious to hike it. We started at the North end of the lake, and the service road that makes up the trail is wide and well taken care of. When you enter the forest at the base of the ridge, however, things change. The trail is narrow and hard to find in some places. After hiking over the bottom part of the ridge and working our way up the side (no small feat, the trail is pretty steep up the ridge), we managed to lose the trail that heads west to the observation tower. The trail east that completes the loop is evident, however. Not to be detoured, we hiked up to Ridge Road and went west until we hit the observation tower. The views from the observation tower are wonderful.