Rock Pile Mountain Wilderness Area Trail is a 8 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Fredericktown, Missouri that features a great forest setting and is only recommended for very experienced adventurers. The trail is primarily used for hiking and camping and is accessible year-round.
The printed literature indicates this is a 12.5 mile loop trail. It is better seen as an 8 mile out and back to Rock Pile mountain from Little Grass mountain. Little Grass is actually higher than Rock Pile. It is 4 miles to the peak of Rock Pile mountain and takes about 2 hours. The portion of the loop that heads west off of Rock Pile and then turns north to cross Cave Branch and then heads back east to complete the loop, does not exist. The roads are old enough that they have pretty much disappeared. You can pick up portions for a short distance once you leave the top of Rock Pile, after that you are traveling cross country. You can do it, but do not expect to follow a road. You will need to follow your GPS. An ancient circle of granite rocks, erected by early man, marks Missouris smallest Wilderness area. The 4,238-acre Rockpile Mountain Wilderness is primarily a broken ridge, with steep limestone bluffs, rock formations, and caves along the St. Francis River. From the trailhead there is a two-mile section of maintained trail which is often steep (rated Moderate), where elevations range from about 1,300 feet to 520 feet. The rest of the area is accessed by old roads and by cross-country hiking. The area is within the St. Francois Mountains. Backpack camping in the wilderness area is allowed.
If you enjoy a solitary hike through the woods and you're able to navigate with a compass and map (or a GPS) this may be just the hike you're looking for. I hiked this area back in May of 2014 and wrote a blog entry on it here: http://www.localtrekshiking.com/2014/05/rock-pile-mountain-great-place-to-get.html
The total loop is around 12.5 miles or so, but seriously, it's best to hit up the sort 8 mile in and out to the top of Little Grass Mountain to see the "Rockpile" there. The trail is sparse, unmarked, and occasionally, non existent. WARNING: People do get lost out here, on our journey we met another local hiker who told us the blazes we found were left by the fire department who had been called in to rescue some lost hikers near the top of Little Grassy Mountain a few months prior to our hike. There have been black bears spotted in the area, although we did not see any evidence of them on our hike (and I really looked as we traveled, hoping for a little something) so be careful with food stuffs if you plan to camp, best to tree it outside of camp as opposed to having a hungry hair behemoth in your camp.
The "Rockpile" itself is pretty interesting, despite how it may or may not have been made. Makes a good spot to take some pictures. But the area reminds me a bit of Buford Mountain here, no awe inspiring vistas to be had do to all the trees, but still worth the hike.
Personally, I loved the solitude and peacefulness of the area, I couldn't hear cars, loud hikers, or any man made sounds other than my boots on trail...
Cell Reception: Pretty much ZERO once you leave the trailhead although, I did get a bar on the top of Little Grassy Mountain. Which happened to be another reason for my love of this area :)
This trail starts on Little Grass mountain which is actually slightly higher than Rock Pile. You drop off Little Grass (about 300 ft) and follow a trail along the ridge tops to Rock Pile. The trail is not well marked and there are many blown down trees in the area the force to you to leave the trail and pick it back up. Be careful when you do this since there are other trails/roads in the area and you may pick up the wrong trail (I did this twice and had to "backtrack"). The top of Rock Pile has a circular pile of rocks of unknown origin. I prefer to think this ring as made by prehistoric man for celestial ceremonies. The less romantic idea is a bunch of drunk kids decided to do this as a farce. This is suppose to be a loop trail according to all the printed literature. However, there is no loop. Once you leave the glades at the apex of Rock Pile mountain, there is a faint trail that goes west (or old overgrown road) that does lead you to a small pond. You can still see a faint road at this point going north and south. Going north this road completely disappears. No road and no markers. You end up going cross country until you pick the road up again on the top of the ridge on the other side of of Cave Branch creek. So be sure and use you GPS to follow the road that is suppose to be there. I always bring a map and compass as backup. However, I also have an Anker high capacity battery that will charge my iPhone multiple times to ensure I have access to GPS. The is no cellular phone service in this area once you leave the trail head. The under story is not too dense but the going is slow because of the number of blow downs and frequent checking on your bearings. This trail would be best to hike once the leaves drop. There is no vista from the top of the mountains which is somewhat anti-climatic.