Explore the most popular birding trails in Mark Twain National Forest with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

Beautiful hike with a natural bridge at the end that has bats. Tall sycamores along the way with a couple of creek crossings. Well worth it.

hiking
18 days ago

It’s a really beautiful area as many have stated. It may be different with very high or low water levels but when we were there there was pool after inviting pool as we hiked along the creek. Some of them were ~20 feet across.. Next time I’ll do some wading.

Knocked off one star because of how poorly marked and maintained the trail was. There are a couple pics of one of our group with her toes on a 6” ledge. I doubt that was the way the trail went but it sure appeared to lead us there.

I rate this as difficult, because of the challenging nature of climbing over and around the big rocks, which are incredibly slippy when wet.
You can camp at the trailhead by your car, or at the river some 40 mins in or further upstream, I found it difficult to get around rocks with my backpack, and because I was on my own, return and camped at a safer place. This is a beautiful site to camp, relax and hike. Totally recommend it.

backpacking
24 days ago

Every other review I’ve read is pretty accurate. My GF(inexperienced) and I hiked yesterday 4/28/18.
The trails are definitely not maintained, which is fine with me because it means not many people go here. It’s not the easiest trail to navigate; with occasional rock climbing, rock hoping and super slick rock along the river. Yes there are definitely an abundance of snakes but that’s just a part of nature, watch where you put your hands & feet and you should be fine. The trail can be difficult in places and easy in other spots but well worth the experience if the river and falls (lots of rain last week), the views and serenity of it all.
We will be back again to see more soon. I expect during the summer it would be incredibly overgrown, so come prepared to work for it.

got confused on all the trails interconnecting. overall a good hike

Our first impression of the horse camp side was pretty dismissal. 2pm and there's an extremely intoxicated guy carrying a handle of vodka and yelling obscenities at someone else at another site, shortly after he passed out in a camp chair. The two young teens with him came over to us and invited us to party with them later - they looked like they might have been old enough to drive, maybe. They said they camp frequently there. That was enough to make us not interested in spending any time here.

off road driving
1 month ago

I need to talk to AllTrails about some serious updates here. First, there are multiple trails, about 80 miles of them, in this 12 to 13 square mile area. The primary use of the area is "off-road motorcycle riding" or "dirt biking" which isn't a category AllTrails uses, so I selected "Off Road Driving". I can eventually map all of the trails in AllTrails, but go to https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/mtnf/recarea/?recid=21762 for the official information on the area.

As for dirt biking, this is definitely a 5 star place to ride trails from easy as pie to hell and back. All skill levels can have fun here. There is a lot of level trails, rocks to bounce over, hills to climb, streams to splash through, and even bridges to cross. Visit Rattlesnake Cave, Deer Trough, and good luck finding what's left of Stump Springs, but it's there. There's also a 5 acre trials bike area with no limiting trails within it - ride wherever you like.

Hikers could conceivably use the area, but I've never seen any on the trails. If you hike this, you'll have to ford creeks (in the wet season), climb some pretty steep stuff, deal with lose gravel, and above all, get off the trail if you hear any riders coming your way! Some people ride fast without much time to react.

In my opinion, hike elsewhere and have run riding here!

backpacking
1 month ago

Very rugged terrain. There are several areas of the trail that have deep horse ruts. It would probably be impassable if it was muddy. Trails were somewhat marked. Lots of hills. Cross over several creeks, or the same creek several times. Camped alone a portion of Smith Creek. Saw a few other campsites along the way. Good for a one-nighter close to home. Will probably go back and explore the area again and spend another night. Decent stay.

hiking
1 month ago

Nice view at the highest point of the trail. The lower portion of the trail runs by the river.

Nice area but not an easy walk by any means due to horse ruts

I hiked this trail plus several more miles to hw 21. The trail was well maintained as well as the camp sights. You gain elevation quickly and enjoy a challenging hike with rewarding views. Not much water so bring plenty.

Nice primitive no fee campground. I suspect always full in the summer. It s a trail head for the nice 1/2 mile boy scout created trail, but also the larger Cedar Creek trailhead.

Nice place to ride, can get technical quick...

walking
2 months ago

Nice view from the bluff just past halfway down. This is an off-road vehicle trail.

I must be a terrible hiker. People on here claim to start at the Bell Mountain Wilderness (Highway A) and get to the peak (Taum Sauk) in 6 hours with 30lbs packs and what have you. Bell Mountain to Taum Sauk is a 30 mile trail. That's 10 minute miles. Plan ahead and give yourself some time. It took us about 14-15 hours to complete across two days. Saw some boars, very pretty waterfall, amazing viewpoints. Everything you can need to know about this trail is located on the OzarkTrail website.

pretty easy hike to the natural bridge from the parking lot. Wear waterproof shoes, you will get wet. I was very aggravated by the trash in the cave. why do people do that. There is bats in the cave, I hope the trash does not disturb them

Very beautiful hike once you get down to the creek. The trail comes and goes so we ended up just climbing on the rocks along the creek.

backpacking
2 months ago

My husband and I hiked this trail last summer and it was a great experience! Definitely a rugged trail, and any visitors should be fully prepared with water and water filtration systems if they're planning on a longer trek. The views were worth any difficulties!!! We were also surprised by several cleared campsites along the way that weren't on the MO State Parks map.

backpacking
2 months ago

I did Bell Mountain Wilderness to Taum Sauk Mountain State Park. This portion of my trip was absolutely beautiful! It was rocky, rugged, and steep; give yourself plenty of time. I planned to camp here; it took me 6.5 hours to finish this portion with a 30lb pack. I recommend doing this in the fall, winter, or early spring as there will be some overgrown areas. Ketcherside Mountain had some amazing views. Please leave no trace!!

Hiked Pees Hollow, a 5.3 mile loop that starts from the fire tower trailhead. Honestly, the best views were on the drive there, but it was still good to get out of the house and get some exerceise. It's been raining a lot recently, so the path might as well have been a creek at several points along the way.

This area is quite possibly the most beautiful stretch of Missouri I have experienced. As Cory said pleas take care of this place. Pack in/pack out, practice safe fire use and watch out for snakes in the warmer months.

my favorite spot in the state. very remote and serene. not for anyone afraid of venomous snakes or four people looking for an easy path. please take care of it. pack in/pack out

This canyon and surrounding bluffs are one of the most desolate and beautiful spots in Missouri. Watch out for Cottonmouths!

Good scout trail

Good trail. There are a lot of other trails (appx. 20 miles) in Swan Creek Wilderness.

There are several more trails in this area than shown here in the Swan Creek Wilderness Area - approx. 20 miles.
LInk to map of all trails here: https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fseprd516654.pdf
I followed trail #6107 which I believe is the trail shown here from the east trailhead off UU Hwy to the creek and back which took me approx. 4 hrs. I didn't have any issues finding my way and found plenty of trail markers along the way.
As others have noted, a lot of trash in the parking area. I was bored on my hike back and decided to make a game of counting the pieces of trash (mostly beer cans) seen from the trail - 134 :)
Of course this doesn't include all that is laying in the parking lot. I don't know how anyone can get lost on these trails as long as you follow the beer cans :)
There is a larger parking area on the west end off Hwy 125 at the Bar K Wrangler Camp but you may have to tread some water to cross the creek to get access to the trails depending on water levels.

backpacking
5 months ago

There was some trash at the trail head. Mostly beer cans and probley from kids using this as a party spot, but it cleared up down the trail. Great place for hiking with some up hills, down hills, and several flat areas. I thought the trail was worn well enough and didn't have too much trouble seeing the trail. There a couple of times I kind of lost the trail, but it's fairly obvious where the trail is at. Very few trail markers along the way, but I got to Swan Creek with no problem. The trail is a doosey (fairly steep) on the way back so be ready. Overall it was really pretty and really remote. I would recommend this trail, but give yourself about 5 hours to get to the creek and back.

had a great time here today. nice stone arrow pointing the way at the fork and some cairns to help you back to the trail.

I would like to second what Matt Hodel said (note: he's one of the people responsible for us making it off the trail alive this past weekend). Posts on here indicating that this hike takes less than 6 hours were misleading and nearly got us killed. If Matt and his buddy, Eric, had not been on the trail, the ending would have been very different.

I'm not personally in bad shape (though I could stand to lose 20 lbs), and by "not in bad shape" I mean that I lead a hiking group, do several 7+ mile hikes a month, and did a half marathon a month all last year —but this trail really kicked my backside.

When I read the under 6 review on here (and I'm not disputing that you did it, just saying that's not the norm for this trail), I did the math, and "it checked out" — our group hiking speed is a 24 min mile. But this trail is not your average hiking trail — it's littered with rocks, ankle-turners, almost throughout — I would say that 80% of the trail is being generous. And when you add to that, that the leaves had just fallen and it was drizzling, that's really going to slow you down.

So, based on calculations, we thought we would be off the trail in daylight, in 51° weather. Instead, we were still 2+ miles from the summit, at the most treacherous part of the trail, with one headlamp for every two people.

We had sent our 2 fastest hikers on to the summit with one of the radios, and between that and spotty cellphone connection, we were able to get ahold of rangers and keep warm around Matt & Eric's fire until we were rescued.

We started at 10:30 am, reached the power lines (the mid-way point) around 2:30 pm, where we ate lunch, sunset was approx 4:48 pm (with last light at 5:16 pm), we reached Matt & Eric's camp at 6:40 pm, were able to get through to rangers by 7:45 pm, were rescued at 8:30 pm, and made it back up to the top front country camping area by about 10:30 pm.

The ranger said that it's a 12 hour hike, and the State Park website even posits 14.5 hours, although it also lists the trail as being 14.5 miles.

All this is just to give a cautionary view, so that no one else comes here to find info, and gets in a predicament like we did. It's a beautiful, must-see area — just be wise. This is a point to point trail — once you start, there are no quick exits — you must go all the way to one end or the other.

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