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Get away from the bustle of everyday life by seeing some of Missouris finest karst features such as the rock bridge or by exploring the forests, streams and restored grasslands of Rock Bridge Memorial State Park. While walking the half-mile Devils Icebox Boardwalk, visitors can view the rock bridge, have the opportunity to explore Connors Cave on their own, and see an underground stream, small spring and sinkhole. The 15 miles of trails that traverse the 2,273-acre park are always open to hikers and are conditionally open to bicyclists. Hikers and horseback riders can enjoy the serenity of the 750-acre Gans Creek Wild Area. Before riding, visitors should call the trail condition hotline. Groups can make arrangements to receive a rock bridge/Connors Cave tour or other interpretive programs. Devils Icebox Cave, with over seven miles of passages, can be explored on park-led wild cave tours by advanced registration only. The parks orienteering course will challenge adventurous visitors. Picnic sites, a reservable picnic shelter, and playground equipment make the park a great place for family gatherings. Primitive camping for non-profit youth organizations is available by making advanced reservations.

We started the hike where Bear Field Road dead ends. There's tons of trails to follow; we just let the dog lead the way. The trails are interesting — elevation changes, roots and rocks to jump from — but then you reach the creek bed, which is BEAUTIFUL and then there are unexpected cliffs, too! It surprised the heck out of us. Definitely recommend.

This is straightforward and beautiful hike within minutes of Columbia, MO. As scenic and interesting as any of the many large state park in MO, this trail has some streams, bluffs and great vistas of the one from atop of the other.

Starting at the trailhead BE SURE to pick-up a trail map, even (and especially) if you have the AllTrails map with you. What the AllTrails does not show is that this hike is not one trail but a combination of three: The Gans Creek Wilderness Area Trail, White Connecter 9 (WC9) and White Connector 10 (WC10).

This trail is mostly well blazed (orange or reddish-orange), and nicely maintained. However, since the AllTrails version is a combo of the above mentioned three trails, watch for the following junctions and connectors.

Going Counter-Clockwise

Gans Creek Trail - Orange Blaze

Starting at the trailhead (just off of Hwy 163), you will cross a small bridge. Before you do, look in the trail box for a colored trail map and notice the white connecting trails along this loop.

To start, go East, and at roughly ¾ of a mile (on the AllTrails map) you will see a spur descending to the left. Ignore this spur if you want to hike the Alltrails loop.

Just before 2 miles, you will come to a T-intersection, turn right. Very shortly thereafter, almost at the 2 mile mark, watch for the White Connecting Trial #9 on the left, marked with white blazes with the number “9” on them. Take this trail (that is, turn left).

White Blaze #9

On the White #9 trail, you will descend off the ridge down into the Gans creek “valley.” This is beautiful section of the trail, even in the winter. At about 2 ¾ miles you will reach the creek bottom. When you do, look for an interesting little cave under a small bluff on the right.

The trail will move away from bluff, and for reason unknown, the white #9 blazes will disappear. Don’t panic, use your head (and map) and notice that Gans creek is still on you left, and since this is the only well-worn trail in this area, you are not lost.

Shortly after three miles, white trail #9 reaches the river (still no blazes). Now, if you want to shorten your hike, cross the river and white #9 rejoins the main trail. Attention, there are still no blazes, either white or orange, along this section. Again, no need to worry, it is a very short walk up what’s left of white #9 back from the river to the Gans Creek Trail. Once back on the Gans Creek Trail, go left, all the way up the hill to a parking lot. It is here that the orange blazes begin again (who knows!).

White Blaze # 10

If you want to follow the AllTrails map, when you get to the river on White #9, look to your right for White Blaze #10. This trial will continue along Gans Creek (the creek will be on your left), ascending sharply from about 3 ¾ to 3 ½ miles back to the Gans Creek Trail (blaze orange).

Gans Creek Trail (again) Orange Blaze

When White #10 intersects with the Gans Creek Trail (top of the hill at about the 3 ½ mile mark), go left. Here, again, some blazes are missing. But since this is the only maintained trail, it is very difficult to get lost. You will descend back to Gans Creek, crossing it at about the 4 mile mark. From this point, it is simply a matter of staying on the trail, blazed or not, for the return.

You will hit a parking lot at about 5 ¾ miles, the very same that you would have found if you had stayed on White #9 for the shorter hike. After this parking lot, the orange blazes return for the remainder of the trail.

At about 6 ¾ miles, after a sharp descent, you will again cross Gans Creek, then start a steep-ish uphill climb back to the trail that you were on when, at ¾ miles, you saw a spur descending to the left. When you get to the top of this hill, go right on the trail. You are now headed back to the trailhead on the same trail that you came in on. When this trail forks, at about mile 7, go left (the right goes sharply downhill) and continue back to the trailhead.

The posted time at the trailhead for this loop is 6 hours - it is not nearly that hard or slow (I did it in 2 ½ hours).

This is great trail for a longish day hike or a good shakedown hike (it could be a heck of a workout with a full pack!) if you are getting ready for a longer trip (like I am to Rocky Mountain Nat. Park) somewhere else. Give it a go and tell me what you thought of the trail.

15 days ago

This is a nice, easy-does-it kind of trail. It is by no means moderate and very easy, and would be good for kids. For grown-ups wanting a more challenging hike, not so... For example, the posted time at the trailhead is 2 hours and 45 minutes - I hiked it in 1 hour and 15 minutes.

The trail is well blazed (yellow), clear and well-kept. If you hike it counter-clockwise, most of the trail is downhill, save for the last ¼ mile or so back to the parking lot.

The one down(ish) side to this walk-in-the woods is the piles of doggy poo on the trial. Dog people, please, have fido do his business off-trail, for heaven’s sake!

21 days ago

Favorite trail at RBSP! Challenging enough to get a good workout, but still simple enough to enjoy my time in nature. I love how far from civilization I feel on this trail, very peaceful.

One of my favorites in the area. Quiet, not heavily traveled. Varying terrains and a few moderately challenging obstacles. Great for getting ‘lost in the woods’ for an afternoon. Be careful though as there are a few spots where the trail is not well blazed or marked.

1 month ago

2 months ago

We went in December and it was beautiful! The trail on the west had some rough patches but nothing terribly difficult. No ticks! The trail was easy to follow and follows Gans Creek on the west side. Since the leaves were down there were some great views.

4 months ago

Very easy hike with well-groomed trail. Some pretty wooded sections, but altogether underwhelming scenery. Good for a very short little jaunt and for walking with dogs.

Beautiful views, great trail to take with older children (my son is in sixth grade) and dogs (we have two labs). Several spots with water where my dogs enjoyed a quick swim. Easy trail but not boring by any means!

Moderate level was accurate. Saw a lot of different plants and trees. Different terrain though out the hike.

Short hike (about .5 mile). All boardwalk with a lot of stairs. Conners Cave was interesting and refreshingly cool (temperature wise). We went on Eclipse Day so there were a fair number of people there. Luckily one of us had a flashlight but more light in the cave would have been better.

We loved it here. All the trails in this area are cool.

We rode our horses here, finished the outer loop in about 2.5 hrs, mostly at the walk, a little trotting. Very nice.

6 months ago

Boarded walkways or stairs most of the way now. Still a decent trek. Plenty of places to rest or check out the sights tho. Very well maintained.

7 months ago

Nice walk through the woods. Did after Gans Creek trail so was anti-climatic.

mountain biking
7 months ago

A good trail that gets some traffic due to the proximity to Columbia. We did the loop on Bikes, and it was a bit rough for an old timer with a non-shock Stumpjumper with on/off road tyres. However, it was a fun outing. Met about 4 people the entire length of the trail. Agree that the new markers might clear up some confusion about the trail, as it was pretty well blazed.

7 months ago

Kids loved the caves

Surprised by the cave.

8 months ago

Went with my husband and kids ages 5, 8,10 and 15. We all had a really great time exploring the trails and the cave. Very nice quick hike, water shoes and flashlights would be my recommendation for cave exploration.

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