Make the great escape to Missouri's wilderness - Taum Sauk Mountain State Park. The park provides 7,501 acres of solitude amid unspoiled land with a wilderness quality hard to find in today's world. Taum Sauk Mountain State Park is located in the St. Francois Mountains, one of the most rugged and scenic areas of the state. Almost 1.5 billion years ago, volcanic eruptions of hot ash settled and cooled to form rhyolite. Erosion has left only the roots of these mountains behind, now dotted by oak-hickory forest and rocky glades. Taum Sauk Mountain literally stands above others as the highest point in Missouri, rising to 1,772 feet. An easy walk leads visitors to the top. From there, the moderately rugged three-mile Mina Sauk Falls Trail continues to the tallest wet-weather waterfall in Missouri. Mina Sauk Falls drops 132 feet over a series of rocky ledges. A portion of this trail also serves as part of the Taum Sauk Section of the Ozark Trail. Farther down the trail lies Devil's Tollgate, an eight-foot-wide passage through volcanic rhyolite standing 30 feet high. The Ozark Trail continues on to the Highway N trailhead at Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park, a distance of 14.4 miles. Taum Sauk Mountain State Park features a campground of 12 basic campsites, with drinking water and a vault toilet nearby. A special-use area is available for non-profit youth organizations. A nearby picnic area allows visitors to relax and enjoy lunch under the trees after a day of hiking.
Rugged and rocky in parts. Overall a moderate hike. Nice scenic views along the way. Make sure to hike down to the bottom of the falls for a beautiful view. This is technically off the trail but is a part of another trail. The entire trail is pretty well marked with red/orange swatches on trees. I think the best time to go is when there has been some recent rain as the falls have more water flow.
Karen and I took a chance on the weather this morning and left St. Louis in the pouring rain and headed south towards Taum Sauk Mountain and a chance to catch Mina Sauk Falls running (given the recent snow and rain), and it was much better than sitting at home on a 55 degree Decembe day.
The weathermen were right, and by the time we hit the trailhead, the rain had stopped and the temperature begain to start warming up. We quickly detoured to get the obliglatory photo at Missouri's highest point on Taum Sauk Mountain (some 1772ft above sea level).....but don't worry, it is not much of a summit or much of a view (in fact, I am quite surpised that, that is the highest point in the state). So down the trail we went.
The trail started out rather tame, and quickly transformed into the type of Ozark trails we have come to appreciate. Lots of geology changes, with plenty of softball sized boulders to trip over. But the views, the glades, and the falls were all worth the trip. We hopped on part of the Ozark Trail to head down to the base of Mina Sauk Falls to catch it running. What an awesome place in Missouri. I would really like to see it when it is really running, but it was still quite a site. As the trail headed up the falls, it seems the falls just kept cascading until we reached just a small trickle of a stream running along the Ozark Trail.
All in all it was a great hike, and one that we will be doing again.
Ascent: 594 ft
Descent: 560 ft
Max Elevation: 1828 ft