Big Piney Trail

MODERATE 93 reviews
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Big Piney Trail is a 16.5 mile lightly trafficked loop trail located near Roby, Missouri that features a waterfall and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

16.5 miles
1,958 feet

dogs on leash






horseback riding

mountain biking

nature trips

trail running






wild flowers





old growth

over grown


Paddy Creek Trail is a rugged 17 miles through typical Ozark forest of hardwoods and pines with rocky outcroppings, and with seasonal waterfalls. It has several creek crossings over Paddy creek and several scenic bluffs overlooking the Big Piney River. Considered one of the best trails in the state.

3 days ago

I loved this trail. It takes you deep in the woods, and it has many great views and sights to see. Highly recommend it. I made a video with some highlights from my trip:

29 days ago

First time coming here in warm weather. I prefer early spring for sure. What a difference a month makes. I came in mid-April and it was perfect for overnight backpacking.
This time, I tried a different section than usual and planned a day hike to the scenic overlook near the campground. I brought my 11y.o. for the first time. We had to turn back because the trail was completely overgrown and it essentially vanished. We bushwhacked a couple hundred more yards hoping it would clear a bit but no luck. The thorny growth covering the trail was too thick and tall for my kiddo to manage at his height. I love this area but will definitely limit my hikes to fall and spring when there's less vegetation. To my surprise, I only found one tick on me! I think the tick population has exploded since then.

1 month ago

loved it

1 month ago

ticks! south loop overgrown

1 month ago

Tough trail. Lots of loose rocks and grade changes. Challenging but fun. Ticks are abundant.

2 months ago

So. Many. Ticks.

3 months ago

Amazing! We had a blast on a spring hike.

3 months ago

Did the entire 17 miles over a 2 day trip. Stayed the night on the scenic overlook near the campground. Their are some nice views at the scenic overlook and on the south loop, however the trail was very overgrown with little markings. The trail itself is very rocky and deteriorated at some points and brush had grown up and completely covered the trail for over a mile in some sections. Even with adequate preparation it was sometimes hard to know where the trail was. Watch for creek crossings and game trails as it is easy to lose the trail around these. Overall, the trail would be very nice with some maintenance and waypoints. I would not go again in its current condition.

3 months ago

This is a spectacular trail. It has great views, tall pine trees, waterfalls, creeks and a river (if you go further east off the main trail when the trail cuts back west at its most eastern point). I debated on whether to take the South loop first or the North loop first and chose the South loop, which I’m glad I did.

The South loop has some nice views early on and several water sources. The trail is fairly easy to follow until you get to the river crossings before the Paddy Creek Recreation area where there are other trails in the area that you may be tempted to follow (we were). A map, compass and/or GPS go a long way in avoiding backtracking here.

When heading back on the North loop there is a great camping spot with a beautiful view of the valley (it is marked as waypoint 10 on the map referred to in the review before this one, which was a great review that helped us navigate this trail). An Eastern Whip-poor-will perched in the tree over our tents and sang part of the evening and again at dawn. Ovenbirds were everywhere calling “teacher, teacher, teacher.”

The hike back to the trailhead on the North loop can be very rocky and “rooty”. It is an easy place to twist an ankle or lose your balance. The trail climbs and descends several times before arriving back at the trailhead so make sure to stock up on water, especially in the hotter months when some of the water sources on the North loop may be dry.

The tallest pine trees on the trail were on the last quarter of the North loop heading back to the trailhead. The waterfall was a nice place to take a break, although it was a little hard to see because of the foliage. All in all, a great trail that was a lot of fun!

3 months ago

I am not sure why this trail isn’t ranked higher, it is an absolute beauty of a hike. Located in the Mark Twain National Forest, this trail has a little of everything for just about any backpacker or ambitious day hiker.

To get there, find your way to Roby, MO. If you are coming from the East, South or West, go through Roby and head North on HWY 17. Watch for a National Forest sign that reads “Paddy Lake Trailhead.” If you are coming up from Roby, MO, that is traveling North on HWY 17, the sign will be on your right - if you are coming from the North and heading South on HWY 17, that is traveling towards Roby, watch for the sign on your left before you get to Roby, MO.

Go down the Paddy Creek Trailhead road (on the map it is Forestry Tr 274A) to Roby lake and the circular drive trailhead parking.

Once you are parked and ready, to get to the actual “trail” trailhead, walk back up the same dirt road that you just drove down and look for a red metal gate on the right - here your hike begins.

Once you enter the gate, you will traverse an open field, move through a small stand of trees and cross a dirt road to register at the trailhead box. Continue North on the trail, and shortly you will arrive at the junction of the North and South loop. IMHO, taking the South loop first is the better hike, so turn right at the junction.

This trail is poorly blazed, with minimum signage as well. However, with a map (here is an excellent one - and a compass, you should not have a problem.

Note however, that if you are taking the south loop, that is going CC, the trail forks at around 4.0 miles, waypoint “006” on the map (see link above). When you get to this point, there is a sign for the left fork that reads “North Loop” and one for the right fork that reads “Paddy Creek Campground.” If you want to hike the whole loop, go right (“Paddy Creek Campground”). You you want to hike only ½ of the loop, go left (“North Loop”). The trail on the left is a connecting trial, part of an old military road, and descends to Little Paddy Creek. Right where the trail crosses the river, blazed with white diamonds (standard markings for a connecting trail), there is just enough space here and there to make camp, complete with a fire ring on the north side of the creek.

If you are hiking the whole loop, go right at this fork (following the sign “Paddy Creek Campground”), and continue along top of a beautiful ridgeline for about 2 miles (waypoint “007” on the map). The trail then plunges down to the junction of Little and Big Paddy Creek, then up sharply to cross Forest Road 220. Turn right on this road for the Paddy Creek Campground. This is a developed campground with room for some 23 tents, some of them coming in by Paddy Creek Road ( While I tend to stay away from the developed stuff while I am backpacking, this is a nice (free!), well kept campground.

Chill at the campground for the night, even taking a dig in the clear, cool Big Piney River.

To finish the hike, get back on the trail and head north and downhill to Big Paddy Creek. Traverse along the southern edge of a bluff, before climbing it to a wonderful view of Big Piney River (“010” on the map).

Enjoy the next two miles of the trail is it moves around a gentle ridge, and even begins to descend back down towards Little Paddy Creek over the next two mile. At point “012” on the map the trail is joined by the connecting trail that comes up from Little Paddy Creek. At point “013” it splits - go left to stay on the trail (the right path is actually the dirt road/connecting trail that came up from Little Paddy Creek).

After point “013” the trails begins a series of “up/down” traverses, four (4) in all. Some of these will have water, and the last one, point “014” on the map, has a beautiful little waterfall and pool, perfect to rest up for the final push. When you cross this creek, the trail will turn down stream (going right) and shortly thereafter split, going either roughly straight or hard to the left and up hill. Take the hard left, and go up hill. Look for the small (add to it please!) cairn on the left at this trail junction.

From that point forward, it is an easy walk back to the trailhead box, across the dirt road and back to the red gate.

Once you are out, stop at Hoppers Pub in nearby Waynesville, MO (, for a cold one and a great burger!

Remember to pack it in, pack it out, and enjoy this little hidden gem of a hike!

Jeff G

3 months ago

I really enjoy this trail. It is a bit rugged in some areas --as this is also a horse trail.

The trail isn't really blazed very well, a map and compass wouldn't hurt to carry.

I am ready to go back again.

Here is a short video from my last trip:

3 months ago

We completed the trail from the Roby Lake trailhead. We started along the south loop which has great scenery’s early on, rock outcropping, wet season waterfalls etc and moved quickly along the first half of the trail. The south trail seemed less strenuous than the north trail as there wasn’t as much up and down travel. The hill climb near the middle of the trail coming from the south trail has a great rewarding view and scenery at the peak. We had hiked it before but right now in the middle of spring is a great time to be out there and there is plenty of water to refill if you use a filter. We are planning to spend more time there with the addition of camping in order to explore some of the interesting topography. Of note would be to have spare rope sandals etc for water crossings. We were glad we did!

3 months ago

Due to heavy rains we were unable to hike the Courtois section of the Ozark Trail. After talking with someone from Mark Twain National Forest we decided to hike this trail on Easter weekend.

Day 1: we took the north loop. Well worn trail and very easy to follow. Plenty of water available to fill bladders and bottles. Several nice camp sites along the trail. We camped near the scenic overlook and were not disappointed by our sunset and sunrise views.

Day 2: headed down the trail towards Big Paddy Creek. Lost the trail twice due to high water. Got our feet/legs wet twice crossing the creek. It was chilly this time of year and moving briskly due to all the rain we've gotten. We enjoyed the south loop but trail markings seemed confusing at points. Make sure you have your maps and waypoints available.

4 months ago

Called the ranger station last week and the trail is good-to-go.

4 months ago

24 MAR 18 closed for prescribed burn

5 months ago

Nice hike with a variety of terrian. Several camping sites along the trail. Trails are marked well enough that you shouldn't find yourself backtracking or scratching your head on which way to go. I was able to find ways to cross all the creeks (staying dry) after a couple days of good rainfall but a week of heavy rain might prove otherwise.

7 months ago

Nice trail. We did a 3 day backpacking trip in October with with Sierra Club -Beginner Backpacking Course. The trail is great for beginners and experienced hikers alike. There are a lot of horses and the trails can be quite rocky in spots, other than that there is plenty of elevation changes, water sources, great scenery and a nifty little cave you can climb up to if you like that sort of stuff.

Definitely plan on bringing the kiddos down for a weekend this spring so they can have their first overnight experience. Even a nice spot for them to practice their Belaying and rappelling.

Only downfall is it is close to Fort Leonard Wood, so it's not uncommon to hear gunfire at times.

9 months ago

Fantastic trail! Did the loop counter clockwise. Felt like most climbs on the return trip were very gradual, only a couple of very steep sections. The trail is rocky and at a couple of spots hard to follow, but common sense and a little observation you can find the trail easily. Beautiful ridge line camping spot over looking the river at mile 9 (counter) / mile 8 (clockwise).

The GPS track shown starts at the southwest end of the loop, which means overall descending to start, and overall climbing to finish. If you'd like to start your trip climbing and end descending, there is a camp ground near the jut out by Highway AF, which is right about halfway. Campground is free and very pretty, right along the river.

Feel free to message me on FB for more information! @jordanmwhite9

9 months ago

Great trail for beginners and experienced alike. Perfect for getting out of cell reception and seeing some great views. The trail brings you to some great overlooks and challenging creek beds(for staying on trail). Best in spring and after a hard freeze in fall. Bugs, especially oak mites, can be quite ferocious in summer.

9 months ago

Nice trail, very pretty, but poorly blazed. I actually never made it to the campground, as I lost the trail in the rain at the BPC crossing. Had to camp in the bush and spent the next day fumbling my way back to the trailhead with just a compass and dead reckoning, as my map had soaked through.

Bring a GPS.

10 months ago

Did it in one day 85 degrees in October. Good time with my dog.Followed trail ok, got to pay attention around creek bottoms and creek crossings.

10 months ago

Fairly easy, short loop. Plenty of campsites. Not blazed, but easy to follow if you pay attention.

10 months ago

Good trail. but not marked real well

11 months ago

Good trail. Lots of equestrian activity. Most sections are farily well marked, though there are a couple unmarked side trails that can get confusing. The biggest downside was that this time of year the ticks and spiders are insane, so keep that in mind.
There were a few watering holes along the north loop. Most of the streams were dry. Little paddy had just a little water, and big paddy creek had more.
Definitely going to hike this loop again in the winter.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Not a bad trail, as stated by others not too well marked in places. Put in a bit extra due to this. Had difficulty finding the trail to the overlook and ended up back tracking then bypassing using Paddy Creek Road and picking up the remainder of the North loop from there. Lots of spider webs (some with spiders) on the North loop, took a few to the face lol.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Fun trail. Not too much elevation change. Very nice campsite on top of bluff about 9 miles in. Water sources along the way. Nice waterfall towards the end. Only down side, heavily trafficked by horses. Parts of trail are beat up and watch for horse poop. Will definitely backpack again!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Hiked 3/24/17
I only hiked a small part of this trail, but I did pass through the area where alot of pines had fallen as mentioned in a previous review and the trail has been cleared for easy passage through there.
I plan to hike the entire loop asap and will update my review after that.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Fantastic trail adventures are sure to be had here. Four of us started at the Roby Lake trailhead, hiking counter-clockwise. We hiked to the campground at the northend and settled in just before a biblical storm. I missed the storm completely, snoozing away in my hammock, after taking some "vitamin I -- p.m."

Day 2 we hiked to the overlook on the S. loop, made camp, and lounged around for the next 20 hrs. We ended up sharing our campsite on the overlook with some Missouri Militiamen. They seemed nice enough though.

Day 3 we hiked the 2 miles back to the vehicles.

As others have mentioned, blazes are all but nonexistent. There has been an improvement in signage delineating the route--but at some intersections their odd placement could easily confuse a non-attentive hiker. The pink ribbons along the route also can add to the confusion. I would suggest bringing a hi-res topo map and compass. On two occasions the map "saved us", when the GPS's location had us in the Big Paddy while we were on a ridge.

My first trip out there we fell prey to an established game trail, and ended up doing a little bushwhacking.

ALWAYS check to see when hunting seasons are in effect. It is the Ozarks--Beware of banjos.

Slideshow from our 2013 trip:

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Great time backpacking for the first time. Multiple cutoffs and side trails that are not on the map. We did a few extra miles and hills. We'll be back again.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Decent trail. Some parts don't seem as clear as others and isn't very clearly marked in certain sections. Would recommend this trail and I'm going back to do it this spring.

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