Gans Creek Wild Area Trail

EASY 67 reviews

Gans Creek Wild Area Trail is a 7.7 mile lightly trafficked loop trail located near Columbia, Missouri that features a river and is good for all skill levels. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, nature trips, birding, and horses and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

7.7 miles
751 feet

dogs on leash

kid friendly



horseback riding

nature trips





wild flowers

over grown

The solitude and scenic vistas of the 750-acre Gans Creek Wild Area allow visitors to forget the bustling city of Columbia is only a few miles away. Small streams dissect the hills and flow into Gans Creek, which is surrounded by high bluffs. The bottom and sides of Gans Creek are often solid bedrock while other stretches of the stream have gravel bars. Except during heavy rain events, the water flows slowly over riffles and into pools. Spring wildflowers are abundant. Basswood and walnut trees grow on moist, shaded hillsides. Scattered white oaks grace more open forested area. The rocky bluff tops have small glade openings filled with grasses and wildflowers. Coyote and Shooting Star bluffs provide vistas of hills and trees as far as the eye can see.

trail running
15 days ago

Beautiful trail for MO that goes through a variety of different communities of flora. Long socks recommended, as it does get overgrown and ticks are present.

2 months ago

Good trail. Not too challenging. Little overgrown in areas. Ticks were bad

4 months ago

The trail was well marked it you had a map to decide which direction to go when the trail split off. It had a few vistas overlooking steep drops to the creek below. Most of the trail was smooth without ankle turning rocks. Spent almost all your time in the woods. Would keep children close at hand while up on the ridges as some of the trail is only a three foot step to the valley below. The final hill coming out was a straight up climb.

5 months ago

This has become one of my favorite trails at one of my favorite Missouri State Parks...and I haven't even done the whole trail! I discovered the fun adventure of hiking through the creek itself, after starting out on the main trail and descending from the top of the bluff to the creek. This short section of descent is not blazed, but it's clearly a well-worn trail. After starting from the TH at the parking lot, you'll hike about a mile to mile and a qtr, then you'll see the unmarked descending trail off to your left (the main, blazed trail continues off to the right). In dry seasons (like fall/winter), you can follow the creek more than a mile back to the parking lot after leaving the main trail. There are a few spots where your feet will get wet...or you can climb back up to dry ground an pass by the deeper water. Looking up the bluff to see the dolomite (?) bluffs covered in green moss is spectacular.
As of my visit in Feb. 2018, there is a new blazing system for Gans Creek: blazed in orange. It used to be out on brown and back on blue blazes...not sure when it changed, but the trail was really easy to follow. I could spot the orange blazes from down in the creek, where I had not previously seen the old blazes. Very cool to look out from the top of the ridge -- 6 stories up?? more?? -- down to the creek. I highly recommend!

6 months ago

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.

6 months ago

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.

6 months ago

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.

10 months ago

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!

11 months ago

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

Friday, June 02, 2017

A bit confusing with one side trail that will fool you that branches off heading downhill from a bluff then follows the creek. if you cross then you must scramble up the opposite bank and in about 20 yards you exit the trail onto a gravel road. A bit down the road from the trailhead. Fooled us and another couple with a baby.

The divider to the loop, where you decide to go counter clockwise or clockwise, as of our last hike, had the brown base blaze for the trail but was missing the red or blue blaze. Turns out it was the right way to go clockwise but you think it might be one of the connecter trails that bisect the loop. A fee hikers but more trail runners.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Nice, mostly level trail, with varying scenery. I did the full loop and it was well marked, even at the creek crossings (just takes a little looking around to find where it picks up...) Missed my "exit" to the parking lot off Rock Quarry, but luckily there were plenty of landmarks so I was able to figure out my mistake pretty quickly. Pretty easy terrain... only a couple of steep/rocky spots.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

my son and I just did this...or part I guess....we did a 3 mile loop and I must say I was very surprised at the landscape and views we was a great trail...well marked and this type of trail so close to Columbia is amazing

Friday, March 31, 2017

Beautiful 5.5 mile hike. Great exercise and no crowded when we went.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Really enjoyed this trail. On a warm day in February there were many people others enjoying it also. I took my little dog and we did a loop that was about 5.5 miles. I felt like I was the only one enjoying myself as most people just ran past us. I was glad to see so many people out though. There are a few fun little creek crossings, and many nice overlooks to enjoy. I imagine spring and fall with make this a beautiful trail to take. I will probably consider doing it again someday.

Saturday, August 06, 2016

The trail is not very well-maintained. Pretty overgrown so wear pants. But it's a nice short loop. A little unclear where you cross the creek but we figured it out and had a nice outing.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

I run this trail very regularly. I disagree with it being easy. It's definitely not super rugged but it's challenging in a beautiful way.

Monday, October 12, 2015

This was a fun one. Glades, grassland, forest, and creek crossings. Good ol' Missouri bluffs. On our July hike, we encountered no one but a rabbit and some squirrels. Not even as buggy as we expected!

We found good maps at the Shooting Star Trailhead. Other reviewers are correct: few to no markings, so keep that map handy.

cross country skiing
Sunday, July 19, 2015

Beautiful views, lots of different terrain.

BRING A MAP- trail not clearly marked - not at all marked when crossing the river

Monday, June 01, 2015

Really beautiful views, but very poorly marked. At times the trail was pretty overgrown and hard to follow.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Amazing views. Beautiful scenery. Flowing creek. Areas of cedar forests. Amazing overlooks, We attempted to do the 8.5 mile Gans Creek trail but missed several turns. We came across multiple intersections that were all blazed in the same color. Take a map and have your route highlighted. Even with the map, we missed turns. Despite that, we managed to get a 6-mile hike in. There are so many intertwining trails here that you could pick a different route every time. Despite a cold January day, we encountered about a dozen other people. Mostly college-age. Will go to this one multiple times...awesome place!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

berawesome place. Much more potential here for trail running and mountain bike if no horse goers are on the trail. Visited for a trail run/hike and got attracted to the devil's icebox area. Great area. Defiantly looking to make it out here another season. Each trail head had maps and the gains trail had map'd markers through route.

Friday, July 06, 2012

This trail offers a wide variety of scenery. Lots of shade with occasional bits of open grassland. There are a few relatively steep inclines to climb up and down as you pass from blufftop to creek bed and back.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The trail is a nice loop through the woods. You cross Gans creek several times, travel along a rock bluff for a short distance, and through a number of ravines. Overall a nice little trail. I camped at the adjacent conservation area.

9 days ago

2 months ago

3 months ago

5 months ago

8 months ago

Load More