Lead Mine Conservation Area is a 10.4 mile lightly trafficked loop trail located near Tunas, Missouri that features a river 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.
dogs on leash
This forested area contains savanna, glades, and old fields. Facilities and features include boat ramps, an unmanned firearms range, fishable ponds, several intermittent streams, and two permanent streams (Niangua River, Jakes Creek).
Very pleasantly surprised. Be warned, though - if you print a map the trails are not blazed by color, but rather by symbols. This is also an equestrian trail, so you will be dodging a lot of land mines.
That being said, we loved this area & cant wait to go back. The network of trails let's you determine your path, which was very cool. A few trails take you gravel blazing, but there are plenty of creek crossings & elevation changes. It's great for backpacking with primitive campsites. We did 11 miles and plan on returning to backpack the full, outermost trails with an overnight stay. We did have to pack out some hiker trash that we saw along our trek, but it wasn't excessive.
Awesome, awesome area.
Definitely not walked very often. But it was still a nice trail. Could be marked better.
We have camped hear a couple of times at the primitive camp sites with the Boy Scouts. We have used the boat launch as a takeout point when canoeing the Niangua River. Great as primitive campsites. Haven't done the trails yet.
To start off with, the blazing system was a little confusing. There are multiple loops at this conservation area and they are titled by color, i.e., blue loop, red loop, etc.; however, the colors then correspond to a pattern and the pattern is what is blazed on the trails. So all blazes are yellow in color with a pattern on them. The pattern you get off of the conservations map and then match up with the trail. Wouldnt it have been easier just to use color blazes?
That being said, we started off of the parking lot at the very northwestern corner of this area off of highway E, thus starting on the red loop. At the first crossing, we stayed on the northern side of the loop and thus on the northern side of the Niangua River Hills Natural Area. This led us to a primitive camping area right down at the Niangua River. There were 3 campsites, each containing a large mowed, grassy area with a fire pit made from rocks. That was it. They were about 25 feet away from each other. Just a hundred yards or so from the river itself. Very scenic. However, the one thing I noticed about this area is that those who are in charge of it, seem to take pride in it. The roads are in great shape. The trails are mostly in good shape. They seem to be creative with some of the trails and creek crossings. However, the patrons that visit this area seem not to care at all and do not follow nor perhaps have never heard of the Leave No Trace set of ethics as there are lots of trash scattered throughout this area. That is not to imply that the area is trashy.
Onward and upward. After leaving the primitive camping area, we started on our first set of gravel roads to hike on. I hate hiking on gravel; it kills my feet and its just plain boring. Nonetheless a moderate hike upward here will lead you to the 0.5 mile hiking only trail. We were headed due south at this point on the western side of the northern-most Natural Area. This was an awesome place to stop and have lunch. No worry about cars or horse riders. We hiked the whole trail stopping on the river side for lunch and boy oh boy was it worth. The views were amazing. Overlooking the river, with hills and pastures in the background. See the pics below. If your aware, there is a wooden picnic table to sit and eat at.
After lunch, we headed back south for a short ways on the gravel road again. Just a short distance and we came across a choice. We decided to go west on the blue loop, which at this point is a gravel road. We were just about in the middle of the map along the gravel road with all of the parking lots along it. We hiked this for a bit. Our plan here was to hike all the way west until it ended and then north but Mike and enough of the gravel and I didnt blame him. We paused for a bit and studied the map, looking for a way to lengthen our hike and stay off the gravel as much as possible. We back tracked a little back to the east and then turned south onto Bob Hollow Road (A gravel road heading due south). Im glad we did as hiking down this road is one of the only places where we seen a large amount of pine trees. They are so gorgeous and nice to see some color this time of year.
We followed this until we reached the orange trail heading west. We took the southern most possible trail on the orange loop, south of the western most Natural Area. The hiking was much more strenuous here. After you pass through the creek bottoms and heading north, we were up and down quite a bit through here. After a while, we headed north and reached the State Forest Road again. This time walking on it for a very short distance and getting off back on the red loop again. Heading north. There must have just recently been a prescribed burn here. It was quite smokey and there were a few, very small fires still burning. Here we were walking north on the very most western boundary line of the conservation area. Other than the smell from the smoldering fire, it was very nice. Very peaceful. Easy hiking for a while. We turned east some and eventually met back up with the portion of the red loop that took us back out to our car.
All in all, I very much enjoyed Lead Mine. The scenery can get a bit monotonous at times and it is very typical of Missouri. It would be a great place to go in the summer as most of the trail is very wide to accommodate horses. Keep in mind that we hiked a very small portion of this area. We plan on going numerous times and hiking different loop variations. You can make short or long hikes. I believe they allow dispersed camping, but check with the conservation departments website as Im not sure. I didnt see any facilities for horse camps, so it may just be hikers that might camp here. I would recommend a hike here any time of year. No crowds. Great facilities. Fairly good terrain. Enjoy!
Full review and more photos at tammyonthetrail.com