Explore the most popular backpacking trails in Missouri with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

7 hours ago

Great network of trails!! The trails here are well maintained and blazed/marked properly in the most crucial areas, such as creek crossings and trail intersections. The forest service seems to do a great job taking care of this area. There are plenty of campsites out on the trails. We saw very, very little trash while hiking - just a couple of protein bar wrappers. (We are very big on pack-in pack-out.) There is a good mix of forest trails under canopy and open area trails. We stayed at the Pilot trailhead the first night, which has numerous campsites, as well as a community outhouse. We intended on overnighting on the trail, but ended up in a tick-infested spot and couldn't find a suitable campsite along the Tower trail, so decided to just head back to the trailhead.

We hiked the Long Creek trail west to the falls, then doubled back to the Upper Pilot trail, which is mostly open area (lots of sun exposure and no water). We then turned east on the Tower trail, where we tried to set up camp but got run off by the ticks. There was also no water on Tower trail headed east from Upper Pilot. The creek that's on the map was bone dry. Most of the water seemed to be in the southern trails.

We can't wait to get back and explore the other trails!! We fell in love with this area.

backpacking
16 hours ago

Set out to do a 2 night backpacking trip. Hiked 5 miles UP the mountain, set up camp, played around a bit, then prepared to take cover from the storm that, according to the weather man, wasn't supposed to happen. Rode that storm out in the tent (it was only 3pm) and, after checking the weather and surveying the storm headed toward us (twice as big as the first), we decided it was best not to stick around. We hiked 5 miles back down the mountain, literally walking through a creek the whole way and crossing several water falls because there was so much water from the first rain. We made it back out about 30 minutes before the next storm hit. There were at least 2 or 3 more rounds that night. Trail was difficult, rocky and wet. Probably be a great trail in the Fall. Spring rain and Missouri humidity make it difficult this time of year. All in all, a good workout.

backpacking
4 days ago

Amazing! We had a blast on a spring hike.

backpacking
5 days ago

I hiked in from the Highway A trailhead. I didn’t get started until about 1pm, and with temperatures in the low 90s I took a lot of breaks (41M) and reached the summit in about three hours going counter-clockwise. I set up camp with a beautiful view. There are lots of campsites with fire rings set up. I was low on water and had to decide if I was going to attempt to head down the mountain to reach Johnson Shut-in Creek or continue hiking around the loop counter-clockwise to reach Joe’s Creek. I decided to head for Joe’s Creek, which was about 2.5 hours round trip.

A storm was moving in, and I cooked dinner and watched the lightning show for a while before retiring to my tent. A loud, spectacular thunderstorm began around 9:30pm and went on non-stop until around midnight. After it ended , I emerged and enjoyed the post-storm darkness for a while before finally falling asleep. I hiked back down the same way in the morning. I saw a few wild turkeys and lots of lizards and turtles. The ticks were thick.

I only saw one other hiker, but I heard a couple of guys at a campsite about 100 yards from me, I assume they’re the ones that posted about heading down the mountain during the storm.

2nd time @ Bellé Muerto. Drove to Ottery Creek Campground at 2am and had the Camp to ourselves. Woke up around 10am and Hiked to the Summit (2.5 Hours, 6-/+ miles with small detours. Set up camp at the summit and walked down to Shut In Creek. The hike down to creek is short (1/2 mile) but intense, especially during the summer with so much foliage. Swam in the creek and then headed back up out summit camp around 6pm. We started making food and watched a storm in the distance which appeared to make its way around us. By sunset the storm had moved close, and by dark we were immersed in a pretty intense thunderstorm. After watching several strikes of lightning hit nearby Lindsay Mountain & Shut In Creek we decided to get off the mountain. Panicking in the dark with very heavy rain we got lost and ran around for about 20 minutes before finding the actual trail. Then with all of our gear we ran through intense thunder & lightning the 6-/+ miles back to car in a little over 1 hour.

One of the scariest nights of my life. Pure terror. Very humbling. Always check the weather before camping on summits and if a storm brews unexpectedly don’t wait to see if it will miss you or not. The radar told us that the storm was not going to hit us.

Bell Mountain is one of the tallest summits in the surrounding area & one of the rockiest summits in Missouri. That can either be really cool or dangerous as well.

BEAUTIFUL hike, BEAUTIFUL summit. 5/5 as always

20 mile day. the night of reckoning. the night we all almost died.

im not the best at expressing how I feel,
but if last night taught me anything, it's that I do not want to be left on a bad foot with anyone.

5/14/2018 the trip that almost didn't allow me to come back

a constant reminder at how easy it is to take things for granted. even what u love.

life or death sitatuion how do you react, how do you keep your thoughts together?


from this day on, everyday is looked at like a life or death situation
when I lay down and go to sleep, I die, my mind leaves, and portals back.
wake up and restarts,
intake, release, reflect, increase, decrease.
every sunset is a day, I'm never going to get back.
every night is my lightning storm.
5/14 thank you so much for sparing me,
and letting me intake the most valuable lesson
how precious LIFE is

backpacking
7 days ago

Very scenic for how short the trail is. A very nice distance if you want an easy 2 night backpacking trip or are short on time. Lots of good campsites near the summit. Busier than some other trails in the area but their was enough room for around 5 groups to make camp when we went. Make sure to bring enough water or a good filter as their are not many good water sources near the top. The trail is easy enough to follow and would definitely do it again.

backpacking
7 days 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.

backpacking
8 days 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!

backpacking
8 days ago

Backpacked with my friend and dog to the summit. Initially went the wrong way; where we were supposed to cross the street, we took a left and followed the Ozark trail for ~4 miles. Realized we went wrong way once I got some cell service and opened the map; by that time it was 6pm and time to set up camp. Next day, headed out around 7am and made our way across the stream, the road, and up the trail. First couple miles were a bit challenging, with moderately steep grade and a very rocky trail. (for reference: 19, male, great shape; first time backpacking. load was too heavy and will not make that mistake again!!) There were some breaks in the treeline on the way up with great views, perfect for taking a break. Definitely enjoy that as you won't get a similar view until the summit. Took us ~3 hours to get from the road to the summit -- probably won't take that long if you don't have a really heavy load like we did.
Got to "summit" -- and I say "summit" because while being the highest point, there really isn't too much of a break in the treelines -- that said, where there are breaks, it's an incredible view. There are many protruding rocks (boulders?) which gave us great views. Caught timelapses of the sunrise. We set up camp and realized we were pretty low on water. While there was a pond near the beginning of the loop, it was pretty muck and we'd read something about Joe'sCreek being a viable source of water. We came across no such creek on the way to the summit, so i'm assuming that creek was located on the clockwise way of the loop (we went counterclockwise -- summit is much closer that way). So, we did what naive amateurs do and decided to decline the mountain, a mile due east from campsite, as we knew there was a river "Shut-in Creek" down there. Went from ~1700ft elevation to ~700ft in the span of a mile, through the thick. Let me tell you-- it was hard. There was no trail, and we had to go through some thick areas. We were heavily protected from ticks and the like, but still. Took ~20 min to get down, hit the river which was B E A Utiful as can be. The Hike back up was difficult -- about 45 min. In retrospect, we should have just made our way to Joe's Creek. But, it was our first time, and we sure learned from it. A couple other groups set up camp on the summit. Made some friends. You wouldn't believe how many stars there are when there's no light pollution. Awe-inspiring.
All in all, a great first backpacking experience. The Hike down was considerably easier; we made it back to the car in less than half the time it took to go up. My dog, Skipper, did well. K9 Advantix 2 days prior, and a flea/tick collar is a must. Found a lot of dead ticks on him. Kinda cool. Will definitely go back -- a bit more prepared next time.

backpacking
13 days ago

I am not 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 - http://www.ouachitamaps.com/picture_library/Paddy%20Creek/Paddy%20Creek%20Map.jpg) 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 (https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/mtnf/recarea/?recid=21782). 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.

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

Jeff G

I hike in this area a few times a year and not sure this loop actually exists. Please refer to www.ozarktrail.com for accurate maps and trail info for this area.

Would not classify this as a hard trail. Lots of options for picking which distance works best for you.

backpacking
14 days 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:

https://youtu.be/DPZEVwNZlvo

hiking
15 days 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!

hiking
16 days ago

It’s a really beautiful area as many have stated. It may be different with very high or low water levels but when we were there there was pool after inviting pool as we hiked along the creek. Some of them were ~20 feet across.. Next time I’ll do some wading.

Knocked off one star because of how poorly marked and maintained the trail was. There are a couple pics of one of our group with her toes on a 6” ledge. I doubt that was the way the trail went but it sure appeared to lead us there.

Extremely clean, was out all day and saw one piece of trash. The trails are beautiful and vary in difficulty. There's a great waterfall on the blue loop. Loved this trail and will definitely return.

I rate this as difficult, because of the challenging nature of climbing over and around the big rocks, which are incredibly slippy when wet.
You can camp at the trailhead by your car, or at the river some 40 mins in or further upstream, I found it difficult to get around rocks with my backpack, and because I was on my own, return and camped at a safer place. This is a beautiful site to camp, relax and hike. Totally recommend it.

beautiful hike on the north loop cutting across several flowing streams + along spectacular bluffs. the fragrant scent of pines is wonderful. nice mix of terrain but not difficult;rather pleasant + relaxing.

backpacking
22 days ago

Every other review I’ve read is pretty accurate. My GF(inexperienced) and I hiked yesterday 4/28/18.
The trails are definitely not maintained, which is fine with me because it means not many people go here. It’s not the easiest trail to navigate; with occasional rock climbing, rock hoping and super slick rock along the river. Yes there are definitely an abundance of snakes but that’s just a part of nature, watch where you put your hands & feet and you should be fine. The trail can be difficult in places and easy in other spots but well worth the experience if the river and falls (lots of rain last week), the views and serenity of it all.
We will be back again to see more soon. I expect during the summer it would be incredibly overgrown, so come prepared to work for it.

backpacking
25 days ago

Loved this trail. Will be doing this one again.

backpacking
25 days 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.

The loop starting at highway A is a little more than 12 miles. Only two decent sized climbs (the biggest during the first couple of miles, then it's mostly flat). Take your time at the few overlooks as those are the best views. Other than stopping for lunch at a nice overlook, I did it in about 4.5 hours.

hiking
25 days ago

One of my favorite trails in Missouri! The south loop adds some miles and it really peaceful because not as many people are on it.

backpacking
1 month ago

Very rugged terrain. There are several areas of the trail that have deep horse ruts. It would probably be impassable if it was muddy. Trails were somewhat marked. Lots of hills. Cross over several creeks, or the same creek several times. Camped alone a portion of Smith Creek. Saw a few other campsites along the way. Good for a one-nighter close to home. Will probably go back and explore the area again and spend another night. Decent stay.

started at the highway A, ozark trail, ottery creek trailhead (there is a second entrance that follows yellow trail tape). I decided to go counter clockwise, which I think actually made this an easier hike. in total it took me 4.5 hours (23M, in good shape), including time to eat lunch ams about 20min of bird watching. I used about 1.5 liters of water, using my filter to refill at the creek that you cross (for is new and I wanted I play with my new toy haha).

I will say I expected a little more of a break in the tree line for something labeled as a mountain (probably cause I'm from the northeast and hike out there a lot). but I was very happy with my first ever hike in Missouri! trees weren't green yet but a good portion of the trail was lined with gorgeous quilts flowers and I had strong birds singing the whole hike!

backpacking
1 month ago

The trail was beautiful after a week of rain. Pickle Creek was roaring and every drainage had water in it. The trail itself was in great condition though. We started up Pickle Creek, crossed it in knee deep water to join the north loop and then camped overnight at site 3 on the south loop. We finished up the next morning on the prettiest section of the whole loop.

Nice area but not an easy walk by any means due to horse ruts

trail running
1 month ago

I had a great time here. I started at the tower trailhead and took Long Creek down to the Falls. I found that trail kinda hard to see but it was smooth going. I then continued down to Lower Pilot, then onto Tower trail. Toward the end of that I decided to divert onto Pees Hollow. Then back to the trailhead. I covered just shy of 18 miles in 5 hours (trail running). The maps provided on site were a must.
I didn’t have a compass so I had to judge the sun’s position to find my way at certain points. It all added to the epic journey!

backpacking
1 month ago

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

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