Patricia's Missouri Various Day Hikes

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  Big Sugar Creek State Park
    [Southwest corner of Missouri.]
    Hwy 71 to Pineville.  [And it is very tricky from here -
    there are no road signs indicating the way to the park.]
    Exit at H (east), turn left briefly on Business 71 and
    then right on to W.  W weaves through town - look for 8th
    street on the right in town (next to the school - if you
    reach the library/field, you missed it).  Turn on to 8th,
    to over one-lane bridge and the road turns into Big Sugar
    Creek Road.  Take the narrow, paved road about 5 miles to
    the park, with a small parking area on the left.  
    Note: it may look like on a map that you can continue east
    on Big Sugar Creek Road and eventually reach a major road,
    but the road eventually has a low river crossing and then
    T-junctions with no road signs and is dirt - best just to
    go back to Hwy 71.
    Vault toilet.
    There is a large information sign with a map at the start.
    The trail starts wide and then narrows.  There are yellow
    blazes marking the way.  Taking a right at the T-junction,
    the trail heads along a mostly dry creek, crossing it a
    couple of times, with thin woods around and small hills
    to the left and right.  I turned around after 20 minutes
    as I was unimpressed and still had more driving to do.    
  Trail Length:
    3.1 miles, loop
    Trees, small hills
  When I did the hike:
    Monday, October 31, 2011
    Nope.  Not near anything, hard to find, and the portion
    I did was blah enough that I turned around.

Piney Creek Wilderness Directions: [Southwest lower edge of Missouri, west of Branson.] Rt 76 to Lake Rd 76-6 (about 20 miles from Cassville) - there is a road sign for 76.6 on the left and FR2150 on the right. Take the road for .7 miles to a turn (unsigned) on the right [if you reach the Mark Twain NF sign, you missed the turn]. Take the turn on to a gravel road for a very short ways to the parking area and loop around the (fenced) lookout tower. Vault toilet. Free. Trails: Note that there are various older trails and horse paths (and bit of old wagon trails) in the area and it is sometimes hard to figure out the correct way to go. One end of the trail starts just as the road reaches the parking area and the other end is at the far end of the loop in the middle of a small grassy area to the right of a picnic table with a horse hitch. There is an info sign and maybe some paper map brochures in front of the tower. Taking the trail at the start of the parking area (there is a small "trail" sign), the one-person width trail heads in the trees (no distance views). It can be overgrown in spots, but it is still easy to tell where the trail goes. Take a left at the first junction (there is a silver diamond blaze with directions). Head down to a small gully and up the other side. Take a right at the next junction (with an illegible wooden sign). The trail heads a top a ridge for a good ways. It is pretty with the fall colors, mostly yellows with some reds and yellow-pinks. The trail heads a mild down and then a sharper down and then not as sharp of a down as it makes its way to the valley floor. The trail reaches the creek and a junction (small pile of stones, nice seat). For the shorter loop, you would head right here and then take the creek trail for about 1/2 mile to the the next right junction. For the full loop, take a left and you can see the trail continue across the creek. You may be able to rock-hop across the creek, but it can be difficult and challenging to do a dry crossing and you may have to do a wet crossing. The trail is not as pretty along the creek area. It's about 1/4 mile to the junction for the way up the south side of the valley. Continue straight where you see a trail branch to the left. The trail crosses the creek again (again a difficult dry crossing). At the 3rd creek crossing, go to the left for a dry crossing, but that way is more difficult going through brush to get back to the trail. Immediately on the other side of the creek is the right branch for the loop trail (the creek trail continues straight for less than a mile to the edge of a lake spur). Taking the right branch, after a short bit alongside the creek, the trail starts to make its way up to the ridge - a hard and steady up. The trail still heads a steady up along the ridge and then is back to mild with a slight down. And then still mild with a slight up as it heads along the ridge. The wider trail is a mixture of slight ups and slight downs as it heads along the ridge for a good ways. Just past the metal wilderness sign is a gravel road. Take a right on the road for a short bit to a parking area just ahead (no facilities) - this is the southern trailhead for the Piney Creek Wilderness. The narrow trail continues to the left, behind the far horse hitch (the trail is faint for a bit, but more distinct later). The trail is mild as it stays near the road for a bit before curving right, away from the road. After a short down and up, the trail heads a mild down along the ridge. Then it is a sharper down for a while along a now gravelish trail. After a switchback, the trail loses the gravel and is not as hard of a down. The trail eventually reachs a gully and heads mildly along the (hopefully) dry creek bed and crosses it a number of times. And heads along the creek bed for a good ways. The gully eventually reaches Piney Creek. Where the trail T-junctions with the Piney Creek trail, take a left and the trail goes through the dry creek bed and then along side Piney Creek. Not too far ahead is a right (small rock cairn) for the last portion of the loop [and this is also where you would turn if you were doing the half loop]. Take the right and immediately cross the creek (should be able to rock hop). The wide, rocky trail heads a steady up (not too hard) as it is an old road. The up is not too long and then the trail is mild (with some mild up) for a while and less rocky. At the open area make sure you take the proper branch - looks like there is a trail to the hard left, left (which is the wrong way I went), and straight - go straight and the trail takes a little zig-zag and then heads a sharp down to the valley floor (so if you are not heading down, you are on the wrong trail and will eventually end up near Rt 76). The trail crosses the dry creek and then heads a rocky up (go right at the open area). The trail heads a hard up for a bit. At the end of the rocky area, the trail heads not as hard of an up. After the trail levels out, it is mild the rest of the way back to the parking area/tower. Trail Length: The loop is about 10 miles Can also do a half loop for about 5 miles Area: Trees, hills, creek When I did the hike: Tuesday, November 1, 2011 Recommendation: It is nice, but confusing with the various branches. Good place to see the fall colors and not crowded.
Devil's Backbone Wilderness Directions: [Southcentral lower edge of Missouri, east of Branson and west of West Plains.] From West Plains, take Rt 63 north to CC and take CC west about 16 miles. From the west, take 160 east to 181 east (just east of Gainesville) and stay on 181 for a ways (it is a windy road) to the T-junction with H. Turn left on H and go for a couple of miles and turn right on to CC. Go for about 5 miles (I think) and cross the Fork River. The turn-in for the campground/day-use area is just east of the river (on the south side of the road). About a mile from the river is a right/south turn on to a small dirt road and a short ways ahead the road ends at a small loop and there is the signed trailhead for the Devil's Backbone Trail/McGarr Ridge. No facilities at the trailhead, vault toilets in the camping area. Free if parking at trailhead, $2 day-use for parking in the camping area. Trails: I went to the area for a long hike, but the rain (not wanting to hike on wet leaves with a sprained ankle) limited me to the short nature trail loop (less than a mile loop) to Blue Springs. For Blue Springs, go to the campground area and take the road all the way to the small parking area at the end. The trail starts in the middle of the grassy area (to the left of the river). Head along the trail, near the river, going by a small rock face to a small pool with a natural spring on the left edge (you can see the water flowing/bubbling up). There is a rope on a tree and it is a small swim hole. The trail heads a short, sharp up to the left to the ridge, with a bench at the top. To the right (facing away from the river) is a spur trail that hooks up with the Ozark Trail. Go left to complete the nature loop. The trail heads up the gully a short ways, crosses it, and heads back and then goes along the small ridge above the river (with a pretty view of the river as the trail curves right) and eventually reaches the parking area. Note that some of the trails in the area can be a bit overgrown. Note that the Ozark Trail is a combo trail. Trail Length: Short to full day to multi-day. [Do a web-search for Ozark Trail (McGarr Ridge/south area) and Devils Backbone Wilderness for maps of the area.] Area: Trees, small mountains, river When I did the hike: Wednesday, November 2, 2011 Recommendation: Unfortunately the weather did not cooperate and it rained the two days I was there so I did not get to do my long planned hike (Devil's Backbone trail-part of Ozark Trail loop), but I'd like to go back sometime and try again. The bit of the trail that I saw looked nice. Don't go just for the Blue Springs.

Patricia Bender Not affiliated with or representing anyone besides myself