Best Hikes in Mark Twain National Forest (MO)

Mark Twain National Forest Overview

Mark Twain National Forest is located throughout the southern half of Missouri. One of the highlights of the forest is Greer Spring, the largest spring on National Forest land in the US. The 350 mile Ozark Trail also winds its way through much of the forest. More of the best hikes in Mark Twain National Forest are described below.

Nearest Metro AreaSt. Louis, MO
Area Size1,491,840 acres
EstablishedSeptember 23, 1939
Hiking Trails750 mies

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Trailhead Traveler’s Recommended Best sHikes in Mark Twain National Forest

(*** = Best hikes in Mark Twain National Forest)

Berryman Trail – 24.0 mile loop

The Berryman Trail starts at Berryman Campground, the site of a Civilian Conservation Corps camp, and traverses 24 miles of scenic Ozark countryside. It winds through timbered stands of oak, pine and bottomland hardwood, climbing switchback fashion from low bottoms to high cherty ridges. Interesting flora and fauna abound in the old fields, glade-like rock outcroppings and deep forest. Trail users are insured a measure of solitude and quiet, as motor vehicles are prohibited on the trail.

Big Piney Loop*** – 17.1 mile loop

Big Piney Trail covers a variety of Ozark terrain in Paddy Creek Wilderness. Hiking in a wilderness area brings its own special challenges along with special delights. Signs and trail markings are sparse, there are no bridges across the creeks, and the trail may be rough. The remoteness and lack of facilities almost guarantees solitude, and means that you must be well prepared.

Council Bluff Lake Trail*** – 12.4 mile loop
Council Bluff Lake
Council Bluff Lake, Photo by Paul Sableman

This 12.4 mile trail circles the largest of the lakes in the Mark Twain National Forest, and connects to the Council Bluff Recreation Area, providing hiking and mountain biking opportunities along the lake shore. Council Bluff Lake is stocked with large mouth bass, redear sunfish, bluegill, crappie and catfish. Fishing is permitted year round.

Greer Spring Trail*** – 1.8 miles out and back

A popular day hike for Forest visitors. Greer Spring is the second largest spring in Missouri. Its average daily flow of 222 million gallons more than doubles the size of the Eleven Point National Scenic River into which it flows. The spring flows from two outlets about 250 feet apart at the bottom of a steep, shaded ravine at the terminus of the trail. The spring run drops 62 feet in elevation for 1.25 miles where it runs into the Eleven Point National Scenic River.

Lower Rock Creek Trail – 5.6 miles out and back

Perfect trail for hikers that enjoy being in isolation next to running water. Despite some areas that are overgrown and not well marked, this is a great option in the Mark Twain National Forest.

Ozark Trail – Taum Sauk Section*** – 12.4 miles one-way
Taum Sauk Falls
Taum Sauk Falls, Photo by Keith Yaul

This section of the 500+ mile Ozark Trail connects the Fredericktown District with the Potosi District traversing two state parks—Johnson Shut-ins and Taum Sauk Mountain—and the Devil’s Tollgate and Bell Mountain Wilderness.

Smith Creek Loop – 5.6 mile loop

This trail traverses about 5 miles in length between Boydsville and Rutherford Bridge, is marked in orange diamonds. This scenic route provides glimpses of Cedar Creek from the bluffs above.

Featured Image: Mark Twain National Forest, Photo by Paul Sableman

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