Trails of the Ozarks
The hills and hollows of the Ozarks invite hikers from across the nation. They are renown for their beautiful fall colors, intriguing landscapes, and remote nature. There are few trails on earth that offer the same amount of peace, quiet, and intimacy with nature.
There are a variety of trails along the Current and Jacks Fork Rivers. They are maintained by the park or volunteers, like the Ozark Trail Association. In addition, all dirt roads and old traces are open to hiking. Except for occasional horseback riders, there is not much traffic in the Ozarks. A few common sense guidelines will make for a relaxing, enjoyable trip through the mountains of Missouri.
First, check out the National Park Service page on hiking essentials. That article covers general guidelines for hiking in the parks. For park-specific topics, click on the tabs below for more information:
The National Park Service and Ozark Trail Association are in the process of marking trails. However, many remain unmarked to this day. In the meantime, a topographical map and navigation tools will help.
A map, compass, and flashlight should be the bare minimum a hiker brings on the trail. A phone does not substitute for any of these items. There is often no cell phone service, and the flashlight will drain the battery quickly. Hike smart and over-prepare!
Most hiking injuries are caused by off-trail hazards. To avoid exposure to pests, harmful plants, or dangerous terrain, please stay on the trail at all times. Many trails also leave the park and cross private or state lands. Respect the landowners in each area by staying on the designated path.
Pets are welcome on almost all trails apart from horse trails. Most dogs love hiking through the hills of the Ozarks. However, extra precaution is needed to protect both pets and wildlife.
Dogs must remain on a 6-foot leash, even when the area seems empty. There are often unseen threats to your pet’s health and safety:
Pets can easily become lost, exhausted, or injured, especially in an unfamiliar environment. Each year, thousands of pets go missing in parks. Without microchips or tags, there is an 85% chance that a lost dog will not be returned to its owner. With that statistic in mind, always keep your pet on a leash.
Ticks are abundant in spring, summer, and fall. They can be even be picked up during the winter months. As such, it's crucial to take the following measures:
Other pests, such as chiggers, are also present throughout the park. Follow the same tips above and stay on the trail to reduce your exposure risk.
Some venomous snakes are found in the area, but they are rarely a problem. Most snakebites occur when people try to catch, kill, or otherwise interact with a snake. If you see a snake, walk around their location in a wide circle and leave them alone.
Killing snakes is prohibited in Missouri.
Poison ivy and other harmful plants are spread throughout the region. As with the other hazards mentioned in this list, the best form of prevention is to wear long pants/sleeves and stay on the trail. There is nothing off the trail that is worth ruining your week/month for.
Speaking of plants: while foraging is allowed in the park, we must remind visitors to never consume something which they cannot 100% identify. Mushrooms, berries, and fruits often have toxic lookalikes. Some of these lookalikes can be fatal even in low doses.
Lower Current River Trails
Big Spring Trail System:
Slough Trail:1.2 miles round trip. Wheelchair accessible. An easy stroll that begins just north of the '
River's Edge Trail: 1.8 miles round trip. This easy meandering trail, much of it through a stand of cane, provides a connection between Big Spring Campground and Peavine Picnic Shelter where one can catch the Slough Trail which leads to the
Stone Ridge Trail:1.2 miles long.This moderate to mildly strenuous hike ascends the limestone bluff to the ridgeline above the
Spring Branch Trail:1 mile round trip. This short rocky (in some sections) trail connects
Chubb Hollow Trail: 3.8 mile loop trail. This trail offers a wide range of experiences. Sections of this hike pass through the Big Spring Pines State Natural Area---one of the most outstanding pine-oak forests in the
Partney Ridge Trail: 3.3 miles long. This is a long but moderate hike with minimal grade change that traverses upland ridgetop forest (oak/hickory/pine) as well as an early farmstead---where both open fields and an old home (staff residence) provide park visitors with a glimpse of the bottomland habitation patterns once indicative of small farming settlements along the riverways. Excellent opportunities for wildlife viewing (turkey, deer, numerous song birds and raptors) exist as the trail nears the
Kinnard Hollow Trail: 3.5 miles long.The Kinnard Trail must be accessed via the Chubb Hollow Trail, the Spring Valley Trail, or the Chilton Trail. A moderate, but long hike, this trail was once part of the route patrolled by a "Range Rider" when
Chilton Creek Trail: 3.4 mile loop trail. This moderate trail parallels Chilton Creek as it travels up McSpadden Hollow before ascending a ridgetop. The trail follows an old trace much of the way, with hand laid stone crib walls constructed years ago where intermittent streams descend the ridge. Dipping into a second stream bed which drains into Water Hollow, the trail loops back to the north where it intersects Hwy. Z. At this point one can cross the road, catching the Partney Ridge Trail, or turn north along side Hwy. Z to complete the Chilton Creek loop.
Spring Valley Trail: 2.1 miles long.This trail begins just south of Hwy 103 west of the
Cave Spring River Trail: 0.8 miles round trip. This easy trail begins at the day-use picnic area near Cave Spring on the Lower Current located west of the small community of Hunter (take Hwy 21 south and Hwy E west out of Hunter). Cave Spring River Trail passes through dense riparian habitat along the banks of the spring branch fed by waters issuing from the large vaulted entrance of the cave. This trail follows the spring branch east to the Current River.
Upper Current River Trails
Susie Nichols Cabin Trail: 0.6 miles round trip. This easy walk leads from the gate at the parking area up the old "home place" road to the farmstead of Susie Nichols, who up until her death in 1959 chose to keep "the old ways". Living without electricity and relying on her horse "ol' Don" she remained independent and self-sufficient. The park maintains her board & batten cabin and several outbuildings---the Nichols homestead being a cultural landscape typical of Ozark lifeways.
Welch Spring Trail: 0.8 miles round trip. The trail is located off Hwy. K north of Akers.It is an easy walk from the trailhead parking area north along a rock/earth impoundment out to Welch Spring which emits 78.2 million gallons of crystal clear water a day from a cave at the base of a dolomite cliff. An old impoundment contains the flow, then water tumbles into the
Cave Spring Trail 4.6 mile loop trail. This trail is moderate but long with short stretches classed as difficult as the trail climbs over the cliff presenting a challenging 'scramble'. Follow signs on KK east of Akers where a gravel access road leads to Devils Well (an ancient sinkhole at the bottom of which lies an underground lake the size of a football field).The loop trail, beginning at the Devils Well traverses oak-pine forest ridges, a dolomite glade, winds through hollows and crosses intermittent streams as it brings hikers down to the mouth of Cave Spring on the Current River. The 'Cliff' segment of this loop trail traverses the side of a high dolomite bluff overlooking the
Pulltite Nature Trail: 1.5 mile loop trail.This trail presents a moderate challenge. The trailhead is located near the terminus of the campground road near the Group Camping Area at Pulltite. It is a 'self-guided' nature walk with interpretive panels along the trail. The trail ascends the ridge through oak/pine upland forest---passing close to a dolomite cave. On decent from the ridgetop the trail parallels the
Pulltite Cabin Trail: 0.2 miles round trip. Located across the
Round Spring Trails: Round Spring Trail - A short walk (0.1 mile) from the Round Spring Picnic area takes visitors to an overlook where visitors can view the deep blue-green waters of Round Spring which lies at the base of a moss/fern covered limestone bluff. Interpretive exhibits provide information on geology and an overview of prehistoric peoples who once lived in the area.
Lick Log Trail: 1 mile loop trail---easy with no steep grades.Trailhead is located off
Prairie Hollow Gorge Trail: 0.6 miles round trip.This short "scramble" over large boulders leads up the canyon of an igneous "shut-in" within the Prairie Hollow Gorge State Natural Area. It is located east of Hwy. V north of Hwy 106. There are numerous igneous glades and the area presents a prime example of igneous upland forest dominated by short leaf pine and white oak. The rocky understory is notable for a lush carpet of moss, lichen, and blueberry bushes.The stream which passes through the gorge flows intermittently with deep pools carved into the rock and enormous boulders.
Ozark Trail Maps: The 200 + miles of the Ozark Trail runs from
Blue Spring Trail: 1 mile round trip. This easy to moderate hike may be accessed at Powder Mill or from the picnic area at the Blue Spring Trailhead & Picnic Area. The trail skirts the bottomland riparian forest along the
Rocky Falls Trail: 0.4 miles long. This short, easy walk links
Jacks Fork River Trails
Alley Spring Trail: 0.3 mile loop.This easy hike begins at the historic Alley Mill located on the banks of Alley Spring. Following a tour of the old turbine powered grist mill, visitors can walk the perimeter of the deep blue spring along a trail that hugs the base of a massive dolomite cliff. The remnants of the old stone impoundment and mill sluice send the 81 million gallons of water per day that flow from Alley Spring cascading into the spring branch. The trail continues for a short distance along the spring branch past a series of small caves and moss covered rock outcroppings, crosses a wood foot bridge to return to the Mill or continues down the branch to the visitor parking area.
Alley Overlook Trail: 1.3 mile loop trail. This hike begins at Alley Mill. There is a steep rocky ascent that climbs the limestone bluff from which Alley Spring emerges.The short climb brings one to a scenic overlook they have a birds-eye view of the red Alley Mill below and the crystalline blue waters of Alley Spring. An interpretive wayside at the overlook reveals the extent of this once thriving 19th century community with a general store, a blacksmith shop, and a farmstead with corn fields and fence rows on the rolling slopes beyond Alley Mill. The trail continues along the ridge top through an upland pine-oak forest and this long segment of trail is level and easy walking. Following the ridge southward the trail dips down a series of switchbacks into the floodplain where Alley Spring Branch flows towards the
Ozark National Scenic Riverways offers equestrians four designated horse trail loops totaling 25.5 miles of trail. The trails are marked with color coded blazes. The park provides two staging areas (Broadfoot and
Horseback riding offers an excellent opportunity to experience the Ozark landscape---from open fields where one may encounter feral horses, forested riparian bottomland where one can observe song birds, raptors and water fowl, and upland oak-pine ridges with panoramic views of the river below. Remember---equestrians are restricted to blazed designated horse trails and numbered county gravel roads ONLY! Segments of some of the designated horse trails traverse private land.Out of courtesy and respect for private landowners, public lands, and the environment---all riders are asked to KEEP TO THE BLAZED TRAILS!
SAFETY NOTE:River fords are signed---and riders are to cross only at these designated fords. For the safety of both rider and mount---always release tie-downs before crossing a river ford. Never attempt to cross any stream or river during periods of high water.
Jerktail Loop Trail: This 5.2 mile loop trail is classified as moderate to difficult. There are two designated fords where the trail crosses the
Broadfoot Loop Trail:This 5.9 mile loop trail is classified as moderate.The Broadfoot loop offers excellent opportunities to view a herd of wild horses which are protected within the park.There are two designated fords where the Broadfoot trail crosses the
Two Rivers Loop Trail: This 5.4 mile loop trail is classified as easy to moderate. Extended segments of this loop trail follow riparian corridors and afford views of both the Current and
Shawnee Loop Trail: This 7 mile loop trail is classified as easy to moderate. The Shawnee Staging area provides hitching posts, a restroom, and designated day-use parking for horse trailers. The trail passes through riparian areas along the Jacks Fork and
Angeline Conservation Area Horse Trails: The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) supports a system of eleven interconnected short loop trails and connecting trails within the Angeline, totaling 8.7 miles, just north of Eminence and to the west of the park. All trails are marked with color coded blazes.The trailhead parking area provided by MDC has designated parking for 30 horse trailers. Brochures describing the trails will be available at the trailhead. Riders may also contact the MDC Eminence Office at (573) 226-3616 to obtain more information.
Last updated: September 28, 2023