The Ozark Trail in Missouri ~ Go Hiking  in Missouri!

The Wonders of the Ozark Trail in Missouri!
Missouri Ozark Trail Sections in the Arcadia Valley Region and Black River Recreation Area
of Iron County and Reynolds County Missouri

For Ozark Trail lodging, accommodations and campgrounds near Missouri Hiking Trails and Biking Trails in Missouri, please click here.

For Ozark Trail Shuttle Services please contact Franklin Floats at 573-637-2205 or the Ozark Trail Association Shuttle Service here.


Missouri Ozark Trail History - How this wonderful recreational resource came to be!

The Ozarks are one of the most spectacularly diverse places on Earth. They offer everything from mountains, knobs and hills dotted with caves and igneous glades and scattered with hardwood forests and stands of pines—to beautiful valleys filled with clear, meandering streams fed by sparkling springs and an abundance of wildflowers and wildlife.  In order to allow the world to fully enjoy the magnificence and splendor of this ancient treasure trove of natural beauty, the idea for the Ozark Trail was conceived.

After the 1975 State Comprehensive Recreation Plan, it became obvious that the miles of available trail in Missouri fell behind demands by 500-900 miles.  So, in 1976, an informal discussion of a proposal called the “Ozark Trail Concept” was held at the Meramac Dam visitor center. This discussion led a group of private landowners, trail users and public land managers to meet and discuss creating a long-distance scenic route through the Missouri Ozarks—from metropolitan St. Louis to the Arkansas border—to eventually connect with the Ozark Highlands Trail and create a 700 mile continuous trail.

Just a few years later in 1981, the first sections of new trail were under way, and by 1991, over 170 miles of trail were constructed and joined with existing trails to total over 200 completed miles of trail. On the heels of this success came the realization that because so few people knew about the trail, many sections were getting very little usage. As a result, land managers couldn’t see budgeting money for unused trails, and there was no support organization to inform and recruit potential volunteers.

Enter the Ozark Trail Association—a non profit organization whose mission is “to develop, maintain, preserve, promote and protect the rugged, natural beauty of the Ozark Trail”. The Ozark Trail Association is dedicated to finishing the vision conceived in 1977, and almost 550 miles of the original 700 have been completed with 350 miles in Missouri. To learn more about the Ozark Trail Association and how you can help to finish this dream, visit

The sections of the Ozark Trail in our region of Iron and Reynolds county include:  the Blair Creek Section, the Karkaghne Section, the Marble Creek Section, the Taum Sauk Section, the Middle Fork Section and the Trace Creek Section.

Trace Creek Section – Located just southwest of Potosi, this beautifully simple trail wanders through dense Hickory, Oak and Pine forests with deep, shady hollows and windswept ridges. The Trace Creek Section of the Ozark Trail crosses several small, mostly wet weather streams, as well as Hazel Creek and several state highways. The northern 18 miles of trail were created in 1968, and the last 6 miles were added in 1983. There are two official trailheads on this 24-mile moderately difficult section: the Hazel Creek Trailhead is on CR 657 off Highway Y east of Steeleville, and the Highway A Trailhead is on Highway A off Highway 32 between Caledonia and Belleview. To the north, the Trace Creek Section connects with the Curtois Section, and to the south, the Taum Sauk and Middle Fork Sections. Camping is available at Hazel Creek Campground and 100 feet from the trail.

Middle Fork Section – There’s no shortage of water in the Middle Fork Section of the Ozark Trail. Located in Iron and Reynolds Counties, this section of trail crosses many brooks and streams in the upper basin of the Black River’s Middle Fork, including the headwaters of the Middle Fork, Neals Creek, Little Creek, Henderson Creek and Brooks Creek. It also passes near seeps and fens, such as the Barton Fen—a breeding grounds and habitat for the endangered Hines Emerald Dragonfly. This is the newest section of the Ozark Trail, having only been finished since 2005. This 25-mile moderate to easy trail also provides some of the best single-track mountain bicycling in Missouri. There are two official trailheads on this section: the Highway DD Trailhead is on Highway DD off Highway 32, south of the Council Bluffs Recreational Area, and the Highway J Trailhead is on Highway J off Highway KK (from Highway 32 near Bixby). {Please do not block access through the red gate as it is on private property and used often.} At Barton Fen, there is an unofficial access to this section of trail on CR 78 from CR 79 (across from Bixby Store). To the north, the Middle Fork Section connects with the Trace Creek Section, and to the south, the Karkaghne Section. Camping is available 100 feet from the trail.

Karkaghne Section – The Karkaghne Section of the Ozark Trail is the only section not named after a natural feature—by one account the name comes from a mythical creature in forest folklore! This side-slope trail runs just below the ridge tops from Oates to Highway 72 and offers great swimming opportunities when lowering to cross the West Fork of the Black River and Bee Fork with a large gap of no water until Grasshopper Hollow (the largest fen complex in un-glaciated North America) near the southern end of the trail. In the 1980s, the lower 18 miles were constructed, running from Sutton Bluff to Highway 72, with the final 10-miles from Oates added in 2000. This moderately difficult 28-mile section has three official trailheads: the Sutton Bluff Trailhead is past the Sutton Bluff Recreation Area on FS 2336 off Forest Road 2233 from Highway 21 near Centerville, the Highway 72 Trailhead is on Highway P off Highway 72 south of Centerville, and the Highway J Trailhead is on Highway J from Highway 49 near Oates. {Please do not block access through the red gate as it is on private property and used often.} To the north, the Karkaghne Section connects with the Middle Fork Section, and to the south, the Blair Creek Section. Camping is available at Sutton Bluff Campground and 100 feet from the trail.

Blair Creek Section – Passing through the Roger Pryor Backcountry on the way to the Current River, the Blair Creek Section of the Ozark Trail begins on the western edge of Reynolds County and includes a varied range of beautiful views. For six miles the trail follows a major ridge line dividing Big Creek and Blair Creek., then leaves the ridge to follow Blair Creek southward past old home sites, springs and fields bedecked with wildflowers before making its way to the bluffs high above Current River. Scattered along this moderately difficult 28-mile trail, there are glades which hold heat-retaining rocks and make it a pleasant hike even in the colder months. There are three official trailheads on this section: the Highway 72 Trailhead is on Highway P off Highway 72 south of Centerville, the turn off for the FS 2220 Trailhead is 2 miles past the Highway 72 Trailhead—at FS 2220 (CR 235) from Mine Road off Highway P, and the Owls Bend Trailhead is at Owls Bend Campground off Highway 106 from Ellington. To the north, the Blair Creek Section connects with the Karkaghne Section, and to the south, the Current River Section. Camping is available at Owls Bend Campground and 100 feet from the trail.

Marble Creek Section – Halfway between the Taum Sauk and Wappapello Sections lays the Marble Creek Section of the Ozark Trail. This “little orphan” of the trail is blocked in by private land, waiting for easement or purchase negotiations to connect on either side. A point-to-point trail from the Marble Creek Campground Trailhead on Highway E from Highway 21 south of Ironton to the Crane Lake Trailhead on CR 131 (left at the “Y”) from CR 124. At only nine miles, this trail offers opportunities for an enjoyable day hike or a great mountain bike trip. An additional loop is available around Crane Lake—featuring spectacular rock formations at the shut-ins below the dam. Camping is not allowed at Crane Lake, but is available at Marble Creek Campground and 100 feet from the trail. *** Note: A timber sale is in progress along a two-mile section of the trail, beginning about three miles from Marble Creek Campground. A portion of the trail has been destroyed by logging vehicles and may be difficult to follow at times. If you are unfamiliar with the trail, you should bring a topographical map and compass.

Taum Sauk Section – The Taum Sauk Section of the Ozark Trail runs through several state parks and conservation areas including Bell Mountain Wilderness Area, Proffit Mountain and Ketcherside Mountain Conservation Areas and Johnson’s Shut-Ins and Taum Sauk Mountain State Parks. This moderately to difficultly rugged section is comprised of two different hikes; one from Taum Sauk to Johnson’s Shut-Ins (about 12.5 miles) and the other from Johnson’s Shut-Ins to Highway A (about 15 miles). The last six-mile portion runs from the Highway 21 Trailhead to intersect the route from Taum Sauk and finishes off this section’s 33 total miles. With scenic vistas ranging from panoramic glades to the state’s highest waterfall, complete with one of the best natural swimming pools around, the Taum Sauk Section is spectacular in any season. Four official trailheads provide access to this section: the Taum Sauk Mountain Trailhead is on Highway CC off Highway 21 just south of Arcadia Valley, the Highway 21 Trailhead is also south of Arcadia Valley off Highway 21 near Royal Gorge, the Highway A Trailhead is on Highway A off Highway 32 between Caledonia and Belleview, and the Johnson’s Shut-Ins Trailhead is at Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park on Highway N from Highway 21 north of Ironton. Camping is available at Taum Sauk Campground and 100 feet from the trail (except on glades and within two miles of Johnson’s Shut-Ins). *A six mile portion of the trail is temporarily closed near Johnson’s Shut-Ins for restoration and rebuilding.

by Mary Eakins Bullis

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