“Each season brings a world of enjoyment and interest in the watching of its unfolding, its gradual harmonious development, its culminating graces – and just as one begins to tire of it, it passes away and a radical change comes with new witcheries and new glories in its train.” – Mark Twain
There is nothing like enjoying the wonders and the ever-changing beauty of nature. Something I love doing while breathing in the fresh air after a hike is to find a nice spot and read a book, preferably written by Mark Twain, where I can read about the adventures of Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn and imagine myself in those adventures as well.
Mark Twain is known for his books and a lot of famous quotes, but to those from Missouri, they know about the beautiful piece of land that is named after him. Going on a Mark Twain National Forest hiking adventure is something you should definitely do at least once in your life.
About The Forest
The Mark Twain National Forest (MTNF) is a natural forest that you can find in the southern half Missouri in the U.S. It was named after the famous author and writer, Mark Twain, who was born in Missouri. It is the only National Forest in the state of Missouri.
It is made up of large springs, caves, old volcanic mountain, rocky terrain, and streams. You can also find a prairie, open grassy lands and savannas.
The park was established on September 11, 1939, and covers 1.5 million acres of land which runs through 29 counties in Missouri. There are also seven main wilderness areas in the national forest which spread from east to west.
- Bell Mountain
- Devil’s Backbone
- Irish Wilderness
- Paddy Creek
- Piney Creek
- Rockpile Mountain
The forest is also favored among hunters and those who enjoy observing or photographing nature. There is various wildlife that thrives in the forest such as deer, geese, rabbits, turkeys, quail, squirrels, bobcats, coyotes, and more. There are about 320 species of birds, 75 different species of mammals and around 125 different species of amphibians and reptiles.
There are a lot of different recreational activities you can do there, but one of the things you should definitely do is take a hike along one of the many trails available in the forest and enjoy the beauty of the landscape. Some of the trails below are trails I have gone through and enjoyed.
Trails To Check Out
Kaintuck Trail: Oak Leaf Section
This is a good trail to start off with if you don’t have too much experience with hiking. It has a beautiful natural tunnel and bridge and is covered by beautiful trees. You can go horseback riding, hiking, and mountain biking in this trail.
North Fork of the White River
This is a trail that is good for all skill levels and is also kid-friendly. The trail has a number of different activities you can do such as camping, canoeing, fishing, and whitewater kayaking.
Greer Spring Trail
For those of you who have a furry, four-legged pal, this place is for you since dogs are allowed on this trail, however need to be kept on a leash. The trail passes an old forest and then opens out to Greer Springs, which is the second largest spring in Missouri. There is a beautiful cave you can also visit and enjoy.
Hercules Glades West Trailhead
Named after the Greek God, this trail has a beautiful waterfall that you cannot miss and should take a dip in. You can use the trail for hiking or horseback riding if you wish. However, you should be a bit experienced with hiking or at least with someone who is an experienced hiker.
Ozark Trail: Taum Sauk Section
This is a beautiful trail that has over 1.5 billion-year-old mountains, glades, springs, vistas, and unique rock formations. There is even a swimming hole that you can cool down in. It is a rocky hike that can be quite challenging but you will definitely be rewarded with the beautiful landscape and scenery.
Rock Pile Mountain Wilderness Area Trail
This trail is accessible year round but is recommended for very experienced hikers and adventurers because of its difficulty. There is an ancient circle of granite rocks that you can find there, which was made by early man.
Rock Pile Mountain Wilderness is about 4,200 acres, which is mostly steep limestone bluffs, broken ridges, and rock formations. There are also caves that you can adventure into along St. Francis River.
A Chance For Fun
Apart from all the trails you can hike, MTNF has its fair share of recreational activities that you can enjoy with your family or your friends.
A lot of the trails there are open not just for hiking, but also for horseback riding, mountain biking, and motorized use as well. Even though you most likely are going to the park to hike, I suggest you try out biking or horseback riding as well. It can give you a different perspective and a new experience!
The forest has some rivers, lakes, and bodies of water as well, which means access to different water activities such as kayaking and whitewater rafting. You can also just relax and float with a canoe, a raft, or an inner tube, or try your luck with some fishing.
During your hike, you can also take a break in one of the many campgrounds and picnic areas, which are usually beside beautiful and scenic landscapes in the forest. These campgrounds and picnic areas range from simple tables all the way to developed campgrounds, however, there are no cabins available for rent.
Go For It!
When you take a trip to the Mark Twain National Forest, be sure to not only pack hiking and camping gear but swimwear as well. With the beautiful bodies of water there, it will be hard to resist taking a dip. Remember to bring binoculars and a good camera if you enjoy viewing and observing wildlife.
You won’t go wrong with this forest because no matter what you choose to do, you will find yourself in love with the beautiful scenery and the peace and quiet nature provide. If you want, bring along one of Mark Twain’s books and see if you can picture yourself in all the adventures he describes in his books.