Rural Missouri Magazine

The Ozark Trail

by Jim McCarty

October is a great time to grab a pack and hit the Ozark Trail. The trail began as a vision to connect many miles of existing trail into one continuous section stretching from St. Louis to the Arkansas border, where it would connect to the Ozark Highland Trail system. Together the two trails would offer more than 550 miles through the rugged beauty of the Ozarks.

Today, the trail can be hiked from Onondoga Cave south to near Bixby where it splits into an east and west side as it heads south, eventually coming together again, with some major gaps. The goal is to reconnect near Van Buren.

To the east, the Trace Creek section eventually connects to the Taum Sauk section, which includes the highest point in Missouri, Taum Sauk mountain, where our cover was shot. Many a Boy Scout earned his merit badge on this section.

To the west, the trail is more complete, with hikers able to travel south of Highway 60 before finding a gap in the trail.

Glade areas, fens, springs, caves and historic settlements can all be seen from the trail. A new shuttle service on northern portions of the trail helps backpackers and mountain bikers put in miles without backtracking or shuttling their own vehicles. There’s also an online trip planner that can be used to plan excursions.

With more than 350 miles of trail complete in Missouri, what the Ozark Trail needs now is you. Volunteers are needed to prevent the trail from returning to nature. To complete the trail, easements from private landowners will be required.

For more information on the trail, visit the Ozark Trail Association’s Web site at or call the headquarters at 573-436-0540. The Web site has additional links, volunteer work days and detailed descriptions of each trail section along with downloadable maps of the trail.


Rural Missouri | June 2020 Issue

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