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14 of the Best Hiking Trails in Missouri

By | Last Updated : 27th May 2022

Missouri, the Show-Me State, is often ignored when it comes to choosing the best hiking trails. However, the state has an abundant natural beauty that one could discover after visiting the state and hiking the many scenic trails. Each of them offers a diverse terrain with views of rivers, waterfalls, dense forests, mountains, and bluffs. Even if you fail to plan your hike during the spring, most of the trail is ideal for hiking all year long.

Hiking Trails in Missouri

Some of the Best Places to Hike in Missouri

1. Ozark Trail

Ozark Trail in Missouri

Stretching over 350 miles, Ozark Trail is an epic route within the state that gives hikers the opportunity to traverse along varied terrains. The trail is divided into many sections, each of which offers one to explore the forest-covered mountains and valleys. Experienced hikers could plan a backpacking adventure along the popular Taum Sauk section for an unforgettable experience. Despite the rough terrain and creek-crossings, it allows one to witness splendid waterfalls, springs, mighty old mountains, and unique rock formations. Hiking the entire segment would require about two days in which you can spend the night at the designated campsites.

Hiking the Mina Sauk Falls Trail is a must if you are looking for a shorter but no less challenging trail for a day hike. Though it requires a good workout to access the rocky and steep points, you will feel refreshed as you stand in front of the gorgeous waterfall at the trail’s end. Make sure to visit it during the spring or fall season to experience the glory of the 130-foot cascading beauty.

Length: Taum Sauk section (About 13 miles, point to point); Mina Sauk Falls Trail (About 3 miles, loop)

Difficulty: Taum Sauk section (Hard); Mina Sauk Falls Trail (Moderate)

Best time to visit: All year long

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2. Mastodon State Historic Site Trails

Tate Historic Site Trails in Missouri

While Mastodon State Historic Site offers a fascinating insight into the archaeological and paleontological sites of Kimmswick Bone Bed, it is also home to some beautiful trails. Among these, you could choose the Limestone Hills Trail, which traverses along the base of a bluff, climbs a hill, and meanders through dense forests. Do be prepared to test your hiking skills by treading on the steep and rugged terrain. The multiple viewing points and benches all along the way would allow you to catch your breath as you admire the scenery. 

For families and non-hikers who wish to explore the area, you could consider choosing the short and easy Spring Branch Trail. It shares its trailhead with Limestone Hills Trail and loops through trees and along Rock Creek. You can see the remains of the historic Bollefer Springhouse in which perishables were stored. Often weary hikers enjoy soaking their feet in the creek or having a meal at the picnic area at the trailhead once they complete hiking.

Length: Limestone Hills Trail (About 1.8 miles, loop); Spring Branch Trail (About 0.7 miles, loop)

Difficulty: Limestone Hills Trail (Moderate); Spring Branch Trail (Easy)

Best time to visit: All year round

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3. Katy Trail

Katy Trail in Missouri

This long route was earlier the Missouri-Kansas-Texas (MKT) rail line. Though it now serves the purpose of a bike trail, you will find many hikers on the path. It runs parallel along the Missouri River and farmlands while circling along the base of bluffs. The flat terrain makes it easy to stride along a segment of it as you admire the scenery. Besides the scenic views, some historical attractions worth pausing for include Rocheport Tunnel, Katy Depot in Sedalia, and the Missouri State Penitentiary in Jefferson City.

Length: About 237 miles

Difficulty: Easy

Best time to visit: All year long

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4. Big Piney Trail

Big Piney Trail in Missouri

A backpacking trip along Big Piney Trail would be an excellent option for an escape to nature. Located within Mark Twain National Forest, the trail winds through the hardwood and pine forests of the Paddy Creek Wilderness section. Though the elevation change and multiple creek crossings make the hike challenging, you will be rewarded with the picturesque views of waterfalls, creeks, and bluffs all along the way. You could pitch your tents at the campsites for a night and enjoy soaking in the beauty of the place.

Length: About 16.5 miles (loop)

Difficulty: Moderate

Best time to visit: All year round

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5. Sheppard Point Trail

Sheppard Point Trail in Missouri

This trail in Trail of Tears State Park is perfect for hiking any time of the year. In the spring, you’ll be greeted with blooming wildflowers and lush greenery, while in the winter season, you will get a clear view of the Mississippi River when the leaves have fallen. On a clear day, you can also witness the distant flatlands stretching in South Illinois.

The steep inclines and creek crossings are definitely exhausting, but you will not regret the effort once you reach the overlook at the bluff and take in the views. The hike can be completed within 2 hours and while you are at the state park, make sure to visit Vancill Hollow Natural Area for a visual treat. 

Length: About 3.6 miles (out and back)

Difficulty: Moderate

Best time to visit: All year round

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6. Devil’s Icebox Trail

Devil’s Icebox Trail in Missouri

The Devil’s Icebox refers to the massive sinkhole created by the collapse of a cave ceiling. Situated in Rock Bridge Memorial State Park, the trail to the icebox is short and easy along a wooden walkway with stairs. You can feel the drop in temperature almost immediately when you are inside it. Do bring a flashlight to explore the interiors. Besides this, the natural bridge is also a highlight of the trail that enhances the place’s beauty. For a longer hike, you could start from the Spring Brook Trail Loop that connects with the Devil’s Icebox Trail at a point. Do start early so that you have sufficient time to avail a guided tour of the nearby Connor’s Cave.

Length: 0.5 miles (out and back)

Difficulty: Easy

Best time to visit: All year round

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7. Clifty Creek Natural Area Trail

Clifty Creek Natural Area Trail in Missouri

One of the prettiest trails in Missouri, Clifty Creek Natural Area Trail, starts from the parking lot and soon branches off, allowing hikers to either go towards the left or the right. Either way, you will be treated to picturesque views of Clifty Creek, forested hills, limestone bluffs, and hardwoods. However, the highlighting feature is the natural bridge that spans about 40 feet over the creek. Some hikers choose to return from this arch via the same route, while others complete the loop to enjoy the scenery. The elevation change would undoubtedly give a nice workout to your muscles, but the scenic vistas will want you to keep treading along the trail.

Length: About 2.5 miles (loop)

Difficulty: Moderate

Best time to visit: All year long

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8. Hogsback Trail

Hogsback Trail in Missouri

Located within Klondike Park, Hogsback Trail offers stunning views with minimal effort. You’ll have this trail to yourself most of the time, allowing you to enjoy an excellent, tranquil time. While the trail is mainly flat, you will have to access some switchbacks and muddy points. However, it’s not overly challenging and doable by hikers of all skill levels. Besides the forest vistas along the way, the views of bluffs and the Missouri River at the end are breathtaking. Do visit the trail during the fall season to see the vibrant colors of the trees.

Length: About 1.5 miles (loop)

Difficulty: Easy

Best time to visit: All year round

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9. Bell Mountain Loop Trail

Bell Mountain Loop Trail in Missouri

If you wish to experience some of the best views of Missouri’s landscape, you could hike the Bell Mountain Loop Trail. It takes you up to the mountain’s summit via an uphill and rocky trail. Do carry plenty of water as you will not find any along the way. Once you reach the mountain top, you can admire the views of oak and hickory trees, creeks, mountains, and valleys. Many hikers also choose to camp overnight at the mountain top to experience its beauty.

Length: About 11.5 miles (loop)

Difficulty: Moderate

Best time to visit: All year round

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10. Coy Bald Trail

Coy Bald Trail in Missouri

One of the best waterfall hikes in Missouri is the Coy Bald Trail within the Hercules Glades Wilderness Area. Despite the little elevation change, you will have to cross the river twice and hike along rocky and rugged paths. Most section of the trail traverses through lush wooded areas, but you’ll witness a gushing waterfall after hiking for about 3 miles from the trailhead. You could spend some time soaking your feet in the water after the tiring hike. Also, there are some campsites with fire rings in the vicinity where you could spend a peaceful night as you listen to the soothing sound of the waterfall.

Length: About 6.8 miles (loop)

Difficulty: Moderate

Best time to visit: All year round

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11. Lost Valley Trail

Lost Valley Trail in Missouri

Though Lost Valley Trail is mainly designed for mountain biking, it is also well-shared by avid hikers. The twists and turns through the forest allow you to experience varied terrains. Hiking it will not make you feel bored for a moment as the ponds, creeks, waterfalls, and rock formations will keep providing you with a visual treat. Do watch out for snakes, as many hikers have reckoned to see them while traversing along the trail.

Length: About 10.8 miles (loop)

Difficulty: Moderate

Best time to visit: March through December

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12. Lewis and Clark Trail

Lost Valley Trail in Missouri

Hiking along Lewis and Clark Trail should definitely be on your list if planning an outdoor trip near St. Louis. It’s one of the well-traversed routes by hikers as it offers one of the best scenic views in the state. The trail goes past bluffs and cliffs while following a stream most of the way. With most of the path being shaded with towering trees, you will not have to worry about the heat bothering you in summer. You would also find the remains of a disposal cell called The Mound and an old cemetery.  

Length: About 8.5 miles (loop)

Difficulty: Moderate

Best time to visit: All year round

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13. Natural Tunnel Trail

Natural Tunnel Trail in Missouri

Bennett Spring State Park is home to many trails. However, hiking the Natural Tunnel Trail would be ideal as it takes you through the state’s largest natural tunnel. Before you reach it, you will have to cross the creek multiple times and hike the rocky points and muddy areas. However, the numerous attractions on the way, including an old cemetery, various caves, and dense foliage, will keep you treading along the trail. The tunnel, positioned at the trail’s end, provides spectacular views that make the hike unforgettable.

Length: About 8.5 miles (loop)

Difficulty: Moderate

Best time to visit: October through December

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14. Cedar Creek Trail

Cedar Creek Trail in Missouri

Cedar Creek Trail is a 36-mile-long trail in central Missouri, divided into four sections. Among these, hiking the Smith Creek Loop would be perfect for a day’s outdoor activity. The moderately challenging trail meanders between Boydsville and Rutherford Bridge along a rocky terrain, boasting a picturesque landscape. You would also get impressive views from the bluff top of Cedar Creek and the densely wooded surrounding. Several campsites also dot the area.

Another segment, Moon Loop, traverses in a moon-like formation through open grasslands and a blend of deciduous and evergreen forest. However, if you want to avoid muddy paths, choosing another trail is better, as the Moon Loop gets pretty muddy during most parts of the year.

Length: Smith Creek Loop (About 6.1 miles, loop); Moon Loop (About 6.2 miles)

Difficulty: Smith Creek Loop (Moderate); Moon Loop (Moderate)

Best time to visit: All year round

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TOP PICKS

Best Waterfall Hikes: Coy Bald Trail, Ozark Trail, Big Piney Trail

Best Fall Hikes: Hogsback Trail, Coy Bald Trail, Ozark Trail

Best Camping Hikes: Bell Mountain Loop Trail, Cedar Creek Trail, Coy Bald Trail

Prettiest Hikes: Clifty Creek Natural Area Trail,Mastodon State Historic Site, Katy Trail

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