We spent a few days hiking in different areas on the Ozark Trail and the Bell Mountain trail this past weekend. The colors were not in peak yet, but let me tell you….Bell Mountain was fabulous! By Missouri’s standards at 1702 feet, it is considered the second tallest mountain in Missouri. By most other standards, it would be considered a hill. It is part of the St. Francois Mountains in southern Missouri which is one of the oldest landforms in North America.
Let me tell you for only being 1702 feet to the summit, it is a great climb. The trail can be steep and extremely rocky at times. Some points, you’re hiking over small rocks with sharp edges and other times, the trail becomes nothing but a big slab. It winds and twists it’s way up to the top with an amazing view from the eastern side. There are incredible places to camp at the summit on the east side. The trail itself does not lead directly to the “money” view; however, there is a well-beaten path that will take you to the edge but is unmarked.
We started off at the trailhead right off of highway A and immediately started climbing up. Carrying full backpacks because at this time in Missouri, you have to pack for 2 or even 3 seasons; very warm in the day and very cold at night. Once we passed the Ozark Trail intersection for the Taum Sauk section, we headed back down the path toward Joe’s Creek…hoping to find some water to filter for dinner and refilling for the next day. We had already met some people who were taking a quick hike and had set up camp at the summit, so once we reached Joe’s Creek and discovered there was indeed plenty of water, we decided to camp there that night. Gorgeous place to set up for the night.
The next morning, we ascending Bell Mountain (once again) but on the northern side. Not near as rocky on this side but far less switch backs and definitely less views on the ascent from Joe’s Creek. Mostly a forested area here whereas on the ascent from the highway A trailhead, there are many switchbacks, weaving around huge boulders of pink granite with some nice peak-a-boo western views. Some of the pink granite was so rich in color, it looked more purple!
Once we got to the top and found the access trail to the edge, it was just jaw-dropping. Hands-down, the best view I have seen so far in Missouri.
Heading back down, going back into forested areas and some glade areas, plenty of diverse terrain on Bell Mountain. If you are lucky, you will find the survey marker at the top of Bell Mountain, which is named for a family who used to live and farm the mountain. There are some subtle traces of their existence.
Once we finally reached the parking lot again, there were quite a few people here…handing out a little trail magic. Great pumpkin spice cookies!
In summary, loved Bell Mountain and cannot wait to go again. It is fairly crowded so if you are looking for privacy, go when there are less likely to be crowds.
On another note, we did spend some time further north hiking some sections of the Ozark Trail on the Middle Fork and Trace Creek sections and I must say, the trail is fabulous! It was well taken care of but still very rustic. Great job to all of the volunteers who help keep the trail in great shape!