Location: Cedar Creek District, Mark Twain National Forest; closest town is Columbia, MO
Trail: Moon Loop, Smith Creek Loop, Cedar Creek Trail
Falls: One for me (tripped on barbwire fence on the ground) and one for Mike — slipped and fell in the mud 🙂
Other Trailgoers: 6 (not counting people who drove past us staring on the gravel roads)
Would I Go Again: Maybe – but I would NOT hike the same path
Cedar Creek is another portion of the Mark Twain National Forest; situated south east of Columbia, MO. This was a very interesting hike. Not necessarily in a good way. I’ll break it down by sections. First, Cedar Creek is over 30 miles long and combines with other trails during portions of itself.
We had decided to hike a portion of the Moon Loop trail and follow the Cedar Creek portion down to the Smith Creek Trail Loop and then back to Moon Loop – backpacking somewhere along the way.
First, don’t waste your time with Moon Loop. We started on it because it was closest to where we were coming from. We would’ve better to drive a few miles south and start there. Moon Loop is about 7 miles long; we felt that was too short for an overnight stay; so we took it among ourselves to combine trails to make a 12+ mile hike this time. This would be my longest hike to date (yeah)! Moon Loop starts out in basically a pasture. You walk a mile or so and finally enter woods; they are mediocre woods. My local small-town city park is just as pretty – if not prettier as far as scenery goes. You cross a dry creek bed and walk up a steep hill. Wind around thru some scrubby looking woods and the best part is an old homestead. See photos below of the bits and pieces we saw. Next you walk through a gate — many on the Moon Loop and wide open into a pasture. No blazes, no signs. No direction of where to go next. Of course, cattle graze here parts of the year so what looks like the trail, might end up being a cow path – we had to back track many times due to this. After walking out among the wide open pasture for a mile or so, we finally came across Johnson Cemetery Road where we crossed — probably would’ve just been best to walk on the road because once we crossed; there was no trail to be seen anywhere for the next mile or so….at this point is where we started our connection between the Moon Loop and heading to the Smith Creek Loop. I guess I had some grand idea that there would be a trail here (as the Cedar Creek trail is supposed to run this way). It turns out, the Cedar Creek trail at this point is the gravel road. Unfortunately after a few wrong turns, we figured this out. Crossed what was another half mile or so of wide open pasture and had to climb across a locked gate — no access around for hikers. Here we walked on gravel roads for about 3 miles or so until we reached the trailhead near the Devil’s Backbone area, technically this was the Cedar Creek trail at this point — we took this connector to reach the southwestern side of the Smith Creek Loop. The section of this trail until you reach the Smith Creek Loop is horrible — there’s barely paths at most points; hardly any blazes to be found; no trail markers; disgusting scenery; once we got to the Smith Creek Loop it improved significantly and we camped there for the night. The next morning we finished the portion of Smith Creek Loop — just the western portion of it and then hiked the gravel roads all the way back to our car. In total, we hiked over 12+ miles; half of it on gravel roads.
My advice – skip Moon Loop all together. Its not worth the time. If I go back to this area, I’ll stick to the Smith Creek Loop and maybe a small portion of the Cedar Creek trail going south from there; just to lengthen the hike since Smith Creek is listed as only 5 miles.
We did see a Bald Eagle (in flight) nonetheless going past our campsite; that was awesome! Also another thing to mention about the whole trail system in general is that you never feel that you are too far in the woods; your really never too far off of a road. Our campsite on a ridge overlooked a valley; in that valley was a homestead. So all night long we are looking at the back of someone’s house; I’m sure it was in reality farther away than it looked but we could hear voices carrying from the farm and you could see people in the yard.
Title: Cedar Creek (Moon Loop to Smith Creek Loop)
Track lenght: 17.38Km.
Altitude range: 69m. (Min height: 200m. Max height: 269m.)
Total climb: 227m. Total descent: 235 m.
Page link: http://tammyonthetrail.com
Description: Our hike on the Cedar Creek Trail System, part of Mark Twain National Forest, south of Columbia, Missouri. We started at the Moon Loop trailhead and hiked down to the Smith Creek Loop and back up again. Date was January 19, 2013