Location: Ha Ha Tonka State Park; closest town is Camdenton, MO
Date: 8.10.12 and 10.6.12
Trail: Turkey Pen Hollow
Other Trailgoers: 4
Would I Go Again: Possibly
Ha Ha Tonka State Park is located in Camdenton, MO. It’s an easy 2-hour drive from our house; it has been nice for a last minute hiking trip. Ha Ha Tonka has many trails and only one that is even remotely long enough to backpack on and the only one to allow it. The trail has quite a variety of scenery; woods, savannas, etc.
We arrived early for our first trip to Ha Ha Tonka and done a little geocaching on the way down as well as at the park itself. We walked around on a few of the shorter trails and went to look at the castle ruins. Click here to find out more about the castle ruins.
The shorter trails are by far much prettier than the backpacking trail. There were quite a few visitors to the castle ruins….we ran into about 20-30. This is a far cry from the backpacking area where there is hardly anyone.
We have been to Ha Ha Tonka twice and hiked the Turkey Pen Hollow trail both times and combined, maybe seen 4 other people. Turkey Pen Hollow is an interesting trail. For us, I would rate it as an easy moderate level. It has some good switchbacks and inclines but most of it is flat. The scenery changes throughout. It was our first backpacking trip, and we loved it. We’ve definitely come a long way since as we are always changing and evolving our trips but this one will always hold a special place in my heart.
With it being the first trail and in the beginning, we never thought I would make it the whole way. Our plans were always to just start out and go as long as I could stand it, and then we would turn around and come back — well I have never yet once turned around and came back and I hope I never have to due to my own physical limitations, but we have been smart about the choices we have made as far as distance and level of degree of the hike.
Turkey Pen Hollow is about 6.5 miles….it has one connector trail (which the first time we went I had to take due to the fact that it was extremely hot, I was in a lot of pain, and just exhausted). The second time, we walked the entire loop including the extra trail to the backpacking camp.
They do allow “dispersed” camping but do provide a primitive camp about 5 miles from the trailhead. Its very isolated, but the trail twists around a lot. I’ve hiked enough now and made enough progress now, that I’m craving lengthier trails as trails as short as this one, never get you completely away from it all….you could hear gunshots, boats, and cars on the highway most of the time on this trail.
The first hike was in August and it was extremely hot. There was no water anywhere at this park. All creeks were dry and seem that they would be most of the year.
The second hike was at the beginning of fall and some color had started showing. It was muggy, cooler (60s), and of course rained on us some….but still enjoyable.
All in all, Ha Ha Tonka is a nice place to see.