For our annual fall trip to the Ozarks, we decided to start (once again) at Taum Sauk. If you have ever been to Taum Sauk, you know whey we go there so much and if you haven’t been, it’s about time you go. Taum Sauk is the jewel of the Ozarks.
It’s quite a long drive for us to Taum Sauk – relatively 6 hours. We started out after work and made it the whole way down there that night. Seen more wildlife on the drive down than we do hiking in the woods…!!! We camped at the campground at Taum Sauk that night. The foliage was stunning. No one else was camping there…it was perfect.
The next morning, family met us, picked up our car, and dropped us off at the trailhead for Taum Sauk Mina Sauk Falls trail which connects to the Ozark Trail near the bottom of the mountain. It’s a stunning hike. Hard on the feet. Lots and lots of large rocks. If you plan on making this hike, boots with some good ankle support would be a must.
Going down Taum Sauk if you head to the left at the top from the trailhead, you will follow the fall down the backside of the mountain to connect to the Ozark Trail. Not to far down, you will see a sign to the left that says Ozark Trail; however, this takes you a different route. If you’re heading to Johnson’s Shut-Ins, you’ll stay on the Mina Sauk part of the trail at this point. The signage is very good through here but keep a close eye out.
This time I was a little disappointed to see at the top side of the falls, they have installed wooden fencing. It looks totally ridiculous out in the middle of the woods. I get that people get off the established trail to stand over the top of the falls…I’ve done it myself but hey, that’s why we are there. I wouldn’t expect someone to walking with a few feet of a waterfall and not look at it. So they have long portions of split-rail fencing going up along the top of the falls….I hate to tell them but if someone wants to take a glance at the fall, they will go around the fence or over it. Besides animals could run into it….anyway, they are the experts and I’m sure there is some logical reason for this.
It is very slow going through this portion of the trail navigating the rocks…especially carrying quite a bit of weight on your back. It took us longer than expected (as it almost always does) and thus we ended up night-hiking our way to the scour trail where we found water and made camp there for the night. I had wanted to see the scour trail and it is definitely something I will not forget. For those who don’t know, the reservoir atop Proffit mountain to the south of Johnson’s Shut-Ins breached in 2005 and sent millions of gallons down the mountain, destroying Johnson’s Shut-ins and what was left in its wake became the scour trail. It is a popular place for geologists but it is sad.
We arose late the next morning, filtered more water off the scour trail, and headed to meet family that evening at Highway N. After getting back our car, we were too tired to head home and decided to drive back to Taum Sauk and stay the night there; however, the foliage was in full peak and thus the campground was completely full. I have stayed at Taum Sauk many times in different seasons and had only seen one other person there but that didn’t work out, so we drove down Taum Sauk to another trailhead for the Ozark Trail and hiked down it a ways and set up camp that night.
The next day on our way home, we stopped at Elephant Rocks State Park. Another jewel in Missouri. This is a must-see place. It’s great for small children, older kids, and everyone for that matter. It’s stunning to see these huge boulders of pink granite everywhere. The park service has done a wonderful job making trails around the rocks so you can get a good view of them all. Toward the back side of the park is an old rail house with tracks leading up to it…apparently this is from a mining operation from years back. The irony is if you follow the path from the rail house away from the park, it takes you to an operational quarry….what are the odds? Well folks got to have their shiny granite countertops. It should be mandatory before you have a granite countertop that you see the granite mines once they have been abandoned, it is so sad. Well enough politics.
Also see my post on Elephant Rocks for lots of great pictures!
Enjoy the pictures and happy trails!
Links for this hike:
- Taum Sauk at Mo State Parks Website
- Ozark Trail (official website – check out the trip planner)
- Summit Post
- Johnson’s Shut-Ins 5 years later (after the reservoir breach)
- Southeast Missouri – article on the reservoir breach
- Washington University Article on Taum Sauk
- St. Francois Mountains
- Camping Missouri