Location: Paddy Creek Wilderness, part of Mark Twain National Forest; Shell Knob, Missouri
Date: 10/20/2012 – 10/21/2012
Trail: Big Piney Trail, North loop, connector, South loop (starting at Roby Lake Trailhead)
Other Trailgoers: 6
Would I Go Again: Absolutely
Hiked there during peak fall color and was absolutely stunning! Loved the mix of pine trees with the other hardwoods! The bad parts first: The trailhead was hard to find (Roby Lake Trailhead)…I should have read other reviews first…instead of walking around trying to find it. The first mile is not very appealing, walking through a pasture and several gates. At this point, your wondering if you shouldn’t cut out and head back to the car. Once you park at the Roby Lake Trailhead, walk back down the road you just came down a little ways and the trailhead is on the opposite side of the road through a small gate. There is a very small sign, not very noticable at all. The other bad side to the trail is the rocks that are kicked up from the horses….hard on a person’s feet. The last bad part is the horseshit. Now the good parts: This trail is stunning. We hiked the north/south loops stating on the north loop from the Roby Lake Trailhead. The first few miles of the north loop were unbelievable. There were several cliff overhangs that were just unbelievably beautiful. One crossing a small babbling brook…it was just unbelievably scenic. All together, our hike was 9.2 miles approximately. The AllTrails app didn’t track the start of the trailhead correctly so might be up to 10.2 miles. Despite the rocks and the horseshit, I would definitely hike this trail again. We passed only 3 horses and about 6 other people….it was peak color and jaw dropping. We did an overnight stay near a rock crop on a bluff. It was private. Our camp could barely be seen from the trail. We did cross another creek the next morning that had water in it…not very pretty area but water was available. The north loop by far was more scenic. There was a scenic overlook on the south loop that was unbelievable…reminded me of Dances with Wolves. The actual trailhead was located about 1 mile into the hike from the parking lot. There is a clipboard with a piece of paper to register on. No maps were available, print something off the internet. Not a real good detailed map was available anywhere. That was another downside. We were not sure exactly how long our hike was going to be and unfortunately the weather was a little warm on Saturday and I wore out quickly and we only hiked about 3 miles the first day so the next morning we had about 6-7 miles to hike and were pretty exhausted. As far as the horse riders we encountered, they were friendly and despite us standing off the trail for them, they got off the trail for us and waved us on and were nice to share some chit-chat with. Another group of horse riders passed our camp in the evening, but that were the only ones we encountered, so I can’t speak for them all on whether they like hikers or not, but the ones we encountered were very friendly and seemed to understand that it was hard for us to get up the hill we met them on and allowed us to keep moving while they waited.