Now that you’re starting to develop your “hiker legs,” you’ll want to test yourself on a little bit more rugged terrain than the beginner’s hikes listed previously. You should also be ready to start increasing your mileage. Maybe even do an overnight trip. The following is my recommendation for intermediate hiking trails in Missouri (in no particular order). Click here to see the list of beginner’s trails.
- Lead Mine Conservation Area; Lead Mine makes this list for its versatility and ruggedness. It has some moderate climbs, but the biggest pro to it is the amount of trails to choose from. It also has a nice variety of scenery…from hiking right down to the edge of the Niaguna River to the woods. It makes it on the intermediate list due to the ruggedness, difficulty navigating the trails, and for potential creek crossings. One of the biggest tips I can give someone in regard to hiking in Missouri on conservation area land is to not expect the map to be perfect! Often times, there are trails that aren’t on the map and even trails on the map that are not finished. Always be flexible and study the map ahead of time so that if you are on the wrong trail, you can find an alternative to get you back to where you started.
- Swan Creek Wildlife Area; Swan Creek makes the list for its ruggedness and the multiple trails that intersect with each, allowing for some lengthy hikes. You may encounter flooded waters during a wet season, so be prepared to get your feet wet. There are lots of changes in scenery at Swan Creek from being in hard woods, pines, to cedar groves. It’s a real beautiful place…not very popular with hikers but you will encounter a lot of horse riders here (mostly in nicer weather). Avoid this area during the major hunting seasons…turkey and deer.
- Hercules Glade. Part of the Mark Twain National Forest, Hercules Glade is a jewel! Many trails that intersect. Can be rugged at times. Get to the bluffs and there are expansive views to reward your efforts. Decent climbs. The trails in the National Forest are not always marked very well…making that a little more of a challenge. Some moderate climbs. Rewards are finding the falls and the views. Lots of trails and trailheads to choose from. I’ve been here several times, starting in different locations and each time it is a whole new experience.
- Berryman. One of the few lengthy loop trails, the Berryman is a wonderful place for a 2-3 day trip. The biggest pro is not having to worry about how to get a ride back to your car — you’ll hike your way right back to it. Beautiful pine trees and hardwoods. Since this is in a national forest, you’re going to come across a lot of forest roads that look like trails. Making this a more intermediate hike due to the lack of signage and the ability to get lost mistaking a forest service road for the trail. There is a nice campground at Berryman Campground. There is also Brazil Creek Campground which doesn’t have the amenities but a place to camp for the night. This trail is extremely popular with mountain bikers so before you plan your trip, check the internet to make sure there are no major bike events taking place while you are there. The Berryman also shares part of its trail with the Ozark Trail for a brief moment. A nice place to build your enthusiasm for hiking the Ozark Trail.
- Paddy Creek Wilderness. Another trail in the Mark Twain National Forest. Very popular trail with horse riders so keep that in mind. The trail is very rugged. It is a nice mix of hardwoods, pines, and has beautiful views, creeks, river. There is a mid point to cut your hike a little short if need be. Very nice campground at Paddy Creek Campground. It’s isolated and has nice campsites and views — would be a nice place to go down and camp for the weekend and just hike around as well. There are several trailheads available, allowing you to change your hike each time. The trails are rugged with some moderate climbs. Views can be found.
- BONUS: I couldn’t narrow this list down to 5, so your bonus for this list is Cedar Creek. Part of the Mark Twain National Forest outside of Columbia, MO. This is one of the more rugged trails on the list. Out of this list, I would say it is the least used trail. The biggest con to Cedar Creek is that a good part of the entire trail is walking on gravel roads (which trust me, is no fun). However, there are a few loop trails that are easy for beginners to “get their feet wet” on the more rugged trails. On the trail it looks isolated; however, you can here cars on the gravel roads which surround the area. The trails are so-so maintained, so that can make it more challenging.
No matter which trail you decide to start on, make sure you have researched and have a paper map. Phones/GPS are great tools, but never, ever fully rely on them. Always carry a good paper map and no what it looks like. Keep the map laminated or a zip-lock bag. BE PREPARED!