Last Saturday we did an 11-mile hike on the Trail of Four Winds at Lake of the Ozarks State Park, which is located near the town of Osage Beach, Missouri. A nice touristy town that contains about every franchise restaurant a hungry hiker will want and then some. The town seems to be a mix of mom and pop shops/bait stores and franchise big chain stores. You surely will find any last minute supplies in Osage Beach and it is a short drive from the park.
Lake of the Ozarks State Park is the largest of Missouri’s state parks, containing more than 80 miles of lake frontage. The park was established in the mid 1930s by the National Park Service and turned over to the state of Missouri in 1946.
For those of you that aren’t familiar with this area of Missouri, the Lake of the Ozarks is quite known for it’s party atmosphere. Most folks around here who live in a large city (i.e. Kansas City and metro) own a “lake house” and spend a good part of their weekends here throughout the summer. Traffic is ridiculous. Most people rush, rush to leave work on a Friday to drive like a maniac, get to the lake, and do whatever the rest of the weekend just to drive like a maniac back on Sunday.
I’m not saying it’s not worth the trip but as a hiker, there are plenty of other places where I would seek solitude and views at. The draws to the Lake of the Ozarks State Park for us this time was the fact that we had never been there before and that it is closer to our house than most of the Mark Twain National Forest. The weather forecast was predicting rain and being so early in the lake season, we figured it wouldn’t be crowded, which it wasn’t.
There are some very cool rustic buildings at this park and we only seen a tiny portion of it. They have horse riding, stables, of course all of the usual lake activities, rock climbing/rappelling, cave tours, and much, much more. What drew us to this park is the fact that they have a few good length day hiking trails…. meaning at least 8 miles but not over 15.
We opted for the Trail of the Four Winds, which seems to be a very popular horse riding trail. We started at the trailhead right next to the stables. The trail at this time was closed to bikes and horses but still open to hikers due to wet conditions.
So off we went. There were a few places that had a view. They were okay views. I have definitely seen better views in Missouri. The trail was one of the ones that get all of the horrible-sized rocks all over it from the horses constantly being on it. There were areas that the horses had sank down in the mud a foot. Making it hard for hikers (like usual). If you’ve ever hiked on one of these horse trails in Missouri, you know what I mean about the rocks. Bigger than gravel but smaller than rocks to walk on or around. About the size of apples, and they just tear your feet and ankles up like crazy. My least favorite trails to hike on are with rocks this size.
So other than the rocks, there’s just not a lot to be seen on this trail. It doesn’t offer much as far as scenery. It’s just very typical hardwoods with a few cedar groves thrown in the mix. Very rarely were there any ridgeline views. This is with hardly any leaves on the trees. The dogwoods and redbuds were in full bloom and there were several areas that were pretty, but simply because of the trees flowering at the time.
Comments, Questions, or Suggestions:
So in summary, I would skip this trail unless you are just dead set on wanting to hike it. I personally think the Turkey Pen Hollow at the near-by Ha Ha Tonka state park is a prettier trail (not by much) but it is only about half the distance.
Hike the Trail of Four Winds if you must. Skip it and go somewhere else if you can!