Explore the trails in the Mark Twain National Forest.  Go hiking in MO!


Mark Twain National Forest Hiking Trails - Best Hiking Trails in Missouri
St. Francois Mountain Section in the Missouri Ozarks


For Mark Twain National Forest lodging, accommodations and campgrounds near Mark Twain National Forest, Bell Mountain Wilderness, Council Bluff Recreation Area, Sutton Bluff, Marble Creek, Deer Run State Forest, Millstream Gardens, and more please see our lodging & accommodations page

These Missouri hiking trails in the Mark Twain National Forest are located near St. Louis in Iron & Reynolds County MO, in the Arcadia Valley Region and Black River Recreation Area.  Come for a day hike near St. Louis or come for a weekend or week long hiking trip if you have more time.


The Mark Twain National Forest is a spectacular place to go Missouri hiking and biking. The St. Francois Mountain section in the Ozarks is known for its clear spring-fed rivers and streams, lakes, rocky bluffs, pastoral views and shaded trails.

Persons who enjoy observing, studying and photographing wildflowers and wildlife will not be disappointed by the vast variety of each that can be discovered on these trails.  The Forest has about 320 species of birds, 75 species of mammals and 125 species of amphibians and reptiles. You're also likely to see whitetail deer, turkey, quail, woodcocks, doves, ducks, geese, rabbits, raccoons, squirrels, opossums, woodchucks, bobcats, and coyotes.

The forest gets a variety of visitors through the year including spring and fall, when color changes the forest. Hiking In the spring, you'll see serviceberry, redbuds and dogwoods paint the winter landscape in pinks and whites. If you love to hike In the fall, starting mid September, the oak hickory forest transforms from greens to yellows, peaches, reds, burgundies and dark purples. The height of fall color is usually mid-October

Below you will find the recreation areas within the Mark Twain National Forest in the St. Francois Mountain Region of the Ozarks.  Directions to the recreation areas follow each description. Named after Missouri native, Mark Twain, the Mark Twain National Forest is one of the most popular areas for hiking or biking in Missouri.  These trails and recreation areas are directed and controlled by the USDA Forest Service.
  Some provide camping opportunities.  For more information on camping and permits, please see the USDA Forest Service website here.

Bicycles and mountain bikes are generally permitted on trails but may be prohibited, such as in designated wilderness areas. Motorized vehicles may be used only on open Forest roads or designated ATV trails.

The following wilderness and recreational areas in our region are located within the Mark Twain National Forest complex
Hiking in Bell Mountain Wilderness Area and Trail 
This rugged wilderness was named for the highest peak in the area, Bell Mountain (elevation: 1702) and was designated by the United States Congress in 1980 as a federally protected and preserved area which “generally appears to have been affected primarily by the forces of nature with the imprint of man’s work substantially unnoticeable…” Popular for experienced hikers and equestrians, there are 9027 acres with tall peaks, Shut-in Creek and a spring-fed stream with several gorges along its course.  Gnarled blackjack and post oak, black hickory, and a few winged elms are found in the harsh environment of the granite glades within the Wilderness.  Pileated woodpeckers, wood thrush and ovenbirds are abundant. White tailed deer, wild turkeys and squirrels can be found.  There are 14 miles of designated trails established for hikers and equestrian use within the wilderness.  Bell Mountain Wilderness Trail, is concurrent with a section of the Ozark Trail for about one mile, then splits and turns northward to the summit of Bell Mountain peak.  Joe’s creek cuts deeply into the west slope of Bell Mountain; clefts and boulders form the basic landscape. The area is rugged and suitable for experienced hikers only.  Be prepared with adequate supplies and water.  A separate two-mile trail begins on the east and leads to the top of Lindsey Mountain.  No hunting is allowed within this federally designated wilderness area. Located at State Route A & 32.

Hiking in Sutton Bluff Recreation Area
Sutton Bluff is named for R. G. Sutton, who settled this valley in Reynolds County along the west fork of the Black River in 1888.  Three generations of Suttons farmed the river bottoms below the impressive bluff (see right). Sutton Bluff is a wonderful place for hiking, picnicking, mountain biking, swimming and bird watching.  The Black River curls around the 35 campsites that are available
and the Ozark Trail passes nearby.  Water and toilet facilities are also available at Sutton Bluff Campground.  Located between Lesterville and Centerville, MO off of Highway 21. Enter Forest Road 2233 at the Forest Service sign, turn there and go 7 miles, then turn on Forest Road 2236. The campground is another 3 miles.

Hiking Crane Lake Conservation Area and Trails 
This clear blue 100 acre lake was formed by impounding Crane Pond Creek with an earth fill dam at the upstream end of a “shut-ins” or narrow gorge cut in the granite bedrock.  Picnic along the lakeshore, fish from the gentle banks, canoe the waters and hike the coves.  Fish for largemouth bass, channel catfish and panfish.  Crane Lake is one of the most beautiful small lakes in the area with a 12 mile hiking and biking trail around the lake, picnic areas, and great fishing. Crane Lake (North loop) and Crane Pond (south loop) trails are peaceful. The south loop trail connects to the Marble Creek Section of the Ozark Trail. Hiking Hwy E to Crane Pond Lake Road. 14 miles from 21 and 221 in Arcadia via 21 South, "E" East and County Road 131

Hiking Marble Creek Recreation Area and Trail
Visit the peaceful oasis of Marble Creek Recreation Area where you can relax among the deposits of pink dolamite native to the St. Francois Mountain range. Swim in an the old mill pool where the creek that now rushes 20 miles through the rugged mountains, was once harnessed to power an old grist mill. A reminder of the past, the concrete remains of the grist mill dam and building foundation, although crumbling, are still visible.  Prior to 1935, the colored dolamites were mined as "Taum Sauk Marble" used in the building trades. Enjoy picnicking or go wade-fishing for smallmouth bass and panfish. Go hiking, biking or horseback riding! The trailhead for the Marble Creek Section of the Ozark Trail is here, beginning an 8-mile trek leading to Crane Lake. From Highway 221 and 21, go south on 21 then turn east at Hwy E and travel for 15.5 miles.

Hiking Council Bluff Lake Recreation Area and Trail
The largest lake in the Mark Twain National Forest serves anglers, campers, picnickers, hikers, bicyclists and swimmers.  Fish year round in this 440 acre lake stocked with large mouth bass, redear sunfish, bluegill, crappie and catfish.  Picnic or swim at the 54,000 sq. foot sand beach.  At Chapel Hill Beach there is a concession stand, changing rooms, flush toilet, water fountains and showers.  There is also a small play area near the beach.  Additionally, there are canoes and paddle boats available for rent when the beach is open.  Council Bluff Trail is a 12-mile loop along the lake shore providing hiking and mountain biking opportunities.  The Trace Creek section of the Ozark Trail is located just west of the recreation area.  Waterfowl hunting is permitted on the lake and there are upland game opportunities as well.  24.5 miles From Hwy 21 and 221 - Go west on Hwy 32, turn left at MO-C, turn left at MO-JJ, then slight right at Council Bluff Rd/CR-635.  If beginning on Highway 49 in Reynolds County, turn right on Hwy 32, then left at MO-DD, take right on MO-C, then right at MO-JJ to Council Bluff Rd.

Hiking Silver Mines Recreation Area and Trail
Back in the 1920s this area was mined for silver and tungsten ore.  Although long since played out, the remnants of two old abandoned mines are present at the site.  Located on the banks of the St. Francis River, Silver Mines is near Millstream Gardens where whitewater enthusiasts from around the world bring their kayaks to enjoy the challenges of the river in March, during spring high water.  There is a one-mile long trail along each side of the river. From Turkey Creek Picnic Area, a 1.2 mile trail to the north leads to Millstream Garden Conservation Area, managed by the Missouri Department of Conservation.  Camping is also available at Silver Mines. From Ironton take Hwy 72 east to Hwy D. Go about 3 miles south on D to paved Forest Road 2510. You'll see the Forest Service sign.

"A two-fold wildlife goal of Mark Twain National Forest is to maintain viable populations of all species while also affording a medley of activities that will allow humans to enjoy them -- everything from hunting and fishing to wildlife viewing and photography." USDA Forest Service



Sutton's Bluff
View from Sutton Bluff looking down into the valley below.Mark Twain National ForestRoyal GorgeBlack River in Mark Twain National ForestEnjoy magnificent sunsets!


For other exciting recreational opportunities in the Arcadia Valley Region and Black River Recreation Area in Reynolds County and Iron County MO, please visit our Recreation Pages. Learn about Float Trips on the Black River, Missouri Birding and Birdwatching, Hunting and Fishing, Missouri Wineries in our Region and Missouri Trail Riding and Horseback Riding. Visit missouri-vacations.com.  Or, for other businesses and services near these hiking trails, see the Chamber of Commerce websites at www.lestervillemissouri.com and www.arcadiavalley.biz. For excellent firsthand reviews of many of these trails, see Danny's Missouri Backpacking & Hiking Trails Reviews at www.motrails.com

 

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