had a nice overnight hike on Sunday/Monday. I know y'all think i'm a weirdo for making hikes out of otherwise easy drive-up highpoints, but this was one that was worth the time and effort. The Ozarks aren't the High Sierra, but for the midwest it was about as good as it gets.
We started at about 1 p.m. on a thankfully not-too-hot day (in the 70s) from Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park. (A shut-in is apparently a pool formed by boulders in a river...not an elderly person being tended to in a state park.) The Ozark Trail was almost too well-marked for the entire 12.8 miles of the trail. It would be a physical effort for a first-timer, but no one would get lost. The trail has about 2000 ft. of total up and 1000 ft. of total down between JSI and the top of Taum Sauk. I'd say 50% of the trail is easy-footing trail, 25% is new england style pain-in-the-butt rocks and boulders, and 25% is following a wide, old jeep road. The first half of the trail is dry, but crosses several open ridges with views for miles. The second half follows up Taum Sauk Creek and a couple of its tributaries. The flora is mixed...everything from stands of pines to a few cacti, believe it or not. The fauna we saw were lots of birds i don't know, squirrels, 3 turtles, many tadpoles in the tributary pools, 1 silvery snake that wanted nothing to do with us, and many many ticks. It's a long pants and DEET hike for sure.
We camped at about 8 miles in, at about 5 p.m. There are several obviously pre-used, perfect campsites near the water between about 8 miles and 10 miles from the starting ponit. The next day we took a very lesuirely 2 1/2 hours to hike up, and the Mina Sauk Falls were legit. I had seen these falls in December of a couple years ago, and then they were a frozen trickle...but after last week's rain this time they were really FALLS. The summit was pleasant, quiet, and forgettable as ever. I was glad to have gone with a friend and 2 cars, so we could do the hike one-way. There is a hiker shuttle (573-546-2432, and one other the state park will tell you about), but it costs $30 per car-load. JSI State Park is a popular swimming place...it was tempting to just jump in when we were done.
Don't try this hike between late May and late September. It will be suffocatingly hot. To see the water at it's best, April or early May is the time. To see the leaves, go in October. Winter might be very nice too.
The rangers weren't very knowledgeable regarding this trail, but the map they sent was good. My old topo program shows the old, defunct Taum Sauk Trail instead, which at a few points is the same as the current Ozark Trail, but mostly is different. There are a few places out there where we could see the two trails converge, and it's apparent that the old trail has been out of use for years...it would be a bushwhack to try to follow it. We passed temptingly close to the summit of Profitt Mountain, the county HP of whatever county. I thought about trying to find it, but that bug hasn't bit me yet...
All you probably need to know ahead of time is how the weather has been in the week prior to the trip, so you know what the water situation will be like. Autumn and winter in a dry year can mean you have to carry all your water...but most of the time at least Taum Sauk Creek is running.
I've done most of the hike on the Ozark Trail up to Taum Sauk from the east, and it's not nearly as nice as from the west. I like this hike....somebody else do it!
HP#22, done repeated with prominence etc...goodbye to Missouri...i'm moving to Texas this summer. Any highpointers in the Ft. Worth area?