The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) is encouraging Missourians to explore nature this fall by researching remote trail hiking experiences in conservation areas in central Missouri.
Walking longer trails forces us to slow down; observe and appreciate elements of the natural world on a more intimate level. While biking, horseback riding, or even a car ride can take us to remote places of natural beauty, hiking requires us to engage with the very ground we are walking on. Small, silent interactions of tiny pollinators feeding on the last flowers of fall, field crickets rustling under dry grasses, or the silent flight of a watchful owl, all become harder to miss. And the splendor of the trees changing color and dropping the leaves, transforms the forests into wooded wonders.
Fall offers opportunities to engage with the natural world during a season of change. Finding a remote nature trail can provide a powerful reminder of how we are all connected to these natural communities and seasonal cycles.
Many conservation areas are located in remote areas and most do not have potable water on site. Before setting out on the trail, be sure to make a plan, tell someone where you are going and when you will be back, and pack water, food, and any other groceries you will need for your trip. your time on the trail.
MDC’s free MO Outdoors app for mobile devices provides a convenient way to carry digital maps and other information, even outside of the range of mobile phone service. Always carry a paper map and compass, too, as a fail-safe.
Always check the dates of the hunting season before going on a hike in the fall. If you are hiking during an open-air gun season, wear hunter orange clothing to ensure you are seen and identifiable as a human hiker.
“There are so many great trails in conservation areas that it’s easy to find the experience you’re looking for,” said AJ Campbell, MDC Recreational Use Specialist.
Many central Missouri conservation areas offer great trails for long nature hikes this fall, just a short drive from the house. Some areas have more than 10 miles of designated trails, and many of these areas offer multiple loops, allowing hikers to customize their experience. Learn more about this and other hiking opportunities at nature.mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/places.
Canaan Conservation Area
Located west of Owensville in Gasconade County, this area offers 10 miles of multi-use trails, with three distinct loops. The naturally surfaced trail takes hikers, bikers, and horse riders through forests, glades, woods and meadows, as well as along Clear Fork and Sulfur Branch creeks. The trail is open year round for hiking, but closed to bikes and horses during gun hunting seasons for deer and turkey. Camping is only permitted in designated campsites near the region’s car parks, available all year round on a first come, first served basis.
Davisdale Conservation Area
Located between Rocheport and Boonville in Howard County, this area offers 18 miles of service roads. These trails are mowed periodically during the summer months, but users should expect to walk in unkempt grass if the trails have not been mowed recently. The service roads are open year round for hiking and form several distinct loops through forests, meadows and river hill forests, including plenty of scenic views. Camping is only permitted in designated campsites near the region’s car parks, available all year round on a first come, first served basis.
Rudolf Bennitt Conservation Area
Located south of Moberly in Howard and Randolph counties, this area offers 13 miles of multi-use trails, with three distinct loops. The Talk Surface Trail takes hikers, bikers, and horse riders through forests and woodlands, and near the area’s 48-acre lake. The trail is open year round for hiking, but closed to bikes and horses during gun hunting seasons for deer and turkey. Primitive backpacking camping is allowed, and individual campsites with gravel parking lots are also available year round on a first come, first served basis.
Scrivner Road Creek Conservation Area
Located south of Russellville in Cole County, this area offers 8.5 miles of multi-use trails with four distinct loops. The natural surface trail takes hikers and horse riders through meadows and woods, and offers long scenic views. The trail is open year round for hiking, but closed to bikes and horses during gun hunting seasons for deer and turkey. A separate 1.6 km road, mowed periodically, circles the 9 acre Lake Winegar. Camping is only permitted in designated campsites near the region’s car parks, available all year round on a first come, first served basis.
Three streams conservation area
Located south of Columbia in Boone County, this area offers 8.5 miles of hiking and multi-use trails. The Turkey Creek Interpretive Trail is a 3 mile hiking-only trail with 1 and 2 mile cuts. It takes hikers along Turkey Creek and many beautiful cliffs. The remaining 5.5 miles of trail, open year round, takes hikers, cyclists and horse riders through the forests surrounding Bass, Turkey and Bonne Femme streams. These trails have several stream crossings. Hikers should therefore plan to walk in the water, especially during the wettest times of the year. Primitive hiking camping is permitted, except during gun hunting seasons for deer and turkey.
Long hikes in the fall offer a unique way to connect with the natural world. Find a hiking opportunity at a conservation area near you to experience nature in Missouri this fall.