3 Shockingly Hard Mountain Hikes in the Missouri Ozarks


When people who have ever been to Missouri hear that there are mountains in the State, they usually blink and scratch their heads. After all, most people don't associate mountain peaks with the midwest. Which is fair - they aren't exactly big.

A view of the Ozarks near Cassville, MissouriSikes Photos | Unsplash

Regardless, Missouri mountains are among the oldest mountains on the planet, mostly carved from the earth by volcanic activity. This is why they are small, rounded, and incredibly fertile. Although small compared to the Rockies, mountains the Ozarks remain!

There are several stunning peaks in the Ozarks that still can captivating the heart of any outdoors person. The Ozarks are perfect for hiking and trekking. Most hikes in this part of the country are leisurely. However, sometimes you find yourself craving a tough, leg-burning trek, and they do exist in Missouri!

Although not exactly a "day trip" from St. Louis - especially if you live on the Illinois side of the River - these treks are 100% worth the camping trip.

If you want to undertake a difficult but worthwhile trip to the Missouri Wilderness this weekend, here are 3 shockingly hard mountain hikes in the Missouri Ozarks that are well worth the trip:

1. Buford Mountain

Buford Mountain is a specially difficult hike - arguably the most difficult hike in the Ozarks. This 9.4-mile trail gains 1,876 feet of elevation due to it's plethora of rolling peaks, and is made in a loop. The ascent is rocky and unusually steep for the area. Hikers climb up Buford Mountains 5 peaks and then meanders around the backside of the mountain.

Hikers are awarded stunning views of the valley below, along with dolomite glades and pristine woodlands. There are places to backcountry camp at the summit; however, intrepid hikers can certainly do this hike in a day. If you choose to camp, ensure you are following the proper camping regulations for the area.

Download a Trail Map Here

2. Taum Sauk Mountain

The highest point in Missouri is Taum Sauk Mountain, which sits at 1,772 feet above sea level. There are several hiking options on and near Taum Sauk, including the Mina Sauk Falls Trail. For those looking to gain the most elevation and peak the summit, however, the Taum Sauk Section of the Ozark Trail is well worth hiking.

This is a 12.5 mile point to point section, meaning hikers will either need to stage a car, or plan on camping unless they are capable of hiking 25 miles at a time. For those who choose to undertake the trail though, the stunning mountain vistas, glade views, and rock formations - not to mention the sheer milage - speak for themselves.

Download a Trail Map Here

3. Bell Mountain

Located between Taum Sauk and Buford Mountains, Bell Mountain is more unassuming but just as lovely. The Bell Mountain Wilderness stretches 9,143 acres of land, and there are few places better in Missouri to experience the wild woods than Bell Mountain.

This loop trail stretches 11 miles through the Wilderness, up to the peak of Bell Mountain and around the backside to give hikers a full woodland experience. The vistas here are stunning - an untouched verdant forest stretching out for miles in every direction, punctuated by the rolling peaks of Ozark mountain. The 1,187 feet of elevation gain is certainly worth the stunning woodland views.

Missouri isn't known for its huge mountain peaks. However, those looking for a tougher mountain hike will be delighted to find a stunning weekend trip worth taking. Just a few hours from the hustle and bustle of St. Louis and you'll end up in one of the most verdant, beautiful, and oldest mountain ranges in the world.

Which of these three mountain treks are you taking this weekend?

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I am a travel writer and sustainable lifestyle blogger. As a world traveler, I love giving others tips on budget travel, new cultures, and how to see the planet in a sustainable, ethical way. I also write on being a digital nomad, hiking and outdoor activities, as well as living an adventurous lifestyle.

Santa Fe, NM

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