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Mark Twain National Forest Recommendations

London, United...
Level Contributor
1,966 posts
1 review
Mark Twain National Forest Recommendations

I'm considering visiting Mark Twain Forest on my road trip from Kansas City to Louisville. I'm really into hiking and photography. I'm looking for recommendations on some decent 6-10 mile hikes, that offer some great views. Perhaps up a mountain or round some lakes etc.

Where would everyone recommend staying? I'd like a fairly big town, that has some bars open til late - mightnight/1am type time.

2 replies to this topic
USA
Destination Expert
for Saint Louis
Level Contributor
1,615 posts
12 reviews
1. Re: Mark Twain National Forest Recommendations

Hi there. Mark Twain National Forest is not a single place. Basically all of the forested land in the southern half of Missouri that's managed by the U.S. Forest Service is called Mark Twain National Forest. It's non-contiguous and does not have facilities that, say, a state park does. It's generally not a place that one "goes to" in the standard sense of the phrase.

That said, you may want to consider visiting the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, a slightly more cohesive "place" with some pretty, natural features as well as some man-made ones. There are beautiful springs, small waterfalls (Missouri has no large waterfalls), historic mills, scenic drive, and some hikes. Our mountains are very geologically old and therefore much, much smaller that the mountains out west or even the Smokies (just so you're aware).

One cool feature in Missouri are old fire towers that you can climb and get good vantage points for photography. You can see the map of fire towers at:

tinyurl.com/mofiretowers

(Green ones can be climbed)

Zoom into the map of the ONSR to see some of its features:

https:/…maps.htm

I think that ONSR is in the prettiest part of the state, but doesn't have specifically great hikes, at least not of the length you're looking for. The Ozark Trail (look it up) cuts through parts of both ONSR and MTNF, but it's almost entirely point to point (no loops) and can get pretty rugged. Not sure what level you're looking for. I have only hiked small sections of it. It's pretty, but not full of ready made photographic opportunities.

Some if the better hikes are in state parks. Mention eight to ten miles and my mind immediately jumps to the Whispering Pines trail at Hawn State Park. It's about an hour from St. Louis. It has a good high vantage point, some shut-in water formations, pretty pine forest, mossy walls, and spring-fed creeks.

Your only real choice of cities in Missouri is St. Louis and Columbia, or Springfield at the very southwest (depending on your route). All of the nature and Ozarks features mentioned above are in very rural parts of the state, a few hours' drive from cities.

Hope that points you in the right direction. Good luck!

London, United...
Level Contributor
1,966 posts
1 review
2. Re: Mark Twain National Forest Recommendations

Thank you very much for the detailed response. I didn't realise it was split into different areas, but that explains why the website was confusing and I couldn't find a defined definition of the park.

I will have a look at all those places mentioned.

It doesn't have to be a big city that I stay, just big enough for the to be a few bars that are open fairly late.

My other option was to stay around the Shawnee forest area in Illinois.

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