The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) encourages people to head outdoors on Saturday, June 6, for National Trails Day organized by the American Hiking Society. MDC invites visitors to enjoy the day by hiking on trails at conservation areas.
Hiking is a great way to enjoy nature in a variety of settings throughout the year. Users of MDC areas in western Missouri will find two types of trails for hiking. Some are footpaths through forest, woodlands, or grasslands. Yet also available for hiking are gravel or service roads normally closed to vehicle traffic. The types of habitats people can hike through varies, too.
Missouri Department of Conservation sites are found throughout the state, and here are a few highlighted locations.
St. Joseph Area
- The Mark Youngdahl Urban Conservation Area in St. Joseph offers two miles of hiking trails through grassland and forest. Two of the three trails are paved and accessible for those with mobility challenges.
- In Atchison County, the Star School Prairie Conservation Area and the Brickyard Hill Conservation Area both have service roads that serve as hiking paths. Brickyard Hill also has a designated hiking trail around a fishing lake. Visitors can access loess soil prairies from parking lots at the base of the areas’ west slopes, steep bluffs that rise above the Missouri River bottom. But forest and fields managed for wildlife are also found in the area’s interior acres beyond the bluff line.
- Wetlands are featured at the Nodaway Valley Conservation Area and the Bob Brown Conservation Area in Holt County. Besides service roads closed to traffic, both areas have grass or gravel-topped levees available for hiking past wetland pools or streams.
Kansas City Area
- The Burr Oak Woods Nature Center and Conservation Area in Blue Springs has an extensive trail system through forest, woodlands, and restored native grasses. Some trails are paved and accessible for those with mobility challenges. Hikers enjoy the trail sections that cut through scenic limestone rock outcrops.
- Trails and service roads are walkable at the James A. Reed Memorial Wildlife Area in Lee’s Summit. The area offers forest, fields, restored grasslands, lakes, and a marsh.
- Hikers can also use trails at the Martha Lafite Thompson Nature Sanctuary in Liberty and the Parkville Nature Sanctuary in that city. MDC is a partner with those urban nature sanctuaries.
- The Riverbreaks Conservation Area in southern Holt County has several designated hiking trails throughout the area. This area is in the Missouri River bluffs and has a mix of forest, pockets of loess soil prairie, and fields managed for wildlife. One tip – grab a map at the parking lot bulletin board. A map and perhaps a compass will help hikers know which way to go when arriving at a junction of trail loops.
- For a taste of the Ozarks, visit the Big Buffalo Creek and Granny’s Acres conservation areas in Benton County. Big Buffalo Creek is a clear, cool stream nestled in the hills southeast of Cole Camp. One marked trail leads from the creek bottom through a fen that is a Missouri Natural Area, then uphill through forest and downhill on a service road. Granny’s Acres, south of Warsaw, has a long walk past a restored native grassland that leads to forested hills. In the forest, shady trails wind up and down the hills. Trail loop junctions are well marked with signs.
- Head to southern Bates and northern Vernon counties for a hike to see wetlands and bottomland forest at the August A. Busch Jr. Memorial Wetlands at the Four Rivers Conservation Area. The Marmaton, Marias des Cygnes, and Little Osage rivers join at the area for form the Osage River. Use service roads to hike in the area.
- To see native grasslands, hike the service roads at the Wah’Kon-Tah Prairie Conservation Area. The area is managed in a partnership between MDC and The Nature Conservancy of Missouri. Both rare and common prairie plants are found on unplowed remnants and restored native grasslands. Visitors can hike off trail into the prairie, but take drinking water to stay hydrated on summer days and insect repellant. Shade is uncommon on the prairie but the wildflowers, swaying grasses, birds, butterflies, and broad vistas are worth the walk.
- The Poosey Conservation Area northwest of Chillicothe has numerous designated trails. The hilly area has a mix of forest, creeks, woodlands, grasslands, fields, and lakes.
MDC offers many more areas throughout northwest Missouri with fishing, hiking, birding, and hunting opportunities. But not all hiking spots are rural. To find a conservation area near you, visit https://nature.mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/places, or download the free MO Outdoors app with area information, directions, and trail maps at https://mdc.mo.gov/contact-engage/mobile-apps/mo-outdoors.
For more information on the American Hiking Society and National Trails Day, visit https://americanhiking.org/national-trails-day/.
(Post Content: MDC Press Release. Photos by Bill Graham, Missouri Department of Conservation)