Glade Top Trail – Missouri’s Fall Colors

The air is turning crisp and it’s time to load up the “Family Truckster” and take off on the road to adventure.  One of the best Missouri destinations in the fall is The Mark Twain National Forest’s Glade Top Trail.  A member of the National Forest Scenic Byway system.  It was the first National Scenic Byway designated in Missouri.  The Glade Top Trail is one of only 51 National Scenic Byways in the nation.  Located just south of Ava, Missouri the trail extends through the Mark Twain National Forest, with a 25 mile stretch of it across the top of mountain ranges.  Passing through some of the most scenic terrain in Missouri, there are always deer, wild turkey, and other forest creatures to be seen.  The view from the trail is spectacular, and the best part is that you can view it from the comfort of your car or get out and explore.  There are several areas of special interest along the trail and I will try to highlight some of them.

Hayden Bald – Forty acres of glade designated as a State Natural Area.  This area will never be grazed, but will be burned every 4 to 6 years to maintain its natural state.

Smoke Tree Scene – A grassy glade dotted with brightly colored Smoke Trees (known locally as Yellowwood).  The view to the south from here shows the hills near Gainesville, MO some twenty miles away in the background.

Arkansas View – The mountains in the distance are in Arkansas, some 40 miles away.

The Watershed Divide – This ridge is the division between the Beaver Creek watershed and the Little North Fork Watershed.

Caney Tower – Once a manned tower, it is now mostly a buzzard roost.  There is a foundation where a house sat, that the tower man would live in, at the tower base.  This is also where many people have written their names on the tower frame (Interesting to note is that Jimmy Hoffa and Jesse James have apparently visited the tower?)

Caney Picnic Area – the bare knobs (hills) you see a short distance away are known as balds.  Balds such as these are where the famous Bald Knobbers met and planned their raids.  There is a nice picnic area here and restrooms.  North of the parking lot is a small cave.  I have been back in the cave and it does not go far before it is impassable.

Mrs. Murray’s Gold Mine (The Pinnacle) – Local lore says that a lady living in Kansas City had a vision that she could find gold if she dug on the Pinnacle.  Some say that she returned to Kansas City penniless and died broke a short time later.  There is still evidence of the diggings where she worked, but I looked around hoping to find what she missed …. No luck.

The House place – Settlers lured to the area by cheap land, moved into the area before the depression.  When the depression hit many found that they could not make it here and moved on.  What remains of this house place is an old cellar.  I enjoyed the cellar.  It is very big and has a window, which surprised me.  You can still see remains of the house foundation, and the large oak trees which once made up the yard, makes this my favorite area to picnic.

There are many areas to picnic and camp along the trail.  Most are basic campsites with no water and but you do get the added luxury of an outdoor privy.  Hiking is allowed, but there are no marked hiking trails.  Please stop by the Ranger Station in Ava and let them know your route and the approximate time that you will be gone if you plan to take a long hike.

Every fall, when the trees are in full fall colors, the citizens of the area hold the Glade Top Trail Festival.  There is music, square dancing, a chicken barbecue, and an art show.  I love The Glade Top Trail.  When my family and I want to get outdoors, but it is raining or snowing, this makes for a great way to get out of the house.  We have seen a lot of wildlife on our drives and have hiked many miles here.

Glade Top Trail Postcard

The Glade Top can be reached by State Hwy 95 just north of Longrun; from State Hwy 125 about four miles north of the intersection with U.S. Hwy 160; or from State Hwy 5 by State Hwy A (just south of Ava) and then Douglas County road A-409.  Missouri Atlas & Gazetteer

            If you need more information about the trail contact:


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