Pickle Springs Natural Area

A few weekends back we were having some decent temperatures, cooler than normal and breezy, so we decided to take a hike. Technically a drive followed by a hike. One of the regular customers at the pie shop had told us earlier in the week about this place, and after seeing her photos we just had to visit!

It's Pickle Springs Natural Area, and was a little over an hour from our house. There is no water access here, no river, no camping, although there may have been a picnic table or two next to the small parking area -- if you don't want to hike, you've come to the wrong place!


That's what we like though: uncrowded, uncomplicated and as it turns out, unexpected.

Because even though we had seen some photos, it didn't really prepare us for how remarkable this trail was!

Made a national natural landmark back in 1974, and I think you'll soon see why.

I'm glad I had a photo of the map on my phone, as it came in handy later:

We knew this hike would be different from others we'd taken in Missouri because the trail started on rock, not just as a dirt or gravel track disappearing into the trees:

The trail went next to rocks too:

Plenty of trees all around...

Less than five minutes into the walk we were at "The Slot" (see map above), and we knew this hike was going to be something special:

That's the look forward, while this next one was taken looking back to where we had just come:

So cool! (Literally -- it was noticeably cooler here!)

I haven't seen much moss in my garden for several months, but there was plenty here:

Just a couple of minutes later we came to the "double arch" and "keyhole" features, and now it really felt like we were no longer in Missouri, but perhaps back on our Yellowstone roadtrip?

There's the "double arch":

It's not huge, but still quite impressive!

Those huge boulders don't look like typical Missouri stone, adding to the sense that we were somewhere in the mountains out west:

The "Keyhole":

I should mention that when we were talking with our pie shop customer she said that they had lost the trail and wandered a bit before finding their way again. This is the spot where that could happen, as there are multiple trails that go around and through the rock formations. My wife and I got separated for a couple minutes as she went around one way and I the other, and somehow we didn't meet up as expected on the other side.

There are not too many trail markers, but this was the most confusing part of the whole thing.

I think this was taken from Pickle Creek Bridge:

Not a lot of water in the area, but a few small creeks kept things interesting.

There were bluffs too:

Some bigger than you might think!

The ground changed quite a bit if you were in a valley or up on a hilltop...

...and this miniature forest of pine seedlings (with moss understory) was a vignette I couldn't pass up! (Those seedlings are about 8" / 20cm tall.)

Here we approach "Dome Rock" if you're still checking the map:

And this is the view:

Click for larger version. This isn't the most impressive view we've seen from a cliff edge, but it's not too bad for an hour from home!

On the map you'll note that the trail seems to snake down under Dome Rock... and it does!

Those show the view looking back up to where we just were.

Down here under Dome Rock you see the "best" water feature of the trail:

Note the huge rock-looking thing above the "falls". It's actually the roots of a big oak that very recently fell over. That rootball must be 12' (3.6m) tall, but so thin -- flat on the bottom!

Nearing the end of the trail -- which is good because it was getting hotter -- another bluff:

Who knew that so many ferns would be growing in Missouri in August? I have a hard time keeping mine hydrated each summer!

These are surprising too...

...if only because they look so healthy! Right plant, right spot I guess.

The "right spot" in this case is "Piney Glade", a classic Missouri glade:

If you're like me you think of a "glade" as something much more lush. In reality though, a glade is a rocky clearing in a forest where no bigger plants can take root (due to lack of soil).

Not the best place to rest when you're looking to cool off after a 90-minute plus hike, but the parking lot is literally two minutes away from here, so the promise of AC let us linger for a couple minutes.

Thanks to Ed Brown indeed! This was an exciting and fulfilling hike, and we will be back!


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Evan Bean  – (August 29, 2018 at 3:07 PM)  

Cool trail! I love places with interesting geology like this, that you even get to walk through! I'm going to have to find out why it's called Pickle Springs, though...

Rebecca  – (September 11, 2018 at 12:03 PM)  

What a fun hike. Really beautiful and such interesting rock features.

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