Trail Freestyling in Van Buren, Missouri



Rusty gold – An unexpected jewel of a trail just outside of Van Buren, MO

I enjoy watching Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz cruise the country in search of “rusty gold.” In mid-November, I experienced something of what the American Pickers must feel when “freestying.”

My scheduled hikes were completed. All that remained was a short visit to Big Spring in Van Buren, and then we’d make the drive back to Arkansas. My plan was to include Big Spring as a nearby attraction related to other trails since Big Spring was a tourist attraction rather than hiking destination.

As an afterthought, I decided to check on a trail I’d noticed in an old guide book to see if it was still in existence. The book indicated the trail hadn’t been maintained since 1994, so I wasn’t expecting to find it. The trail was on our way, so there we were, Hiker-dog and me driving Skyline Drive in a light rain a couple of miles south of Van Buren, looking for any sign of a trailhead.

We saw a pullout and a bench a short distance into the woods, but after having a look, I decided the trail had been abandoned and drove on, still eyeing the woods for signs of the other end of the trail.

Skyline Trailhead

Skyline Trailhead

When I saw another pullout and bench, I decided to take a short walk with GPS and my recorder in hand. I was delighted with what I found. Like Mike finding some antique signs, or Frank finding a vintage oil can, I slowly realized that this trail was a diamond in the rough.

The out-and-back was exactly three miles and followed a good grade, perfect for an early morning day hike.

Lichen-covered boulders littered the forest floor.

Lichen-covered boulders covered the forest floor.

Next, it was to be a quick stop at Big Spring for a few photos and then back to Arkansas. What we found at Big Spring captivated our attention. We stood in awe next to the power of Big Spring’s 288 million gallons of water a day.

Looking down on Big Spring from the trail

Looking down on Big Spring from the trail

We did the little trail at the spring for photos. Along the way, I noticed a set of stone steps that led up above the bluff line of Big Spring. Steps going up must be followed, so we ended up at a high point above the bluff with beautiful views to the east and west. The old roadbed with treated timber water bars circled back down the mountain to the entrance road not far from Big Spring Lodge. It gradually dawned on me that this was a “5-Star” hike.

Steps built by the CCC. Made to last!

Steps built by the CCC. Made to last!

Big Spring Lodge became the trailhead for this hike.

Big Spring Lodge became the trailhead for this hike.

Once back to the lodge, I determined a course and set out with GPS and recorder. This became a 3-mile figure-eight hike. It included views of Big Spring and Current River confluence, Big Spring itself, the woodsy mountain above and behind the spring, and some historic structures along the way. Every step was a delight!

Confluence of Big Spring with Eleven Points River

Confluence of Big Spring with Current River

Big Spring

Big Spring

Mike and Frank would be proud of the hidden and not-so-hidden treasures we found this day. What started out as a no-trail day resulted in two beautiful trails and about nine miles of walking since I hiked the Big Spring trail twice while experimenting with routes. Now for a long drive back to Arkansas for two happy hikers. Just wish I could split the driving with Hiker-dog.






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