Why the Ozarks?


Yellow Rock Bluff, Arkansas

While selecting photos for a presentation to the Trailblazers of Fort Smith, I realized the Ozarks could hold their own following the High Sierras of California. The day of the program, photos transitioned smoothly from the John Muir Trail to the Ozarks and the audience appreciated the beauty and uniqueness of both regions without any “let down” as we moved into the Ozarks.

Why the Ozarks?

How about an extended hiking season and a variety of beauty? When mountainous regions around the United States are becoming impassable due to snow, the Ozark Mountains are beginning their long hiking season with a fall transformation to red and golden foliage.


Alley Spring, Missouri

Lake Alma Sunset

A fall sunset over Lake Alma in Arkansas

Fall leaves on rock

Fall color on sandstone

As winter approaches and leaves drop, majestic vistas and towering rock formations are revealed.


Pedestal Rocks Scenic Area, Arkansas


wild iris

Seasonal rains bring beautiful waterfalls year round but especially in the spring when wildflowers sparkle throughout the region, especially in open glades and along steep hillsides.



Long Creek Falls, Missouri


Shepherd Spring Waterfall at Lake Fort Smith State Park, Arkansas

Natural springs flow year-round, often showing some of their most lovely character during the “off season” of winter. You’ll also find smaller crowds in the Ozarks during the winter months.


Cascade below Maramec Spring, Missouri

I’m often asked my favorite trail. My answer is, “The last trail I hiked.” While I do enjoy the larger than life bucket-list trails offered by California, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Montana, I always look forward to returning to the Ozarks. They hold their own in comparison with landscapes anywhere in the United States. If you’re looking for scenic beauty, an extended hiking season and smaller crowds, explore the Ozarks!


Clifty Creek Natural Arch, Missouri


Kessler Mountain Rock City, Arkansas


Big Spring, Missouri


Young hiker taking in the views near Whitaker Point, Arkansas


Early morning coffee in the Ozarks

5-Star Ozarks cover

If you want to explore some of the trails pictured in this post, check out Five Star Trails: The Ozarks.

Solitude on Missouri Trails: Hercules Glades



Long Creek Falls viewed from downstream on January 7th hike.

On our last visit to the Hercules Glades Wilderness Area, we crossed paths with at least ten hikers on the trail and another twenty members of a Boy Scout troop at the Coy Bald Trailhead. The hiking was excellent, and it was a pleasure to see others on the trail, but the creeks were mostly dry, so I looked forward to a second visit in wetter conditions with a little more solitude.


Long Creek Falls during dryer and busier times. One of the few pools on the creek. Five more hikers are close by.


A similar view to the one above looking downstream in different light and conditions.

I’ve found that if you hike on a rainy day in January, you’ll probably have the trail to yourself. Your chances for solitude are enhanced if snow is in the forecast. I didn’t see another person on the trail all day.


Long Creek runs under an overhanging bluff where we stood in the dry on our last visit.

Hiker-dog and I walked from Hercules Tower Trailhead to Long Creek then downstream to the falls. No concerns for drinking water on this trip! I would filter it, but Hiker enjoyed having a drink or a bath whenever it suited her.


Hiker-dog taking in the view after taking a dip in the falls.

There are several creek crossings on this trail and the temperature was around 40-degrees and dropping. To save time, I opted to do the crossings in my regular hiking shoes, so I got a little chilled while standing still to take photos at the waterfall.

I was thankful for the warming effects of the the uphill climb back to the trailhead. It was a solitary, chilly, and beautiful time in the Hercules Glades Wilderness Area!