Castor River Shut-in is an impressive formation with a unique pink-ish color. While other shut-ins may cast red hues, the vibrant pink rhyolite here is absolutely striking. Before recognizing the native glade plant life, one might mistake photos of this area as being from another state.
North of Arcadia and only a few miles from the highest point in Missouri, Royal Gorge sits just off the side of the road. Its history is both ancient, on the order of 1.5 billion years old volcanic rock — and more recent, with a giant stone and mortar wall constructed during the Great Depression which still supports the roadway. Designated a natural area in 1973, the shut-ins and towering rhyolite outcroppings above Minor Creek are magnificent.
Little Rock Creek Shut-in is a spectacular formation of lichen covered boulders, straight edge rhyolite chutes and turquoise plunge pools. At the southern base of Black Mountain, this shut-in's proximity to the road should be ignored. Its considerable beauty, coupled with the sounds of falling water drown out even the loudest passerby.
Bell Mountain is one of the most popular backpacking destinations in the state. It's rock fortress towers above a deep chasm with sweeping views to the east which make for a stunning sunrise. Shut-in creek below flows through some of the most rugged backcountry in the state. It's a 600 foot loss in elevation to reach the bottom in a little over 1/3 of a mile. The opposite bank is a near mirror image to the crest of Lindsey Mountain.
That last of three shut-ins along Rocky Creek, Klepzig Mill is the more common name for Mill Mountain Shut-in. Built by Prussian German immigrant Walter Klepzig, the site contains an early 20th century sawmill house, cement spillway and various other old foundations.
Located in an eastern drainage of Johnson Mountain this shut-in is undoubtedly named to avoid confusion with the renowned Johnson Shut-ins. In heavy rainfall this tumbling creek cascades over a boulder strewn path before entering a canyon-like ravine. Sheer granite walls rise on both sides of a narrow channel choked with the canopies of American Sycamores. Their white branches of papery bark contrasting with the black rock is truly magnificent.
Rockpile Mountain is the smallest of Missouri’s eight designated wilderness areas. With only two miles of maintained trail, exploring its 4,238 acres is entirely cross-country. Old road traces are still easy enough to follow along most of the ridge lines, though none are marked. The cairn-like stacked rocks of its namesake tend to draw the attention of most visitors.
The Vilander Bluff Natural Area is a 200-acre tract along the Meramec River near Bourbon Missouri. It’s managed by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources as part of Onondaga Cave State Park. A 1.25 mile loop trail passes near the bluff, but DOES NOT provide views of the cliffs. At over 200 feet, Vilander Bluff is the Meramec River’s tallest. Ancient cedars over 400 years old grow out of the rocks.
The Myron & Sonya Glassberg conservation area is a 429-acre tract in the LaBarque Creek watershed with impressive views across the Meramec River valley. A three-mile hiking trail loops through the area following ridgelines up, around, and back down to the valley. To reach the top, the trail utilizes an old gravel road, which near its steepest turns to asphalt. Single track begins at the overlook junction as the trail loops higher still and back around to the start.
The Bell Mountain Trail is usually hiked in a 12 mile lollipop loop beginning at the Highway A trailhead of the Taum Sauk section of the Ozark Trail...The trail is set just to the side of a massive glade with breathtaking views to the east. Little side trails criss cross this entire area of prime backcountry camping real estate. Explore all the sights & sites before setting up camp. Each spot seems prettier than the next.