When you say the word mountains, a certain image comes to one's mind. I personally picture the great Rocky Mountains in Colorado. I lived there for five years in my younger years and I still love the feeling I get when I travel west on I-70 and pass the Gennessee exit and get that first breathtaking view of the Rocky's.
When I think of mountains, I don't really think of my own state even though Missouri is part of the Ozark Mountain range. The mountains in Missouri are not nearly as majestic as the Rockies. They are smaller. They seem to be greener because the mountains do not soar high in the air above the point where vegetation thrives. While we were on vacation in the southeast part of Missouri we learned the the highest point in Missouri is on Taum Sauk Mountain. That mountain was very close to where we were visiting.
A short drive from Johnson's Shut-Ins and we were at Taum Sauk.
Like any other state park we have visited, Taum Sauk Mountain is easy to find if you know a general location. The brown directional signs are posted in all the right spots to lead you to your destination.
Some mountains have a scenic overview at their summit. Taum Sauk does not. The good news is the summit is accessible to all by a paved wide path that is accessible to all despite physical restrictions. There is a parking lot right by the summit so you can just drive up, take a stroll and be at the summit in a few minutes.
Not only is Taum Sauk home to the hightest point in the St. Francois Mountains and the highest point in Missouri at an elevation of 1,772 feet, it is also the home of the highest water fall in Missouri. So if you are looking for a little more than a casual stroll to see the summit, I suggest taking the 3-mile loop hike to see the water fall known as Mina Sauk Falls.
After much debate our group of 12 decided to have a picnic lunch at the summitt and hike the loop to Mina Sauk. Once we left the ADA paved path, the hike was pretty uneven. It was pretty rugged. And it was pretty steep. And it felt way longer than 3 miles.
We did reach Mina Sauk Water Fall. All of us had images of a powerful, strong water fall and what we saw instead was a trickle of water working its way down the mountain through a maze of granite rocks. We learned later that the best time to hike this trail and see Mina Sauk is in the spring when it is wet out.
We did see some pretty sights. We did earn our fitness badge for the day. Even if we got a little grumpy getting it.
The Boy hiked the entire three mile loop in his slides. I learned a lot about my son on this vacation. I am slightly fearful of his decision making skills once he is alone at college. Just kidding. I have faith in my parenting skills.
Part of the three-mile loop trail is also part of the Ozark Hiking Trail. The Taum Sauk section of the Ozark Hiking Trail is a 35 mile hike. Of that 35 mile hike, there is a trail that goes from Taum Sauk Mountain back to Johnson's Shut-Ins and is 14.5 miles long. There are other geological features to be seen if you take this trail but we did not go that far into it.
While our visit was very short on water, it was easy to see how beautiful Mina Sauk is when the water is flowing. Always on high alert, I am happy to report we saw no snakes or black bears on our hike. We did see a lizard. That was pretty cool. Not as cool as bear. But definitely less frightening.
I would also imagine this would be a wonderful hike in the fall. There were so many trees around that you know are stunning to visit when the leaves change colors.
The Husband, who is the first to wave off any type of hiking when we go exploring, spent the first week we were home talking about this hike. He is convinced we are going back and next time hiking the 14.5 miles to Johnson's Shut-Ins. I am hoping Allen and Angie will come and pick us up on the other end because I know there is no way we will ever convince them that making that hike is a good idea! The best I can hope for is ground support so we do not have to make it a round trip hike.
We did not visit the summit till after we returned from the three mile hike. Everyone in our group was exhausted and had no intent of walking the extra 400 yards to the summit except for The Husband and I. So, dear vacation friends, here is a photo of what you missed!
When we returned tot he parking lot, I saw all these pretty Black-Eyed Susan flowers. We were a hot, sweaty mess and ready for some air conditioning. I felt like the field of wild flowers was a peace offering. Sorta like the rainbow after the flood.
And with our return from a day trip to Taum Sauk Mountain, we ended our week long vacation to the Southeast section of Missouri.