At 440 acres, Council Bluff is the largest lake in Mark Twain National Forest—but you can circle its shores in a day on the 12.4-mile Council Bluff Trail, a moderate, up-and-down hike through the Ozark forest.
From the Wild Boar Hollow boat ramp, turn left and follow the path up and over a series of ridges in the pine-oak-hickory woods; you’ll have views of the lake, and nearby Johnson Mountain to the east. At 1.4 miles, veer right on the Chapel Hill beach road, pass the beach, and continue along the gravel track through grassy fields. The trail returns to the lake, rising and dropping over the next few miles before leveling out in a cedar and sugar maple forest. Pass Enough boat ramp at mile 6.6, cross Big River, then turn away from the lakeshore and hike upstream—but return to the lake in about a mile. Trace the lake’s last arm, Telleck Branch, through a mixture of fields and woods back to the boat ramp to complete the loop.
Info: Day use fee. Mark Twain National Forest; (573) 438-5427.
Hike provided by Johnny Malloy, author of 50 Hikes in the Ozarks (Countryman Press)