Springfield, MO: Big Piney Trail

On this 16.5-mile overnight in the Paddy Creek Wilderness, you'll see tranquil emerald-green creeks and timeless vistas of the rock-strewn Ozark Highlands.
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On this 16.5-mile overnight in the Paddy Creek Wilderness, you'll see tranquil emerald-green creeks and timeless vistas of the rock-strewn Ozark Highlands.

The 7,019-acre Paddy Creek Wilderness, designated in 1983, is characterized by classic Ozark hardwood and pine forests, moderately dissected hills, and narrow, steep-sloped valleys. This relatively easy overnight loop takes a counter-clockwise approach to the hilly trail, but climbs and descents are followed by fairly level stretches in valleys and on ridgelines.
From the Paddy Creek Recreation Area Trailhead, you'll cruise oak and short pine forests on the south side of the waterway, crossing creek tributaries and occasional park roads several times en route to an overlook and the Paddy Creek Campground near the loop's half-way point. The second half of the route skirts the creek's north side. Allow time to explore side trails into hidden box canyons and springs, that are also common in the area's karst topography.
This area is best explored in spring and fall when temperatures are moderate and sparse foliage offers plentiful views. And, though the route skirts an established campground near its half-way point, primitive camping is allowed everywhere in the wilderness area except in day use areas, administrative sites, within 100 feet of springs, stream, caves, and other natural features or archeological sites. Also, be diligent about finding and removing ticks, which are common especially in summer.
-Mapped by Charlie Williams

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 26.6

Waypoints

PAD001

Location: 37.520157, -92.123419

The parking area is next to the northeast corner of Roby Lake, just before the turnaround. Big Piney Creek Trailhead is north of the parking area and the trail heads north across a field.

PAD002

Location: 37.5212526, -92.1237141

Bear right off the road along the field's north edge.

PAD003

Location: 37.5306315, -92.1199188

At mile 1, this signed junction marks the beginning of the counter-clockwise loop. Turn right to begin the hike's southern stretch.

PAD004

Location: 37.530793, -92.093065

This easy crossing of Little Paddy Creek usually has water. Continue east and climb about 250 feet to a forested hilltop.

PAD005

Location: 37.52814, -92.080965

Turn left onto an old road at mile 3.6. You'll follow the wide dirt path 0.4 mile before turning back onto the trail at the top of a small hill.

PAD006

Location: 37.532532, -92.076678

Turn right at the top of the small hill. From here, the trail follows the ridgeline before a set of steep switchbacks land at the banks of Big Paddy Creek.

PAD007

Location: 37.5519778, -92.0534885

It's an easy crossing at Big Paddy Creek near mile 6.6. This point is just south of the confluence where Little Paddy and Big Paddy creeks meet.

PAD008

Location: 37.5565538, -92.0457959

You'll be heading downhill when the trail crosses Forest Road 220. Go straight and continue downhill, crossing another park road and Big Paddy Creek.

PAD009

Location: 37.5573958, -92.0434248

After the stream, follow the trail southeast and then up a narrow ridge to a scenic overlook.

PAD010

Location: 37.5594115, -92.0394444

The Big Piney Trail Camp is designed specifically for equestrian use to reduce impact on other, more desireable backcountry campsites nearby. There are pit toilets here and plenty of open space, but no drinking water.

PAD011

Location: 37.5598027, -92.0434785

Look south for rolling hilltop and forest views from this overlook at mile 8.7.

PAD012

Location: 37.5664703, -92.0629191

Go straight across Forest Road 220 and continue on the smaller trail. You'll begin heading south, passing between two hilltops and descending to an intermittent creek.

PAD013

Location: 37.547316, -92.075794

Climbing out of the ravine, you'll turn right onto the old road. You'll climb a small hill on the road before turning back onto the trail in just under a mile.

PAD014

Location: 37.5464488, -92.0897412

Just past a small pond on your left, turn left onto the trail that heads about 250 feet downhill to a stream crossing.

PAD015

Location: 37.533129, -92.113387

Just upstream from the loop's final stream crossing is a small waterfall and pool. Stop to enjoy the view before proceeding to the loop's end and backtracking the final mile to the trailhead.

Hammock

Location: 37.5550823, -92.0375347

Camping above ground is always an option.

View

Location: 37.5597942, -92.0433068

Sweeping views are one of the hallmarks of this hike. Heavy forest foliage can hide vistas in mid-summer; consider hiking in the spring and fall.

Trails

Location: 37.5453259, -92.0773172

Though the forest service has area trail maps, not all trails are on the map and vice versa. Check with a ranger before your trip and bring your GPS.

Waterfall

Location: 37.5329393, -92.1128511

Soft stone and the movement of water have worn caves and shelves in the karst topography of this region.

Waterfall

Location: 37.5330754, -92.1130228

One of the waterfalls on this route.