Weekends: Bell Mountain Loop, Bell Mountain Wilderness, Missouri

Wander through three-season wildflowers on this overnight.
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Wander through three-season wildflowers on this overnight.

You come around a bend and the smell hits your nostrils before your eyes catch up. In front of you, a kaleidoscopic blossom display of yellows and purples blankets the mountain slope—the perfect springtime hike. But you don’t have to wait until May: Find showy wildflowers blooming three-quarters of the year on this Missouri hike.

Turn-by-turn
From the Ozark Trail Parking Area on Highway A
(1) 
Follow the Ozark Trail 2.4 miles southeast up the western flank of Bell Mountain to a junction.
(2) 
Veer north onto the Bell Mountain Trail (BMT) and continue 1.2 miles to where the BMT intersects itself. 
(3) 
Take the BMT 4.6 miles clockwise, crossing Joes Creek at miles 4.6, 5.3, and 6.1 (resupply water), to the summit of 1,702-foot Bell Mountain at mile 8.1.
(4) 
Veer .3 mile east via a faint footpath to a clearing.
(5) 
Continue south off the summit; reconnect with the trail and follow it 2.4 miles to the BMT intersection.
(6) 
Retrace your steps 3.6 miles to the trailhead.

Campsite
Bell Mountain (mile 8.4)
Your front porch never looked so good: Set up camp on Bell Mountain overlooking 1,662-foot Lindsey Mountain and the wildflower-laden gorge below. There’s a clearing big enough for a half-dozen tents (first-come, first-serve) just feet from the steep drop off the eastern face. Since there’s no water source on the summit, make sure to fill up at Joes Creek.

Three-season wildflowers
Bell Mountain’s springtime bloom show includes snow-white dogwoods and purple redbuds (peaking mid-April through May). If you can’t make the peak, though, be sure to visit in summer for late-blooming yellow Missouri primrose and autumn for even-later-blooming purple asters.

DO IT Trailhead 37.625618, -90.911264, 36 miles southwest of Park Hills on State Hwy A. Gear up ORCC Gear in Fenton; orccgear.comSeason Spring for wildflowers and fall for foliage (either for ideal temps); avoid summer’s humidity and winter’s snow. Permits Self-issue (free) at the trailhead. Custom-centered map bit.do/BPmapBellMtn ($15)Contact fs.usda.gov/detailfull/mtnf/Trip databackpacker.com/BellMtn

Trail Facts

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