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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
- Distance: 26.6
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.
Location: 37.5212526, -92.1237141
Bear right off the road along the field’s north edge.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Location: 37.5573958, -92.0434248
After the stream, follow the trail southeast and then up a narrow ridge to a scenic overlook.
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.
Location: 37.5598027, -92.0434785
Look south for rolling hilltop and forest views from this overlook at mile 8.7.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Location: 37.5550823, -92.0375347
Camping above ground is always an option.
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.
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.
Location: 37.5329393, -92.1128511
Soft stone and the movement of water have worn caves and shelves in the karst topography of this region.
Location: 37.5330754, -92.1130228
One of the waterfalls on this route.