The 17-mile Big Piney Trail loops through rugged country, but it isn't that difficult; climbs and descents are followed by fairly level stretches in valleys and on ridgelines. From the Paddy Creek Rec. Area trailhead, you'll immediately cross the creek and ascend steeply to a rocky bluff, the first of several fine vistas along the Big Piney and a preview of the forested hills and hollows to come. The trail then curves on a long easy stretch along a ridge, crosses FR 220, and enters the wilderness. A mile past the road, watch for a faint trail to the left, which leads to a hidden box canyon and spring—the perfect campsite. The west half of the loop leads to a waterfall pouring off a ledge; squeeze behind it and watch nature through a curtain of water. Note: A cutoff trail divides this superb hike into two dayhike loops of 9 and 12 miles each.
-Hike provided by Steve Henry, author of The Best in Tent Camping: Missouri and the Ozarks (Menasha Ridge Press)
Location: 37.5576084, -92.0486927