Danny's Missouri Backpacking & Hiking Trails Reviews

24 October 1997 - Updated 13 December 1999

Buford Mountain State Forest

Location: 21 miles south of Potosi on Hwy 21 then 4/10 (sign on Hwy 21 says 1 mile) of a mile east on Route U. Gravel parking lot is on the left just off the road. NOTE: Route 21 has been relocated in this area so you will need to take a left turn onto Route U which actually puts you on 'old' Hwy 21 and by the turnoff to Buford Mountain State Forest.

Distance: 6-7 miles of trail oneway (maybe more!) so you have to return on the same trail. Another trail (old road) is now marked and heads off the third high point in a northerly direction. See my trip report from 10 December 1999.

Water: Water is not available although there may be some wet weather springs depending on the time of year. The wildlife ponds didn't look too bad in December but you would want to use a filter if you planned on using the water for drinking or cooking.

Parking: Overnight parking is permissable if you are primitive camping, otherwise the area is closed from 10PM to 4AM.

Trip Report 10 December 1999: I hiked on Buford Mountain today with two other net hiking friends. We had a beautiful sunny day and was finally able to see the vistas from the top of the ridge. The big vista was on top of Bald Knob, the fourth high point along the trail. From here in the rock glade on Bald Knob (1574+ feet) you can see about 15 miles of the Belleview Valley and the mountains to the west. It was a very pretty location. A special note on the trail markings: The trail on the map follows the ridge top and crosses all of the high points. However, on the third high point (1620+ feet), there is a trail that goes off to the right and the MODOC trail markers indicate that this is the way to go. However, this trail is not marked on MODOC's brochure. The trail following the ridge top over the high points actually goes to the left here. If you look on the brochure map or the Graniteville Quad then this trail takes off to the right at the boundary line between sections 27 & 28 and goes beyond the wildlife pond shown in the NE corner of section 28. I don't recall the trail signs during my first trip and I'm not sure why this trail is marked since it is not on the map. How far it goes I'm not sure as we followed it for about 10 minutes past the wildlife pond before turning back and heading back up to the top and on to Bald Knob. We noted though that there were some nice looking camping spots along this trail. I'll have to return another time and follow it on further and if anyone gets to do that then let me know where/if it ends.

Trip Report 24 October 1997: Buford Mountain State Forest is a well kept secret from backpackers and hikers. Although the State of Missouri acquired this area in 1979 (3,743 acres) and I had seen the Hwy sign many times, this was my first visit. I spent 5 hours today hiking into and out of this state forest. This is part of the St. Francois Mountains so you are hiking over igneous rocks and on to a portion of the oldest mountain range in the U.S. The trail is not a laid out hiking path but follows an old jeep trail/road. The trail is rocky on most of the inclines but along the ridge tops it flattens out and is more of a dirt road where the soil has developed. Vehicles are not permitted in the area and horse groups can only come in my permission so it does not get that much travel by horses. The first 1/2 mile you will hike along a gravel road, as the parking lot was moved closer to Hwy U, due to local teenagers using it for nightly parties. Now the parking area can be seen from Hwy U. Buford Mountain ranges SE-NW from the parking lot and has five prominent high points along the ridge. The first high point I will call Big Buford as it is the highest point at 1,740 feet (only 32 feet shy of Taum Sauk Mtn., the highest point in Missouri). The parking area is rougly at 1,100 feet so you have a 640 foot climb in the first 1-1/2 miles to reach the top of Big Buford. The other high points in succession are near 1,680+ feet, 1,620+ feet, 1,574 feet, and 1,613 feet. There are prominent saddles between each high point. Primitive camping is allowed anywhere in the forest and there are many good places to camp on the high points in the stands of oak and hickory trees that exist there. The area's most outstanding features are the glades (rocky glades) that range from 1-10 acres across the mountain. I noticed deer tracks and turkey scratchings along the trail as well. I started my hike out in the rain and the tops of the high areas were shrouded in clouds for the most part today but it was still an enjoyable hike. Ground fires are not permitted in the forest either so bring your stove if you plan on camping. I did see evidence of fires though, probably from hunters.

I also saw at least three wildlife ponds, one in each of the first two saddles and another farther back on the trail. Evidence of the early homesteaders can also be seen as you pass through a gap in a rock fence going up Big Buford and you will pass through another rock fence in the 4th saddle. These stone fences are typical of some old homestead fences back in Vermont and New Hampshire that I observed last year on vacation there. If you are looking for a rugged place to carry your pack around to get ready for that trip out west, or just need an enjoyable dayhike, then you need to hike into this forest. If you are short on time and looking for that primitive camping spot then the top of Big Buford would be an ideal location. You can get to the top from the parking area in about 30 minutes. A large rocky glade just west of the trail on the top of Big Buford will give a great view of the night stars and maybe even a view of the Belleview Valley. I couldn't see through the clouds today. I crossed several stream beds in the 4th saddle but only one had flowing water. It had rained all night so I don't know if this was due to runoff or was actually a spring. All of the other stream beds were dry.

Maps: Trail maps are available from the Resource Forester, Clearwater District Sub-office, Ironton, MO 63650 (573-546-6993). Quad sheets: Graniteville and Banner, MO, 7-1/2 minute USGS 1:24000 Quadrangles.

Cautions: Summertime ticks and heat, bring plenty of water. The trail is very rocky in some areas as it is actually an old jeep road and not a prepared hiking path.

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