Danny's Missouri Backpacking & Hiking Trails Reviews

16 January 2002

Lower Rock Creek (i.e. Dark Hollow, Cathedral Canyon)

Location: In Madison County, approximately 10 miles west-southwest of Fredericktown north of Hwy E off County Road 511. From State Highway E, turn north on County Road 511, about 1/2 mile up 511, cross a low-water bridge. Turn left onto a primitive road just beyond the bridge. Drive to the locked gate and park on the right side of the road.

Distance: Mileage depends on the route you take. A loop is possible too. Follow the forest road on foot to the west past the locked gate until you see the branch in the road. The road to the right will take you up Wolf Hollow and around to the top of Trackler Mtn above Rock Hollow. You can get in a 7-9 mile hike if you use this route. The road to the left provides direct access to Lower Rock Creek via a one-mile trail through a saddle area. You can get in a 2-5 mile hike this was depending on how far upstream you hike in Lower Rock Creek. Other hiking options are available using the surrounding National Forest properties. None of the trails are marked and there is only a rough outline of a trail here and there along Lower Rock Creek itself. Passage and crossing the creek would be difficult in times of high water.

Water: Water is available in Lower Rock Creek but it must be filtered or treated.

Parking: Overnight parking is permissable if you are primitive camping. You will pass several primitive camping spots before getting to the parking area and there is at least one backpacking site that has been used in the western end of Lower Rock Creek - one of the few flat spots in Dark Hollow. Camping on Trackler Mountain would be good too.

Trip Report for 11 January 2002: A group of four us parked at the locked gate and hiked through the saddle to Lower Rock Creek then followed the creek on west through the steepest areas of the gorge before hiking up and out of the hollow to the top of Trackler Mountain. We did run into the road noted on the top of Trackler Mountain but after hiking on it for a short distance we turned back as it appeared to be heading to far to the west so we opted for bushwacking back down into Dark Hollow and found some great glades and rocky areas along the way down. The creek itself was very low on water although it was flowing and there were many pools that would have been refreshing on a hot summer or spring day. Ice along the sides of the creek also made some footing treacherous but all was passable on one side or the other. Paths where others had hiked also helped us out in traversing the hollow. This is a must see area for any hiker in Missouri and it is very unspoiled at this time.

Maps: The USFS doesn't have any maps available for this area except for their Fredericktown District Map. There is a Missouri hiking trails book available that has a 'stick' map describing the hike into Cathedral Canyon (Lower Rock Creek). You may also be able to get further information from the Ranger District Office. Potosi and Fredericktown are now combined so you can call the main office in Potosi at: 573-438-5427. Lower Rock Creek falls in the corner of 4 different 7-1/2 minute quad sheets, where they join: Lake Killarney, Rhodes Mountain, Des Arc NE, and Rock Pile Mountain quads. An older Sierra Club brochure from the Sierra Club chapter in St. Louis also describes hikes via Black Mountain to the south and via Silver Mines Recreation Area for a 15-20 mile excursion. One caution though, there is private property in this area and not all of the Lower Rock Creek is on USFS property according to the USFS Fredericktown District Map (available for $6). In fact, most of Dark Hollow itself appears to be private property so do be cautious and keep this place clean!

Cautions: Summertime ticks and heat, potential high water. The trail is very rocky in some areas as it is actually an old jeep road up Trackler Mountain and not a prepared hiking path. Along Lower Rock Creek itself it is make your own path and high water could prevent safe creek crossings.

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