Danny's Missouri Backpacking & Hiking Trails Reviews

Updated 18 December 1997

Rock Pile Mountain Wilderness - Mark Twain National Forest

Location: Go south from Fredericktown on Hwy 67 to Hwy C at Cherokee Pass then 5-miles West on C to County Road 406 (gravel). Turn right on 406 and go 2.4-miles to Forest Road 2124. Turn left on FR 2124 which ends at the trailhead on Little Grass Mountain (elevation 1,306 feet) 1.1-miles away. There are Rock Pile Mtn. Wilderness signs posted at the turns onto Hwy 406 and Forest Road 2124 so you can't miss the turns unless you are asleep.

Distance: There are 10-12 miles of trails to explore. It is about 3.5 miles to the top of Rock Pile Mountain (elevation 1,270 feet) from the trailhead. By using the road loop in the center of the wilderness area you can get in about a 9-mile hike.

Water: There is no significant water available along the trail. However, there are some wildlife ponds and there are some springs in the hollows close to the St. Francis River.

Parking: Overnight parking is permissable at the trailhead.

Comments: The area comprises 4,131 acres and is primarily a broken ridge with steep rocky slopes. The area is heavily forested with oak, hickory, pine, redcedar, and other hardwood species. Igneous rock glades add to the landscape over the mountain. From the trailhead there is a 2-mile section of maintained trail. The rest of the area is accessed by old woods roads or cross-country hiking so bring a map and a compass !

Trip Report - 14 December 1997: I finally managed to hike in this Wilderness area. The 'maintained' trail down the side of Little Grassy Mountain is hard to pick out and is full of rocks. I found it to be the most difficult hiking on the trail that I experienced. The leaves and frost didn't help the footing out any either. Once past there the trail is pretty gentle and makes for a fast paced hike. I hiked the road in a clock-wise loop. I had to refer to my map and compass on several occasions as there are more old roads in the area then what is shown on the map. This loop that I took is almost totally in wooded terrain and there were no vistas out to the valleys below. More scenic bluff areas are supposed to be available to the west of the loop towards the St. Francis River and there are a few nice vistas along the road to the trailhead. The ancient rock pile on Rock Pile Mountian is interesting and is right along the trail on the west side. The rock pile is about 20 feet in diameter with the rocks piled about 2-foot high in a circle with several large boulders in the center. Graffiti-man has also left his mark in the biggest glade on Rock Pile Mtn by making another rock circle with a north-south and east-west line of rocks inside. The old roads make easy hiking throughout the area. The Forest Service brochure calls the 'rock pile' granite rocks but they are not granite and the mountain is not granite. It is more of a rhyolite or ash-flow tuff like can be seen at Johnson Shut-Ins State Park. The mileages have been corrected from my odometer and they are different then what is in the FS brochure.

Maps: An access map can be obtained from the Rolla Supervisor's Office, Mark Twain National Forest by calling 573-364-4621. Quad Sheet: Rock Pile Mountain 7-1/2 minute Quadrangle 1:24000. Maps are also available at the registration box about 100 yards into the trail.

Cautions: Water runoff can become a torrent in some of the small streams and shut-in areas. Timber rattlers and copperheads can be found in the area. The last 1/2 mile of road up to the trailhead is very steep and would not be passable in a car with any ice or snow on the road. It looks like the locals may also use the trailhead for party time on occasion so be sure and lock your car good.

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