VisitMO editor's note: This article originally appeared in the River Hills Traveler; it is reprinted with permission.
When you can’t float, why not explore the Ozarks on foot?
The Current River section of the Ozark Trail is almost 30 miles, but it can be divided into several day-hikes ranging from 1.2 miles to 10 miles. (Editor's Note: The Current River, along with its largest tributary the Jacks Fork River) makes up the Ozark National Scenic Riverways; the first Congressionally designated national park for the preservation of a wild river system.)
This section takes you along the Current River, past an old mill, by Rocky Falls, over unique glade areas, and through Peck Ranch Conservation Area. Moderate temperatures help make the activity more enjoyable spring and fall, but winter and summer have nice days, too.
A little planning before you go can make your hike more enjoyable and safe. Plan to cover about two miles every hour and drink plenty of water. Although the trail is well-marked, having a compass and good map and knowing how to use them is essential.
Take a small backpack with recommended trail essentials such as raingear, extra clothing, food, compass or GPS, first aid kit, water, and fire starting materials. Tell somebody where you are going, what time to expect you back and who to call if you don’t check in. Then, remember to check in. These trails may have occasional wet fords, but there are no major bodies of water. Like anywhere, use your head about when you encounter swift, brown water.
(Editor’s note: There are times to get away from it all, and times to take a friend. Many ventures to the woods are much safer with at least one companion of your own approximate abilities.)
Trails in the Current River area are safe, but you must be prepared and use common sense; the area is home to bear, feral hogs, snakes and (rarely) the occasional mountain lion (puma). Know how to react in the unlikely event you encounter any of them.
Current River State Park is an excellent place to learn more about hiking in the area. Also, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for additional information. Have fun and get outside.
Here are some great day-hikes along the Current River section of the Ozark Trail. Click this link to download a MAP and other information.
Blue Spring Trailhead to Klepzig Mill (4.72 miles)
To get to the Blue Spring Trailhead take the National Parks Service (NPS) road located one mile west of the Current River Bridge at Owls Bend. This trailhead is directly across the river from the mouth of Blue Spring. Take the trail south and up the hill to an area overlooking the Current River. A large section of this day-hike follows Indian Creek, and includes several small waterfalls.
Klepzig Mill to Rocky Falls (3.1 miles)
This section follows Rocky Creek upstream 2.5 miles to the Ozark trail (OT) marker and a short spur trail to Rocky Falls. You can cover this popular 3.1-mile hike in either direction, or make it a 10k by hiking out and back in a day.
Rocky Falls to Peck Ranch OT Parking Lot (5.2 miles)
To get to Rocky Falls take Route 106 east from Eminence to Route H. Turn south on Route H to Route NN. Follow NN to NPS Road on right. Go about a half mile on the NPS road and you will see Rocky Falls. Follow the spur trail downstream to the OT trail and turn right (south) and head toward Peck Ranch. This day-hike takes you over Stegall Mountain and affords an opportunity to experience this unique glade area. Enjoy the view and watch for collared lizards.
Peck Ranch OT Parking Lot to Rocky Point Glade (3.55 miles)
This trail takes you into the heart of Peck Ranch Conservation Area. Peck Ranch, established in 1945 by the Missouri Department of Conservation, encompasses 23,048 acres. The Missouri elk herds were recently released in this area. You will see sign of elk on this hike, and if you are lucky you might hear an elk bugle or even see a small herd.
Rocky Point Glade to Peck Road Number 7 (1.58 miles)
This short hike takes you past an interesting wetland area and signs of an old homestead. This is a great out and back hike, making it 3+ miles and no shuttle is required. We encountered a hognose snake on this section. This snake puts on quite a show but don’t worry it’s all bluff. They are harmless.
Peck Ranch Road 7 to Intersection of Roads B and 8 (1.2 miles)
This is another short section that can be converted to an out and back hike or combine it with the previous section to make a 2.8 mile hike. Several food plots are visible from this section.
Peck Ranch Refuge Border
Intersection of Roads B and 8, to Route 60 trailhead (10 miles) Section must be hiked in and out from OT trailhead at Route 60.
Plan on at least five hours to hike this section. You leave Peck Ranch, pass through U.S. Forest Service land and onto private property. Be prepared to negotiate a beaver dam to cross the creek. Use the large culvert to pass under Route 60 and stop at the OT trailhead parking lot.
(Editor's note: Follow this LINK for VisitMO.com listings of events and attractions on and near the Current River. )