Missouri is rich in natural geological wonders, and many of them can be found right here in our very own Parkland. The cooler, winter months can be perfect for hiking for multiple reasons, namely, fewer bugs to annoy and less chance of getting heat stroke. Seriously, though, with the leaves down off the trees the views are farther reaching and the cool, fresh air, invigorating.
Hughes Mountain Natural Area has a great hiking trail for just that. Bring the kids and your pups, keep them leashed, (the dogs, not the kids), and enjoy the 1-mile hike up to the top of Hughes Mountain (approx. 2 miles round trip) with your family. When Davy and I made the hike we were keeping a steady pace, only stopping for a brief second now and then to snap a picture, and made it to the top in about 30 mins. There is a good portion through the woods that is quite steep, but the expansive vistas when you reach the top are more than worth the effort to get there.
If you are looking for a unique place for professional portraits, you should have your photographer consider Hughes Mountain! The ‘golden hours’ before the sunsets are miraculous from the top while the igneous knob, also known as Devil’s Honeycomb, at the highest point of Hughes Mountain would make a compelling backdrop for senior pictures or an engagement shoot. One of my favorite things is that there are no tacky ‘man-made’ structures to avoid in your photos like telephone lines or cell phone towers when you are in the natural area, with stunning 360-degree views!
Hughes Mountain Natural Area is located 11 miles south of Potosi on highway 21 then 5 miles east on highway M. The parking lot where the trail head is located is on the right only 3.6 miles down highway M.
Once you make it to this lovely nook of nature, you can expect to find two-thirds of the 462 acres covered in woods. Picking up a pamphlet about the area provided by the Missouri Department of Conservation at the trail head, you will learn interesting history about the land that was designated as a natural area in 1982 but was named after the first European settler in the area to arrive in 1810, named John Hughes.
The open ‘glades’, a unique harsh habitat, are created by the thin soils, including exposed bedrock, combined with the southern and western exposure. I was amazed by the textures and variations of green lichens present on the exposed rocks even so late in the year when we visited on a sunny and 49-degree day. It was perfect for hiking, and though I took my coat off during the trek up, I was glad to have it when we were on the top exposed to the fierce, cold winds.
Plants you could expect to see in the glades throughout the year, as listed in the Mo. Dept. Conservation pamphlet, include; little bluestem, broomsedge, poverty grass, flame flower, prickly pear cactus, yellow star grass, spiderwort and wild hyacinth. In addition, animals common in these types of glades were listed as; fence lizards, collared lizards, lichen grasshoppers, and prairie warblers. While we were visiting we saw a squirrel or two and signs of deer, lots of that pretty golden grass (honestly not sure of what it’s called) and so many types of lush lichen!
New to hiking? Nature walks are a great way to enjoy creation and build lasting memories with friends and family, but it is best to be prepared when heading out to a trail. Always bring a bottle of water, your camera and wear sturdy shoes to protect your feet and ankles. It is also a good idea to have a protein or granola bar handy in case you’re like me and your blood sugar drops while you’re out so you have the energy to complete the trail. It’s also not a bad idea to bring along a small first aid kit and a light source, just in case. In the cooler months, remember to dress in layers as you will warm up while you are walking, but when you rest, you will want to put your coat back on. In the summer months you will want a sun hat and bug repellents, and if you over heat easily consider wetting a bandanna with ice water, or even freezing it before hand, to wear around your head or neck. Lip balm and sun block are actually helpful all year round to protect against wind and sun burns.
What is your experience at Hughes Mountain Natural Area? Share in the comments below!
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