Posted by Jessie K / Thursday, July 17, 2014 / 3 Comments / Big Sugar Creek State Park , Hiking , Missouri , State Parks
Ozark Chinquapin Trail Near Pineville, Mo
On a beautiful and rare 70 degree summer weathered day, I dropped the kids off at my mom's house and headed out for a solo hike on the Ozark Chinquapin Trail at Big Sugar Creek State Park near Pineville, Mo.Finding the trailhead was a bit of an adventure in itself. I even stopped to ask a few locals for directions and none had even heard of this state park or trail. After one helpful local's best guess, I finally reached the trailhead. (directions at the bottom of post)
The Ozark Chinquapin Trail is a rugged 3.25 mile deep woods trail that is far from town or any nearby homes. If your looking for solitude..this is it! There are bathrooms at the trailhead that are surprisingly very clean, but they are the "hole in the ground" kind, so be prepared to test your squatting skills! It was also nice to see that the trail was freshly mowed. They were gearing up for the Fall hiking season i'm sure.
I'll start with what I didn't like about this trail and then i'll end on a good note. The trail is thoroughly marked, but it can be confusing. There are a few switchbacks and it's really easy to take a few wrong turns and end up repeating sections or getting lost...which is what happened to me. Read "Lost on the Trail" below or skip ahead if you'd like.
Lost on the Trail
Shortly after realizing that I was going in circles, I hurt my knee pretty badly and ended up hobbling at snails pace more than a mile. It finally occurred to me that I was in a potentially more serious situation being lost AND hurt I decided I should probably at least tell my husband where I was. I luckily reached him with the location information just before my phone completely died and I didn't know it at the time, but after hanging up with me he immediately called the nearest ranger service and they pinned my phones location and headed out for a search and rescue. I only called him as a precautionary measure in case I...never came home that night lol! It seems silly to say I got lost on a 3 mile hike, but lost is lost. Bad things can happen on the trail no matter how experienced you are, or how close you are to home or your car and so I'm really glad my husband took my distress call serious enough to call for extra help. At the time he didn't even know I was hurt. I knew he'd be worried enough with my "i'm lost in the woods," phone call, so I left that part out. After my phone died it started to get pretty cloudy and the woods darkened considerably. At that point, yep I was scared! I didn't let myself panic, but I did put my buck knife on the outer left side of my pack so it was seconds within grabbing reach. I also tried to keep my mind distracted from the fact that I was in black bear country by continuing to take some pictures. I actually finally made it out of the woods at the same time the rangers and police were getting out of their cars. They were asking me questions, but I was so exhausted I could barely reply. However, later that evening they called for a detailed report and even the rangers admitted that the trail can be confusing so I hope they do something about the trail markers. All in all I spent about 6 hours in the woods from what should have been a relatively easy 3 hour hike. I learned quite a few lessons from all of this. Most of all, that there are some extra items that I really need to start keeping in my hiking backpack such as a magnetic compass and topographical map, as well as an external battery charger for my phone, and a fabric knee brace. Also, that I really shouldn't hike alone on longer trails in such secluded areas. Lastly, always be OVER prepared!
What I DID like about this trail was just how scenic and diverse it was. You go through deep woodlands and glades, open green spaces and then narrow pathways. There are large boulders and bluffs and tons of wildflowers and wildlife if you go during the right times. The creek was dry when I was there, but I am actually looking forward to returning in the Fall after a good rain there are lots of spots for small waterfalls and cascades along the creek. Although if you do go after some rain, be prepared to cross the creek in several spots. There are no bridges so you may want some waterproof shoes! Don't let my story scare you off from this trail. I do recommend staying on the yellow blazed path though. Or you may just have a better sense of direction than I did here and can handle the switchbacks with no problem. Either way, if you are prepared with a gps, compass or topographical map you should be fine.
and now for the pics!
Ok, seriously I almost DIED of fright when I saw this log from a distance. I thought I was going to get eaten up by some horrible beast for sure haha! Like...in all honesty THIS was probably the scariest part of this whole crazy trail experience. I'm just warning you now so you can keep your heart rate down when you reach this part of the trail :) I mean just look at that thing lol!
Directions to Trailhead: Follow Route W through the town of Pineville, Mo until you reach 8th St. Turn East on 8th St. and it becomes Big Sugar Creek Road. Travel 6.3 miles to the trail head and parking on your left.
Length and Difficulty: 3.25 Mile Loop, Rated as Moderate
Facilities: Bathrooms & Information Kiosk