National Trails Day falls on June 2 this year, and the Missouri Department of Conservation is encouraging hikers to visit conservation areas to explore the trails. Conservation areas have trails that range from short, wheelchair-accessible loops to more than 30 miles of interconnected loops and spurs. In all, conservation areas have more than 700 miles of foot, bicycle and equestrian trails. At their most basic, conservation-area trails consist of parking lots and trail markers on trees. Other areas have facilities such as nature centers, self-guided interpretive trails, shooting ranges, scenic overlooks, fishing lakes, stream-fishing and boating accesses, campsites and privies. Some trails traverse unique landscapes that are part of the Missouri Natural Area system.
You can find a trail near you by contacting the nearest MDC office or use MDC's conservation area database to search for trails by type or by county and access area maps and area regulations.
The Missouri Department of Conservation offers these tips When hiking or riding a trail:
- Get a map and familiarize yourself with the conservation area you want to visit.
- Tell someone about your plans, including when you expect to return.
- Check weather conditions and avoid inclement weather.
- Dress appropriately.
- Learn to recognize possible plant and animal hazards such as poison ivy and ticks.
- Follow all area regulations.
- Leave only footprints and take only photographs.
Columbia Bottom Conservation Area. Photo courtesy of Missouri Department of Conservation.