Quick Heartland Get-A-Way: Trail of Tears State Park - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Quick Heartland Get-A-Way: Trail of Tears State Park

JACKSON, MO (KFVS) -

It is a quick get-a-way that will provide an easy dose of outside. Not to far away from town, a well marked trail, a chance for some outstanding views of the Mississippi River and enough challenging hills to get the blood flowing.

It is the Peewah Trail in Missouri's Trail of Tears State Park. I went to check it out on an extremely warm and foggy day in December and pretty much had the place to myself.

I really wasn't expecting much other than a good hike; and that is what it is.

The trail can be done as one big loop or two smaller ones. Some parts of the trail are smooth and newly maintained, others are washed out. I took out on the east loop which goes about 3 1/4 miles and is closer to the Mississippi. Both trails run along the same path for the first half mile. And then I took off on the east loop to make it is counter clock-wise hike.

I chose this route because I didn't want to miss the marker or forget to make the turn at second trail marker, but there should have been no worries as both turn offs were well signed and I didn't need to worry about mistakenly taking the longer west loop.  

The fog muffled many of the sounds of the forest, but I could still hear the tow-boats on the river and the train that runs on rails on the bank at the foot of the cliffs. The hiking trail runs along the ridge that skirts the River. The leaves were gone from the trees, but the fog limited my view to what I am sure could be great vistas.

I could have been 20 feet above the river or 2,000. I just couldn't tell. The fog added to the mystery of the overlook not knowing how far I would fall should I get too close. Along the ridge the trail ran relatively flat, but was covered in brown fallen leaves. I was surprised at the number of trees that had burn marks down the side as if struck by lightning; and only one large tree was down over the trail that required scrambling.

A third of the way into the hike you follow the trail down to the valley floor. There were more birds in this area and I could see the wrens bouncing from tree to bush. There are several creek crossings which were dry at the time of my hike but I could see them flowing with several inches of water after a rain.

The path was great to tread in this area. In the distance you could hear the hum of chainsaw, but otherwise the only noises I could hear were the birds calling out.

And as any hiker can tell you, if you go downhill you will also need to go uphill; and the planners in Trail of Tears do not believe in switchbacks. So the trail goes from valley floor to the next ridge pretty abruptly.

From the top you quickly meet the the west trail and make the left turn to head back to the trailhead. I saw several vultures or crows resting in the trees on this part. Just too foggy to search for food so they were just hanging out. I also heard a deer or a squirrel, sometimes I can't tell the difference between the sounds of the two romping though the dead leaves on the forest floor. 

When I do the loop again I will probably do it clockwise to save the views for the end of the hike. Plus, it seemed that all of the up hills are spread a little further apart going in that direction.

The trailhead is just about 12 miles north of downtown Cape Girardeau. It is an easy drive up Hwy 177 to the Lake Boutin entrance of the park (Hill Road), which is the second turnoff into the park when you are heading north.

Follow the signs to the trailhead (Overlook Road). There is parking for about half a dozen cars in the gravel lot. If you go further up the road there is a Mississippi River overlook which gives you a great view of the river valley (if it is not foggy).

What you need to know:

  • Here is the location from Mapquest: http://mapq.st/1UpuWEV
  • Park Hours: Gates open at 7 a.m.
  • Winter hours gates close at 6 p.m.
  • Summer hours gates close at 9 p.m. or 10 p.m.
  • The gates will let you out if you are there too late
  • The east loop is 3 1/4 miles and they estimate it will take 3 hours to complete. I did it in 90 minutes.
  • The west loop is 5.34 miles and they say plan on nearly 6 hours to complete.
  • I wore hiking boots and thick socks. I took one bottle of water for the shorter trail.
  • Bring a camera

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