Bell Mountain Wilderness - a Missouri Treasure
Bell Mountain is one of Missouri's eight wilderness areas and is a relatively short drive from St. Louis. It offers some incredible Ozark beauty, although is technically in the St. Francois Mountains, Missorui's closest thing to a true mountain range.
At just over 9,000 acres, it is not monstrous in size, but you will not by any means feel confined if you choose to pay this area a visit.
Recently, my son and I made a quick trip down to Bell Mountain, a two hour jaunt from our front door. Without much advance knowledge, we went in pretty open minded and found the area to be much more than we could have hoped.
There are two main accesses if you plan to hike to the summit of Bell. One is directly off County Road A in Iron County, the other is off a Forest Service Road that spurs off County Road A. We took the Forest Service Road trailhead as our launching point.
To the top is almost exactly 3.5 miles along at worst a moderate hiking trail - quite well maintained. The day we went, there were ten or so Americorp workers on the trail doing maintenance. It was apparently their first Spring foray as we encountered quite a few logs over the trail after we passed them up.
The trail starts off flat, and even descends quite a bit of the way until you get about a quarter to a half mile from the top, where it turns uphill, but by no means a tough climb.
The outlook from the top is magnificent with views of the surrounding St. Francois Mountains. There is much more to explore in this beautiful area. We just scratched the surface, and will certainly be planning a trip again soon.
There are a couple of confusing points on the trail, so get a map before you go as in particular, the trail splits at one point, where if you are trying to get to the top, the wrong choice will add several miles (beautiful ones I am certain) to your trip. Use this KMZ file to look at the trail on Google Earth.