Taum Sauk Mountain (Missouri State Highpoint) and Mina Sauk Falls Loop

Taum Sauk Mountain State Park, Missouri

Trip Date: Friday, April 26th, 2019
Last Updated: Thursday, May 9th, 2019
By Ricky Holzer

Hike Information

Rating ★★★★☆(4/5)
Overall Difficulty Moderate
Navigation Difficulty     Easy
Distance 3.2 miles roundtrip
Time 2 hours
Terrain Hilly, 450 feet of elevation gain
Best Seasons Spring, Fall
Family Friendly No
Dog Friendly Yes
Accessible Yes

Highlights

Hike Walkthrough

This trip to Taum Sauk Mountain marks my 10th state highpoint. The journey is a bit anticlimactic, since you drive most of the way to the top and follow a flat, paved path to the actual highpoint which is shrouded in forest. But while the view from the top isn't anything to write home about and the hike is simple, continuing on the trail to Mina Sauk Falls is an aesthetically-worthy and challenging trip. On this loop, you'll enjoy the highest waterfall in Missouri and a handful of overlooks of the surrounding St. Francois Mountains.

From the parking lot, follow the paved path as it winds through the woods (as pictured below). In a little under 0.2 miles, you'll turn left at onto a spur trail signed for the highpoint. A few more steps later, and you'll reach the top of Taum Sauk Mountain.

The winding concrete path to the highest point in Missouri

The winding concrete path to the highest point in Missouri

As shown in the first picture below, the highpoint area hosts a bench, a plaque, and a wooden box where you can find souvenir stickers. The granite plaque, shown in the second picture below, marks the official highpoint of Missouri at 1,772 feet above sea level (aren't you glad you didn't have to climb that entire height?).
The highpoint area with a bench, plaque, and box with souvenir stickers

The highpoint area with a bench, plaque, and box with souvenir stickers

The plaque marking the highest point on Taum Sauk Mountain

The plaque marking the highest point on Taum Sauk Mountain

Return to the trail junction and turn left, going deeper into the forest. The pavement ends and the trail becomes crushed stone. Ahead, a sign labels the junction of the Ozark Trail and the Mina Sauk Trail. Turn right to continue to the falls, following the red (or orange when faded) rectangles nailed to trees.

Enjoy the crushed stone path while you can! The trail eventually becomes steep and rocky. After periods of heavy rain (like on my springtime visit), the trail is prone to flooding, and you'll have to tread carefully if you don't want to wet your boots. Sturdy footwear is absolutely essential on this hike -- it's easy to twist an ankle if you're not careful on the rocks.

At several points before the falls, glades of rocks and shrubs will replace the trees, unveiling splendid views of the surrounding mountains and valleys, as pictured below. Because the mountains in this area are so tall (at least for Missouri), the valley you see here is the deepest in Missouri, spanning 700 vertical feet from the mountaintops to Taum Sauk Creek at the bottom.
The rolling green Ozarks from a glade on the Mina Sauk Trail

The rolling green Ozarks from a glade on the Mina Sauk Trail

After about a mile and a half, you'll hear the rushing water of Mina Sauk Falls, and then see its dark volcanic rocks once you pass the junction with the Ozark Trail leading to Johnson's Shut-Ins. If you're feeling adventurous, you can climb down the rocks (only recommended if you know what you're doing, and stay away from areas wet from waterfall mist) for a bottom-up view of the falls, as pictured below.
Looking up at the volcanic rocks of Mina Sauk Falls

Looking up at the volcanic rocks of Mina Sauk Falls

From this lower part of the falls, follow the red blazes in the trees, which are now accompanied by white Ozark Trail logos, as pictured below. The trail meanders uphill adjacent to the creek and into a rocky glade.
Trail markers for the Ozark Trail (white and green) and the Mina Sauk Trail (orange/red)

Trail markers for the Ozark Trail (white and green) and the Mina Sauk Trail (orange/red)

In the glade, a wooden fence lines the trail, preventing trespassing on private property on one side, and protecting the falls on another side. Continue uphill, and you'll find a perfect overlook of another section of Mina Sauk Falls, as pictured below. Unlike the previous part pictured earlier, climbing down for a closer look is discouraged here (so obey the fence and don't do it!).
Mina Sauk Falls from behind the fence along the trail

Mina Sauk Falls from behind the fence along the trail

The remainder of the trail, despite the strain of uphill climbing, is quite nice. The Ozark Trail is slightly less rocky than the Mina Sauk Trail you descended earlier, and the pleasant sound of the creek on your right will accompany your journey. As you near the top of the mountain, the trail begins to flatten until you reach the junction with the Mina Sauk Trail. Turn right to return to the parking lot.

Overall, this is a lovely place to spend an afternoon, with beautiful forest, scenic overlooks, and a mighty waterfall. Stop by the overlook alongside the park road on you way out for even more scenery. Let me know what you think in the comments section below and be sure to use #nocoastbestcoast on Twitter and Instagram!

Important Information

Dogs are allowed on leash. The path to the highpoint of Taum Sauk Mountain is paved and accessible, as is the glade overlook along the main park road, but the entire loop is not accessible. The trail to Mina Sauk Falls is rocky and steep, and is not kid-friendly; instead, take your kids to nearby Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park where there are easier trails and a scenic swimming area. Fall and spring are the two best seasons to visit; summer would be doable since the trail is mostly shaded and the ascent follows a cooling creek, but winter weather may leave the rocky trail icy and dangerous. Expect to see other people on the trail, especially when the weather is nice.

Directions

From St. Louis, take Interstate 55 south. Take the exit for U.S. Highway 67 south toward Bonne Terre/Farmington. After about 35 miles, take the exit for Missouri Highway 221 and head right. In Pilot Knob, turn left onto Missouri Highway 21. In about 7 miles, turn right onto State Highway CC. This road starts paved as you wind up the mountain but turns to gravel near the top; it's perfectly doable in a sedan but drive slowly and watch for potholes -- there were some gnarly potholes during my drive. Continue until the road ends at the trailhead parking area.

Google Maps Directions

Parking, Fees, and Facilities

Parking is free! There are pit toilets near the parking area.

External Links

Nearby Hikes

Braille Trail Loop

Elephant Rocks State Park, Missouri
★★★☆☆(3/5)

Shut-Ins Trail Loop

Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park, Missouri
★★★★★(5/5)

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