Hiking in the 4-states: Pro Tips & Trails

Regardless of the weather, there's a few things to keep in mind when hitting the trails.


It’s the summertime and we’re all looking for ways to enjoy ourselves.

One of those ways — might be hiking.

Since 1965, the national mileage of trails has more than doubled, according to the National Hiking Society. If you’re like me and you’re more of a rookie to the hiking world, advice from the pros can make a huge difference.

So we stopped by the Missouri Department of Conservation to get a few pointers before hitting the trail. Fortunately, we were connected with Jeff Cantrell, one of the most experienced hikers with the department.

Pt. I – Preparing for a Hike (above)

Pt. 2 – Things to keep in mind while on your hike (below)

Pt. 3 – Places to go hiking in the 4-states (below)


Preparation Tips:

  1. Planning is the most important thing – make sure you’re in the shape to do it and have the gear you need.
  2. For an extensive hike, lay everything out before/after. Leave what you don’t use at home next time.
  3. Hiking shoes, non-cotton socks.
  4. Pack your own lunch.
  5. Good breathable clothes: floppy hat, zip off pants, anything that dries easily.
  6. Tell someone or people where you’re going.
  7. Give them a time when you think you’ll be back and an “oh no” time.
  8. Walking sticks are strongly recommended.
  9. Bring a map if you don’t know the area, take a loop trail if you’re a beginner.
  10. Laminate your map, either in case of bad weather or sweat.

Jeff’s Recommended Places to Hike in the 4-state area:

  • For Families:
    • Bicentennial Conservation Area (5 minutes south of Neosho), beautiful fall color and most of the trails and roads are shaded.  There is a short half mile paved blacktop trail, and then extensive trails and roads to walks.
    • Schermerhorn Park/ SE Kansas Nature Center (on Galena, KS southside).  A wonderful park with nice trails having pleasing wildlife viewing habitats.
    • Shoal Creek Conservation Education Center / Wildcat Park (Joplin) for families.  There are lots of options for parking and trails.
  • Intermediate hikes for Nature Lovers and Photographers:
    • Big Sugar State Park (a 20 minute drive east of Pineville, MO).  One of my favorite places.  The three mile loop is stunning in the spring with wildflowers and a sunny autumn day really shows off the trees’ foliage.  This is a good trail for those past a beginning stage; it has a steady climb but not too many hills or inclines.
    • Pibern Trail at Roaring River State Park (located 10 minutes south of Cassville, MO).  The trailhead is by campground one.  It has gorgeous rock features and fall color in late September through early November.

Note from Jeff: My favorite extended hikes would be any of the trails around the Buffalo River and Steel Creek in Arkansas, the Current River section in the Mark Twain National Forest by Van Buren, MO.  The Hercules Glade Wilderness Area east of Forsyth, MO is worth investigating.

Contact Jeff Cantrell by clicking here.