Big Piney Trail, Paddy Creek Wilderness, Missouri

The Big Piney Trail is a 17 mile loop that cuts through the Paddy Creek Wilderness. Connecting the trailhead access at Roby Lake and the Paddy Creek Campground, the loop has a north leg and south leg that are basically separated by Little Paddy Creek. The wilderness is located 30 miles south of the I-44, between Rolla and Lebanon, making it one of the most accessible of the many Missouri hiking trails and wilderness areas.

The Map: The maps provided here are a free download. Both maps are1:24,000 scale based on USGS 7.5 minute quads. The Big Piney Trail (red) was mapped with a GPS in March 2003. The waypoint (blue) correspond to the narrative. The roads in the area have been updated using satellite imagery and are shown as black lines. The map to the right covers more area and is best for planning. Click on it to access it at full scale. This link will open a smaller version sized to print on 11x 17 paper.

Background. The trail makes for an easy overnight backpacking trip. It is hilly, but an easy hike with relief changes of generally less than 300 feet. It is a typical Ozark forest of hardwoods and pines with leaves covering the rock strewn ground. As with any hiking in the Ozarks, the summers are very hot, the vistas hidden due to leave cover and water will only be found in the major streams. Hiking is best in the fall, winter and spring when the views are plentiful, insects gone and temperatures nice and cool for sleeping.

Named for Sylvester Paddy who first logged this region in the early 1800, Paddy Creek Wilderness was designated in 1983 and consists of 7,019 acres. It is in the Osage/Gasconade Hills ecoregion and is characterized by dense forests, moderately dissected hills and steep-sloped, narrow valleys. The forest is predominately oak varieties with some short leaf pines. The bed rock is Ordovician dolomites and sandstone. The rocks covering the first mile of trail are dolomites of the Jefferson City formation. Most of the hike is on hills of the Roubidoux formation and the steep valley walls and valley floors are Gasconade formation..

The Hike: The following were the waypoints and descriptions provided to Backpacker Magazine for their Waypoint cards.

Waypoint 01, 0.0 miles (N37.52015 W092.12350). The parking area is next to the NE corner of the Roby Lake, just before the turnaround.

Waypoint 02, 0.1 miles (N37.52122 W092.12374). Big Piney Creek trailhead is north of the parking area, back up the entrance road. The trail goes north across the field.

Waypoint 03, 1.0 miles (N37.53056 W092.11987). Junction of the north and south loop trails, marked with a sign. We are going counter clockwise, so turn right (east).

Waypoint 04, 2.4 miles (N37.53080 W092.09307). Little Paddy Creek. Easy crossing, usually water.

Waypoint 05, 3.6 miles (N37.52814 W092.08097). Trail intersects and follows road old Military Road.

Waypoint 06, 4.0 miles (N37.53253 W092.07668). Trail leaves Military Road. Turn right.

Waypoint 07, 6.6 miles (N37.55205 W092.05371). Cross Big Paddy Creek. Dependable water supply.

Waypoint 08, 7.2 miles (N37.55663 W092.04573). Cross Forest Road 220. Go straight.

Waypoint 09, 7.3 miles (N37.55744 W092.04346). Cross Paddy Creek Road and Big Paddy Creek (again) near Paddy Creek Campground. Trail goes ESE on north side of creek. Follow the trail up a narrow ridge.

Waypoint 10, 8.8 miles (N37.55987 W092.04353). Scenic overlook.

Waypoint 11, 10.4 miles (N37.56644 W092.06292). Junction with a Forest Road 220. Go straight.

Waypoint 12, 12.2 miles (N37.54732 W092.07579). Trail joins Military Road. Go right. Note Paddy Creek Wilderness map (USFS) shows the map leaves the road after about 0.2 miles. This trail segment seems to be gone and has been replaced by the Military Road. As such, the trail follows the road until the next waypoint.

Waypoint 13, 13.4 miles (N37.54649 W092.08975). Trail leaves the Military Road just past the small pond (on left). Turn left.

Waypoint 14, 15.5 miles (N37.53313 W092.11339). Cross small creek. Small water fall and pool up stream from trail crossing.

Driving Directions: From Springfield, go 70 miles east on I 44. Go south on Missouri Highway 17 to Roby Lake Recreation Area.

Info: Featured in Waypoints, Backpacker Magazine, June 2006, Midwest Edition. USGS 7.5 minute quadrangle topographic map: Slabtown Springs, MO (trail not shown). Contact Mark Twain National Forest Rolla, MO, (573) 364-4621, or the Houston/Rolla/Cedar Creek Ranger District,Houston, MO, (417) 967-4194.

To Buy Map: This map is FREE. Click on image to access full size map and download it. Color, weatherproof versions (11x17) of the map are also available for $5 each plus S&H by emailing

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