This 9,143 acre wilderness is part of the St. Francois Mountains, one of the oldest landforms in North America. The wilderness is named for a family that once lived and farmed along the ridge top that is now known as Bell Mountain. Elevations range from 1,702 feet at Bell Mountain to 970 feet in the Joe's Creek drainage. Local relief is about 600 feet and is characterized by steep felsite and rhyolite outcroppings. Both Bell Mountain and Lindsey Mountain offer outstanding views of the surrounding area. The associated granite glades provide a variety of interesting plant and animal life.
Shut-in Creek crosses the area. It is a perennial spring fed stream with several shut-ins or gorges along its course. Steep talus slopes intersect the stream at several locations. Joe's Creek is another small perennial stream within the wilderness.
Restrictions: Foot and Horse only, no motorized or mechanized transportation. No camping within 100’ or trails, water, or other occupied campsites. Surface Type: Unsurfaced, native material.
Other Activities: Backpacking, bird watching, and primitive camping.
Not really a knock on the area, but came across some hunters who fired a little too close for comfort
The Bell Mountain Wilderness Area is about a 2.5 hour drive from the St. Louis area - mostly highway until the winding country roads for the last 30 mins. There are two entrances to the mountain. The first one you pass will put you straight into the Bell Mountain loop. Turn left and you’ll be headed up to the summit, turn right and you’ll be headed down to the creeks at the base. Travel a bIt further down the road (five mins or so) and you’ll find yourself at the second entrance which shares part of its path with the Ozark Trail. There are two campsites right near the small parking area, that you’ll pass before you cross the road and head on up the trail. The trail switchbacks multiple times as you work your way up to the split in the trail. Keep going straight/slightly right and you’ll stay on the Ozark Trail, turn to your left and you’ll find your self on the trail that leads to the Bell Mountain trail loop. As you come to the loop continue straight to the summit or do what we did and turn left to rock hop through the creeks in order to take in the full loop experience before reaching the top. The trail leading both down and back up from the creeks is very steep in some areas, and if you go during the spring/early summer like we did when the area experiences a good number of rains the trail can often be slick and muddy. The water in the creeks was cool and clear - great for resting tired feet. And the views from the summit were gorgeous - a great way to truly appreciate the area! There are a few campsites right near the summit - some better maintained than others due to frequent use. But any number of the large boulders and grassy areas provide a great place to camp for the night. If you enjoy low maintenance camping and the silence of being the only one for miles this is the camp for you!
My brother and I left Kansas City after work on Friday. It's about a five hour drive if you don't have to stop, so we got to the trailhead for the Bell mountain loop at around 11pm.
There are two first come/ first serve sites by the parking area off of A hwy. The site closest to the parking area is obvious, the second is down the trail that runs SW about 100 yards from the parking lot. Unfortunately, we didn't find it until the morning! We just put up our tents and built another fire ring to the north side of the obvious site.
After hiking up the loop to the summit of Bell mountain there are a number of "sites" that have been made. These are all along the rock outcroppings looking out to the east. I counted 14 fire rings, and a few, but not all have areas near them sufficient for pitching a tent.
Please note: these are not maintained camp sites. There are no facilities up there. Other than a nasty looking little pond 1/4 mile south down the trail, there was no filterable water available either, so bring what you'll need.
It us a pretty area. The views are wonderful, probably some of the best in Missouri. The granite outcroppings give a lot of places to explore and do some scrambling.
My favorite part was that we didn't see any other campers/ hikers that night or the next day. The weather was cold and rainy and that likely contributed to the solitude!
Absolutely worth the hike and the drive!
Ranger review 2
Ranger Review: Mountain House Meals at Bell Mountain Wilderness Area, MO
Bell Mountain Wilderness Area is well worth the trip! This is a rugged hike with no facilities. There is just a small (about 6 spot) parking area and that's it. The trail is an 10 mile lollipop style trail that also connects to the Ozark Trail. There are no privies, showers, water taps, camp fees or anything else, but if that doesn't bother you then you want to check this trail out!
There's a few streams that run across the trail that are easily passable in low to medium water. High water makes them a little tricky. The trail is a bit rough and steep at points, but the campsites make it well worth it. You can camp at “established” sites, that are only established because of repeated use and leftover fire rings. The trails are pretty and less crowded than other parks because of the lack of facilities. Camping is available at the top of bell mountain, which has vistas you usually only find on marketing material for camp goods. Or you camp by streams that are just as pretty, but less cool in my opinion. I do always find other people's trash at the sites, which is disappointing. Everything is first come, first serve for selecting a campsite.
Also, Google maps will try to get you lost and take you to private land, just turn where you see the cars parked about 5 min before Google says you'll be there. It is about 2.5 hours southwest of St. Louis.
On my most recent trip we did come across feral hogs while on the trail. We just kept still and they walked past us, totally ignoring us even with our dog.
Being a Dyrt Ranger is not only a on awesome title, but comes with perks! I recently got the opportunity to review Mountain House Meals.
Mountain House Meals are lightweight, freeze dried meals that are convenient as can be! When backpacking they don't take up much space, are light, and are really easy to make after an exhausting day on the trail.
At first I thought they wouldn't be that great, but I could eat anything after 8 miles with my pack on, so I didn't care. The first bite showed me the error of my ways. They aren't 5 star restaurant quality but they are tasty, fast, and easy. I had the chili mac and beef and that's what it tasted like! Also the Spicy Southwest Breakfast Hash is my breakfast of choice, like even when I'm at home I want to eat it, it's so good. The raspberry crumble is a bit disappointing in that there's not enough crumble part and it's almost too sweet.
You do have to carry a camp stove and have clean water available which can add weight to your pack for these, but in my case it's well worth it for a hot meal and I have those things anyway for coffee in the mornings.
Most meals come in 2 serving pouches which is perfect for my husband, but too much for me. Usually my dog gets to share with me because of that. I had to learn to bring an extra long spoon to get down into the corners of the bag.
They make so much sense I even recently brought a few bags with me on a trip to Europe. They were a safeguard against getting back from touristing too late and all the restaurants being closed. We could make dinner with only hot water at our hostel and they added hardly any weight to our bags.
- Warm meals
- A decent amount of options, including desserts!
- Lasts about 20 years, so if you don't use them this time, save them for your next hike!
- Needs camp stove and clean water
- Doesn't seem to many have veggie heavy options so you have to supplement them yourself for a balanced meal.
- If you're an idiot like me and don't follow instructions, you can pour boiling water on your leg while miles out in the backcountry when making it. It sucks.