I couldn’t pass up a a chance to get outside and go hiking when the temperature was forecast to reach 65 degrees on a Friday in February, so I asked my friend Michelle if she wanted to take a day off and hit the road with me. Clifty Creek Natural Area near Rolla, Missouri has been on my list of places to visit for some time now. It is about a 2.5 hour drive from St. Louis, but once you get off the interstate, the rolling hills and views of the Gasconade River valley make the drive go by a bit quicker.
An interesting fact is that Clifty Creek was the first natural area designated in the State of Missouri. The trail starts out from a small parking lot. When the trail splits to create a loop, we stayed to the left and hiked the trail clockwise. The trail drops down to a fairly dry creek on the day that we were there.
The trail then climbs up the bluff on the other side of the creek. The trail eventually flattens out on top of a ridge line high above the creek.
There are also some neat rock formations on the ridge that El decided to pose on.
To the left, through the bare trees, we could see the creek bed of Little Clifty Creek and to the right, we could see parts of Clifty Creek glimmering in the sun. The trail returns to the creek bed and and then all of a sudden the Natural Bridge comes into view.
The 40 foot long bridge was formed by Clifty Creek and Little Clifty Creek slowly etching away the rock until just the natural bridge was left.
The trail then crosses the creek and follows the creek for a while before heading back to the trailhead. I loved this trail and I loved hiking it while the trees were bare because you could see the towering bluff walls, rocky outcroppings and creek bed below as you hiked along the trail. There was also a lot of elevation changes that I was not expecting!
This trail is about 2.5 miles long and I really enjoyed it. There was a lot of scenery packed into a a fairly short hike. Be sure to check it out if you are ever in the Rolla area! You can get more information from the Missouri Department of Conservation and also a trail map.