It’s good to toss a hiking stick into the car along with a fly rod for a visit to Roaring River State Park.
Miles of trail wend their way through the scenic park, situated in a deep Ozarks canyon south of Cassville, Mo. Devil’s Kitchen Trail is a tough 1.5-mile hike that leads to the top of a narrow forest ridge. The River Trail is an easy 1.4-mile hike along Roaring River.
We fished until noon on our recent visit, then stashed lunch in a pack and hit both of these great trails.
Devil’s Kitchen gets started across the stream from the trout hatchery. There’s a foot bridge across a dry creek where the trail heads into a hollow. There’s some climbing right off the bat, but it’s just a warm-up for the real test farther along the way.
The route goes up to a trail intersection. Go right to hike the loop counterclockwise. Here the path levels off and follows the base of a cliff, with some bluff shelters, which are worth exploring. A dark, mysterious cave entrance is seen off to the right, then the path takes a hard left. Now the trail meanders along the top cliff you’ve just walked past, but goes in the opposite direction.
There’s a zig and a zag, then the path leads, up, up, up, to the top of the ridge. This climb brings the heat to the Devil’s Kitchen trail. We’ll give it an eight on the wheezer scale, a real lung buster that grabs your attention and doesn’t let go until you reach the summit.
A stutter step here and a hard breath there an you’ve reached the top of a Razorback ridge that’s only about 30 yards wide. There’s a nice fallen tree here for a seat, a sip of water and a well earned rest.
The walking gets easy on the other side of the ridge. At the bottom, the trail parallels another bluff line that’s a highlight of the hike. Jumbles of boulders big as box cars come into view. They’re a sight to behold with little clefts and nooks in a limestone garden that kids of all ages will want to explore.
This is the real Devil’s Kitchen, a fine place to pull up a rock and have lunch.
From here, it’s an easy level hike through the woods and back to the trailhead.
River Trail gets started across the stream from Devil’s Kitchen, to the right of the Civilian Conservation Corps lodge. The path goes by the park amphitheater, then starts a gradual ascent that’s no big deal, maybe a two on the wheezer scale.
The challenge of the River Trail is not to trip and fall. The footing is dicey along the rocky path spiced with the occasional tree root. Views of the river and park are superb, as long as you stay upright.
Undercut bluffs with rock benches are great spots for a break and to watch fishermen below try their luck with the rainbow trout.
A highway bridge marks the end of the River Trail. From here it’s a 0.7-mile hike back to the start.
We pack two poles for autumn visits to Roaring River — a fly rod and a hiking stick. Fishing until noon, then hiking and lunch along the trail, makes a full, wonderful day.
Flip Putthoff can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @NWAFlip
Sports on 11/28/2017