Park Trails

at Big Oak Tree State Park

Boardwalk Trail

  • Hiking

Length: .70 Mile View map

Trail Rating: Easy

Boardwalk Trail showcases many of Big Oak Tree State Parks’ natural communities and a champion pumpkin ash tree. The boardwalk is an elevated walkway constructed in 2006. The trail begins near the day-use area within a fire-maintained, wet mesic woodland community of oak, hickory and sugarberry trees, and giant cane, then passes through a bottomland forest of bald cypress and pumpkin ash trees. The trail ends at an observation deck overlooking a marsh/shrub swamp community with swamp privet, buttonbush, swamp locust and large black willows. The observation deck and elevated boardwalk afford the opportunity to be in the middle of a swamp without getting your feet wet.

Benches are located approximately half-way along the boardwalk and at the observation deck.  These areas provide visitors the opportunity to rest and observe the wildlife found in Big Oak Tree State Park.

Rules of Boardwalk Trail

  • Boardwalk Trail is for hiking only.  Bicycles and all-terrain vehicle equipment are prohibited on all trails at Big Oak Tree State Park. Because the boardwalk is elevated and has an abrasive metal surface, running is also prohibited.
  • Keep properly hydrated during warmer weather and carry enough water for a one-to two- hour hike.  Water fountains are located at the beginning of the boardwalk and in the picnic area.   
  • Mosquitoes are common and can be very abundant during the late spring, summer, and early fall.  Insect repellent, long-sleeved shirts and pants will help make their disturbance minimal during your hike. 
  • Please help keep state parks natural by discarding waste items in trash receptacles located at the beginning of the boardwalk. Cans and plastic bottles should be placed in recycle bins to help minimize the impact on landfills and preserve natural resources.

You may experience:

  • Slippery conditions and/or downed vegetation
  • Bridges and/or structural crossings
Find the trailhead on the park map
Missouri State Parks Trail Rules and Etiquette
Length Estimated Hiking Time Type Blazes Trailhead
.70 Mile 20 minutes, one way Linear Blue On the right, past the day-use area/playground parking area

Bottomland Trail

  • Hiking

Length: 1.5 Miles View map

Trail Rating: Rugged

Bottomland Trail lies within Big Oak Tree Natural Area and this portion of Big Oak Tree State Park is recognized as a National Natural Landmark. The trail gives visitors a glimpse of the old-growth, bottomland hardwood forests that once occurred along portions of the Mississippi River.  The trail loops through an oak-hickory forest and gradually meanders into a forest community of more wetland and swamp species, such as bald cypress, overcup oak and pumpkin ash trees, plus many others. Slight differences in soils and elevation, where the lower portions retain more water or are seasonally inundated, allow these water-tolerant species to thrive, while at the same time inhibiting the growth of other species. 

The trail passes beneath some of Missouri’s tallest trees and past a few former state champion trees. Old age, disease, storm damage and a change in hydrology have taken their toll on many of the parks’ largest trees. Many magnificent giants can still be observed along Bottomland Trail.  A few of these great trees may one day be state champions again. A short spur connects the trail to a picnic area.

You may experience:

  • Natural surface, dirt, mud, gravel, shifting rocks, slippery surface, etc.
  • Rocks, roots and/or downed vegetation on trail
  • Bridges and/or structural crossings
  • Occasional water over trail
Find the trailhead on the park map
Missouri State Parks Trail Rules and Etiquette
Length Estimated Hiking Time Type Blazes Trailhead
1.5 Miles 45 minutes Loop Red 1) Across from the boardwalk parking area; 2) At the southern end of the former lake parking lot