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Park Trails

at Ha Ha Tonka State Park

Acorn Trail

  • Hiking

Length: .90 Mile View map

Acorn trail is a self-guiding interpretive trail that leads hikers through an open woodland and glade complex that is maintained with periodic prescribed fire. A trail guide is available at the trailhead and at the park office to help interpret the management of this area for hikers.

There are eight stops along the trail that correspond with the Acorn Trail guide. The trail is located within the boundaries of the Ha Ha Tonka Oak Woodland Natural Area, which is recognized for its high quality natural communities. More than 300 native plants have been recorded in the area immediately surrounding the trail.

This gravel surface trail is moderately steep for the first 200 feet, after which hikers will turn onto the trail on your left. This section of trail follows the same elevation around the hillside giving hikers the opportunity to see the effects that fire has on the differing orientation (west, north, east and south respectively) of the hillside, as well as prescribed fire on natural communities.

Between interpretive stops one and two, the landscape is a very rocky, irregular, cherty surface, has more sun exposure, and an abundance of blackjack oak trees. Between interpretive stops seven and eight is a south-facing glade area with a very scenic vista of an Ozark farm and wooded ridge tops beyond.  

Follow the green blazes in a clockwise direction to hike this trail. Acorn Trail was constructed in 1982 to interpret the effects of landscape scale prescribed fire.

 

Length Estimated Hiking Time Type Blazes Trailhead
.90 Mile 40 Minutes Loop Green Ha Ha Tonka Oak Woodland Natural Area parking area

Boulder Ridge Trail

  • Hiking

Length: 1.5 Miles View map

Boulder Ridge Trail is a gravel surface trail that makes a loop around the long narrow ridge top southwest of the lake parking lot. The initial section of trail travels in a counterclockwise direction passing through oak woodland until a rocky area is encountered. At this point, the trail goes off to the right, down the slope to a county road.  After crossing the county road, walk up an old roadbed making a left turn up stone steps to a loop section of this trail.

Walk this loop in a clockwise direction. Hikers will travel through a rocky woodland area before a large area of huge sandstone boulders, bluffs and shelves encompass the trail. The trail passes through this area of large lichen-covered boulders along the ridge. Going through this area is tricky after leaf fall because leaves can obscure the trail and fill in deep voids between the rocks. Watch your footing and follow the red blazes to stay on the trail.

The final segment of trail affords several views of Lake of the Ozarks. Eventually, hikers will return to the start of the loop, where they will return to the old road bed, then cross back over the county road. 

Boulder ridge Trail was constructed in 1983 by park staff and volunteers to showcase this interesting geologic site. The terrain is moderate to rugged with uneven and rocky trail surfaces and some moderate elevation changes.

 

Length Estimated Hiking Time Type Blazes Trailhead
1.5 Miles 1 hour, 10 minutes Loop Red Off Tonka Spring Road, at the east end of the parking area next to the lake

Castle Trail

  • Accessible
  • Hiking

Length: .40 Mile View map

Access to the ruins of a 20thcentury castle and spectacular views of Lake of the Ozarks make Castle Trail one of the park’s most popular trails.

Castle Trail can be accessed from either of the two castle parking lots. The upper lot has limited parking and is recommended for people with disabilities and elderly. More parking is offered at the lower lot, which is the first lot you come to. From the lower parking lot, a shaded walk through an open oak woodland area takes hikers to where the trail joins the upper portion. Here, there are two side views of the carriage house ruins.  There is a water fountain at this junction and an interpretive kiosk with information on the park’s cultural history. The upper portion of trail features three scenic overlooks. There are 12 park benches along the trail, as well as on the overlooks.

This one-way, paved trail is wheelchair and stroller accessible from both castle parking lots. It was constructed in 1980 by park staff and volunteers to allow access to the castle ruins, one of the park’s most popular features.

Length Estimated Hiking Time Type Blazes Trailhead
.40 Mile 20 minutes, one way Linear Yellow At two parking areas along Castle Ruins Road. Parking is limited at the parking area closest to the castle.

Cedar Trail

  • Hiking

Length: .20 Mile View map

Cedar Trail begins near the Post Office Shelter and makes a short loop around the picnic sites. Tree identification labels are posted to help familiarize hikers with some of the park’s native tree species. Along this trail, hikers may see evidence of deer – their tracks and droppings – as deer emerge from this wooded area every evening to enjoy the green grass around the shelter.

Cedar Trail was constructed in 1999 by park staff and volunteers as an interpretive trail to increase the activities available in this day-use area.

Length Estimated Hiking Time Type Blazes Trailhead
.20 Mile 10 minutes, one way Linear Blue At the parking area by the playground off State Road D

Colosseum Trail

  • Hiking

Length: .70 Mile View map

Colosseum Trail winds under the natural bridge and through a large sinkhole, the Colosseum, and is part of the Ha Ha Tonka Karst Natural area. Just as spring-flowering trees come into bloom, hikers will be treated to a lovely view of flowering dogwood, redbud, and serviceberry from the wooden platform where this trail begins.

The natural bridge is a massive stone arch left behind when the cave system around it collapsed.  It spans 60 feet, is 100 feet high, and is 70 feet wide.  The natural bridge was used as Mr. Snyder’s route to the castle, until it was closed to vehicular traffic in 1980 because it was too narrow to accommodate vehicles and hikers. It is an impressive geological feature and one of the highlights of Ha Ha Tonka Karst Natural Area. After a heavy rain, water often cascades off the back side, making its way to the lowest point in the sinkhole beyond.

Colosseum Sinkhole is a 150 foot deep sinkhole that is the result of the aforementioned cave collapse. Spring wildflowers are abundant in this sheltered enclave, especially in the section just beyond the natural bridge, where the trail is immediately adjacent to a sheer bluff. Hiking out of the sinkhole at the south end, trail users will step between large boulders – evidence of the rocky ceiling that one covered this now open cave room.   It is a long, steep climb out of the sinkhole to near the top of the ridge, but the views of the old post office, spring and castle ruins at the top are a great reason to stop to catch your breath. 

The figure eight loop then takes hikers across the top of the natural bridge and back to the trailhead.  This trail was constructed in 1981 by park staff and volunteers to showcase the natural bridge and Colosseum Sinkhole.

 

Length Estimated Hiking Time Type Blazes Trailhead
.70 Mile 40 minutes Loop Yellow At the end of Natural Bridge Road

Dell Rim Trail

  • Accessible
  • Hiking

Length: .30 Mile View map

Initially Dell Rim Trail goes through a rocky south-facing glade area with an abundance of wildflowers. The first highlight along the trail is a one-way series of steps that lead to the water tower. The tower was constructed in 1905 to supply water to the castle. An interpretive panel gives information about the water tower, including a description of how the water was pumped from the spring below. There is also a picture of the style pump used in those days. 

A wooden boardwalk then leads visitors to an overlook above the 150 foot deep Whispering Dell Sinkhole. Another interpretive panel at this overlook provides information on karst topography and sinkholes. This initial section of trail is wheelchair accessible.

The trail continues from the Whispering Dell overlook with a series of steps that connect the trail to Colosseum, Spring and Devils Kitchen trails. As you circle the Whispering Dell Sinkhole, look back across to see the overlook and water tower across the void.   The trail takes hikers part way down the 316 wooden steps to Ha Ha Tonka Spring, ending at a second overlook into Whispering Dell Sinkhole.

The boardwalk to the first Whispering Dell Overlook, .07 mile, is stroller and wheelchair accessible, but the step portions to the second overlook are steep and can be difficult for some hikers. 

The first part of the trail was constructed in 1981 to provide visitors with access to the water tower and Whispering Dell Sinkhole. In the late 1980s, the wooden boardwalk was built to protect the fragile glade and woodland soils and plants growing in these areas.

Length Estimated Hiking Time Type Blazes Trailhead
.30 Mile 15 minutes, one way Linear Red At the end of Castle Ruins Road near the water tower

Devil's Kitchen Trail

  • Hiking

Length: 1.25 Miles View map

Devil’s Kitchen Trail is a natural surface loop trail that takes hikers through managed dry chert woodland and glade communities before entering the Devil’s Kitchen Sinkhole.  The sinkhole contains a geologic feature known as Devil’s Kitchen, which is a small cave shelter. After descending off the glade and through a cherty woodland, the ground has large areas of rock before coming to an opening to the right of the trail.

Further down and around these rocks, there is an entrance to the cave shelter. Looking back into the opening, hikers will be treated to a view of the sky through the chimney at the rear of this cave. The trail continues past the Devil’s Kitchen feature to a steep concave bluff wall known as Devil’s Promenade. To reach the Devil’s Promenade, hikers must step across a small gap in the bedrock surface of the trail. 

After Devil’s Promenade, the trail climbs out of the sinkhole and crosses a county road, Post Office Road. Once across the road, the trail continues through an open woodland to Post Office Day-use Area, where is crosses State Road D. Follow the large footprints painted on the road surface to cross the road safely. Here, an overlook has a nice view of the castle  across the spring chasm and an interpretive panel on the historic town Hahatonka. 

The trail joins Spring, Colosseum and Dell Rim trails at this point, so watch for the brown blazes to follow Devil’s Kitchen Trail back to the top of the natural bridge. From here, hikers cross State Road D into Ha Ha Tonka Oak Woodland Natural Area parking lot. The trail was constructed in 1981 by park staff and volunteers to highlight the interesting geologic formations in Devil’s Kitchen Sinkhole.

Length Estimated Hiking Time Type Blazes Trailhead
1.25 Miles 1 hour, 15 minutes Loop Brown

Ha Ha Tonka Oak Woodland Natural Area parking lot

Dolomite Rock Trail

  • Hiking

Length: 2.5 Miles View map

Dolomite Rock Trail consists of two loops, first being the South Loop.  This one-half mile, natural surface loop starts at the River Cave Overlook and has ten stops with an interpretive brochure describing the natural features along the trail. The brochure is available at the bulletin board at the beginning of the trail. The trail takes hikers past both River Cave sinkhole entrances and along Dry Hollow, a direct tributary to River Cave. Trail users will learn about the interaction of water with the surrounding bedrock and the plants and animals that live in this environment. Hikers cross a dolomite glade and woodland and with the interpretive brochure can learn about managing these natural communities with fire. An intersection near interpretive stop number nine gives hikers the option to see more woodland and glade communities through the two-mile North Loop. 

North Loop crosses a large dolomite glade and dry chert and dolomite woodlands. The effects of the periodic prescribed fire are evident here with the great diversity of native grasses and wildflowers. The loop takes hikers back to the intersection of the South Loop near stop number nine. Take the interpretive loop back to River Cave Day-Use Area. 

This trail was constructed in 2005 by park staff and volunteers from the local high school.

South Loop
Length Estimated Hiking Time Type Blazes Trailhead
.50 Mile 30 minutes Loop Blue

River Cave Day-Use Area

North Loop
Length Estimated Hiking Time Type Blazes Trailhead
2 Miles 2 hours Loop Blue River Cave Day-Use Area

Island Trail

  • Hiking

Length: .80 Mile View map

Island Trail starts at the old mill site along Spring Trail. This rugged loop trail takes hikers past Balanced Rock; a large cylinder-shaped dolomite boulder sitting on one end.  Walking this trail, hikers will catch two glimpses of old abandoned water pipe. This is all that remains of the pipe that carried water from the mill site to the water tower above. 

The trail then takes hikers to the confluence of Ha Ha Tonka Spring and Lake of the Ozarks. Following the loop from here, hikers can walk along the spring channel to a small breached dam, where the spring water runs over large boulders. The trail continues to Island Cave, a small, gated, permit entry cave that is located on the north side of the island above the spring channel. For information on entry into Island Cave, visitors should contact the park office. 

The loop then leads hikers around the rocky east and south sides of the island where they return to Spring Trail. Users can also access White Connectors 3 and 4 to shorten or enhance their hiking experience. 

Island Trail was constructed in 1982 by park staff and volunteers.

Length Estimated Hiking Time Type Blazes Trailhead
.50 Mile 30 minutes Loop Green At the trail shelter on Spring Trail

Lake Trail

  • Hiking

Length: .40 Mile View map

Lake Trail leads visitors from the northern courtesy boat dock on Lake of the Ozarks to the castle ruins and the rest of the park’s trail complex. If coming by boat to the park, the boat dock is located on the 15 mile marker of the Niangua arm of the lake. The trail is primarily an access trail to the park’s trail system for visitors that arrive by boat. An interpretive kiosk at the trailhead near the boat dock has a map and information about the park. 

This trail climbs 250 feet of elevation and has a natural gravel surface. It traverses through open oak woodlands. The trail intersects with Quarry Trail at the smaller western quarry, where rock was mined to build the castle.  Just as hikers approach the castle, the ruins of ten greenhouses are to the south of the trail. These greenhouses were part of the Robert Snyder estate. The greenhouses were removed and sold after Snyder’s death, but the foundations and excavations remain. One small area was excavated in the late 1990s to enhance the interpretation of this cultural feature. A small interpretive sign explains what was found.

Lake Trail takes visitors to the castle ruins, where it ends at the intersection of Castle Trail. It was constructed in 1980 to provide access to the park for visitors who come by boat.

Length Estimated Hiking Time Type Blazes Trailhead
.40 Mile 25 minutes, one way Linear Red (1. Near the northern boat dock; (2.At the castle ruins

Oak Woodland Interpretive Trail

  • Accessible
  • Hiking

Length: .08 mile View map

Oak Woodland Interpretive Trail is a paved, 430-foot wheelchair and stroller accessible trail with four interpretive stops. There is an interpretive panel at each stop discussing the use of prescribed fire as a management tool. The health and plant vitality of this area of the park has been managed with controlled burning since the mid-1980s. The panels identify characteristic plants of the park’s Ha Ha Tonka Oak Woodland Natural Area. 

Oak Woodland Interpretive Trail was built in 1998 by park staff so that people with disabilities could experience this open landscape.

Length Estimated Hiking Time Type Blazes Trailhead
.08 mile 10 minutes Loop Blue Ha Ha Tonka Oak Woodland Natural Area parking lot

Spring Trail

  • Accessible
  • Hiking

Length: 1.5 Miles View map

The first .40 mile of Spring Trail is paved and accessible to visitors with physical limitations. This section takes hikers along the shoreline of Lake of the Ozarks and Ha Ha Tonka Spring.

This is a great trail to hike for spring wildflowers. Pawpaw trees can be seen along the first section of trail and grow alongside the wooden boardwalk just before the spring.  One of the first stopping points is at the site of the old gristmill, which was burned in 1931 to make room for Lake of the Ozarks. A spillway, raceway and grinding stone remain at the mill site. A small trail shelter with tables and an interpretive display are also located near the old mill site. 

Spring Trail continues toward Ha Ha Tonka Spring along the shore of the old millpond.  The millpond is a great place to watch for wildlife, including turtles, frogs and toads, green herons and others. At the end of the millpond is another raceway that acts as a dam to the spring water during normal water levels. During periods of high water levels, Ha Ha Tonka Spring water runs over the raceway and flushes out the millpond into the lake. 

Shortly after the second raceway, the trail surface changes from pavement to wooden boardwalk. At this point, a small wooden overlook over the spring offers a nice view of the spring channel and is a great place to look for muskrats, otters, ducks and other aquatic wildlife. An interpretive panel on this overlook has information about the spring’s recharge area, temperature and aquatic plant life. 

The wooden boardwalk has several short sections of steps leading back to the site where the spring water surfaces and four more interpretive panels are attached to the railing. As hikers near the spring, they are challenged to squeeze between large rocks that were once part of the ceiling over this collapsed chasm. After exiting the rocks, there is an old pump south of the trail. This pump was used in the 1940s to pump spring water to a small log cabin at the top of the hill above you.

The spring emerges from the water-filled cave at the base of the small bluff ahead. The average flow of the spring is 58 million gallons of water a day. It is a half-mile from the trailhead to the mouth of the spring. Many visitors turn back at this point. 

The next section of the Spring Trail ascends 316 wooden steps climbing 200 vertical feet and can be very strenuous for some hikers. At the top of the steps, hikers can choose to follow Dell Rim Trail to the left to go to the castle ruins, or turn right to continue on the upper section of Spring Trail. Very shortly, hikers will have a spectacular view over the spring waters and spy the 250 foot bluff with castle ruins atop.

Continuing on the trail, catch a glimpse of the century old post office building along Highway D.  Shortly after this, hikers can choose to take a White Connector back to the mill site to end the hike early or continue on another loop of Spring Trail by taking the trail to the left. This stretch parallels Highway D and eventually crosses a dolomite glade and then heads back into woodlands. This trail will wind back to the trailhead at the lake parking lot. 

Spring Trail was built in 1980 by park staff and volunteers.

Length Estimated Hiking Time Type Blazes Trailhead
1.5 Miles 1 hour, 10 minutes Loop Blue (1. Off Tonka Spring Road a the east end of the parking area adjacent to Lake of the Ozarks; (2. At the small parking area across from the Post Office Day-Use Area

Turkey Pen Hollow Trail

  • Backpacking
  • Hiking

Length: 6.5 Miles View map

Turkey Pen Hollow Trail passes through high quality dolomite glades and woodland plant communities. The area in and around this trail is managed with periodic prescribed fire.  Information on this fire management is available at the trailhead and at the park office. The trail also takes hikers and backpackers past a large sinkhole, to an access to the park’s special-use camp, a primitive backpack camping area for large groups, and meanders through Turkey Pen Hollow. Hikers often spy deer and turkey along the trail, and if not the real thing, evidence of their tracks and droppings.

After passing the connector trail leading to the special-use camp, hikers will travel across a large south-facing glade. Lower on this slope is an intermittently wet seep area. Ahead, a large outcrop of rock is the remnant of the Red Arrow Fault line that runs through this part of Camden County. This interesting rock area is where layers of bedrock have shifted in a vertical manner and in other places one layer of rock has shifted pushing other rocks layers above it.

After reaching the ridge top and hiking for a short distance, hikers can chose to shorten their hike to 4.75 miles by taking White Connector 1. Along White Connector 1, there is an intermittent pond. This pond, which often holds water in the spring, is home to many frogs, salamanders and toads as evidenced by the cacophony of their calls both during the day and in the evening.  

The primitive backpack camping area for groups of seven or more is located on the two-mile segment of trail after you reach the ridge top, and is in a sheltered valley on the east side of this trail.

Follow the red blazes counterclockwise to hike Turkey Pen Hollow Trail. Turkey Pen Hollow Trail was built by park staff and volunteers in 1997.

Turkey Pen Hollow Trail Rules

  • Only hikers and backpackers are allowed on this trail. Equestrian and bicycle use is prohibited.
  • Backpackers should register at the park office before starting their trip. Even after the office is closed, there are trail registration cards located outside the door to the office, and a mailbox to leave your completed form.
  • Campfires are prohibited. Stoves must be used for cooking.
  • Cutting implements such as saws and hatchets are not allowed on the trail.
  • Only backpackers on Turkey Pen Hollow Trail permit camping.
  • Groups of seven or more persons are permitted to camp only in the designated camping area. While smaller groups are not required to use the designated area, they must camp at least 100 feet from the trail, 200 feet from any major public use area, and at least one-fourth mile from the trail entry/exit point.
  • All other rules and regulations pertaining to park use are applicable to trail users.

Ethics of Good Trail Use

  • Carry out what you carry in. If the trail users before you have not done this, you can help by removing their trash too.
  • Keep your group small. Groups of more than 10 persons usually damage the environment.
  • Dispose of human waste properly. Fortunately, the top six or eight inches of soil provide a system of biologic disposers that decompose organic material.  Keeping this in mind, hikers should select a spot at least 100 feet from any open water; dig a small hole no deeper than six or eight inches; after use, fill the hole with loose soil and tramp in the sod.  Nature will do the rest.
  • Stay on the trail. Do not take shortcuts. The trail has been laid out to minimize destruction of surrounding vegetation and to prevent erosion.
Length Estimated Hiking Time Type Blazes Trailhead
6.5 Miles 6 hours, 30 minutes Loop Red Ha Ha Tonka Oak Woodland Natural Area parking area

Quarry Trail

  • Hiking

Length: 1.75 Miles View map

Quarry Trail takes visitors through two quarry sites, where sandstone was mined to build the castle, carriage house and water tower. At the trailhead near the castle ruins, the trail passes next to the site where ten greenhouses were constructed as part of the Robert Snyder estate. The greenhouses were removed and sold after Snyder’s death, but the foundations and interpretive panel are available for viewing at the site. 

The quarries hikers will pass can be deceptive as they are not the size or depth seen today.  These were areas where the sandstone layer was close to or extended above ground level to make its removal easier. To further make the job of transporting these large stones from the larger quarry site north of the castle, they used a small gauge track and cart system pulled by mule to bring the stone to the castle site.  

The trail also features views of Lake of the Ozarks from a large dolomite glade on the west side of the trail at the half way point.  Users can shorten or enhance their hikes by accessing White Connectors 5 and 6.  To use either of the white connector trails, hikers should watch for the white blazes.  Hikers can leave the trail at the carriage house site to make a shorter walk to the parking lot.

Quarry Trail was built in 1980 by park staff and volunteers.

Length Estimated Hiking Time Type Blazes Trailhead
1.75 Miles 1 hour, 20 minutes Loop Green (1. At the castle mule cart; (2. Off Castle Trail by the carriage house