Eastern Region Viewing Area
LOCATION and PHOTOS
Glade Top Trail administrative map (PDF, 1.1 MB).
Yellow coneflower (Echinacea paradoxa) and pale purple coneflower (Echinacea pallida) are native wildflowers commonly encountered in glades along the Glade Top Trail on the Mark Twain National Forest. Photo by Paul Nelson.
Typical view of a glade along the Glade Top Trail. Photo by Paul Nelson.
Glade Top Trail
Forest: Mark Twain National Forest
District: Ava-Cassville-Willow Springs Ranger District
Description: The Glade Top Trail is Missouri’s only National Forest Scenic Byway. The 23-mile trail weaves through narrow ridge tops above the surrounding rolling countryside. Along the trail are seven overlook “pull-outs” that provide panoramic views that reach to the Springfield Plateau twenty miles to the northwest and forty miles south to the Boston Mountains in Arkansas.
Viewing Information: Considered one of the most scenic locations in Missouri, the Glade Top Trail cuts through the Mark Twain National Forest and borders the Hercules Glades Wilderness Area. The Glade Top Trail is little changed from the original road constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the late 1930’s. For twenty-three miles, the two-lane, all weather gravel road follows narrow ridge tops rising approximately 500 feet above the surrounding rolling countryside, and overlooks and passes through many limestone/dolomite glades interspersed with open and closed woodlands and forests.
Missouri has among the greatest abundance and diversity of glades in the United States and the Glade Top Trail lies within the heart of some of the best remaining examples of this unique natural community. Glades, also sometimes known as barrens [or knobs], are areas of thin soil with relatively large amounts of exposed bedrock and are dominated by herbaceous vegetation. Plants growing in these communities must be able to endure extreme drought and heat during the summer months, but at other times of year they also must withstand large amounts of frost upheaval of the thin soils and periods of inundation when rain and melting snows cannot percolate quickly through the substrate (Yatskievych 1999).
There is a high diversity of both common and rare plants native to these glades, and some wildflowers that can be seen along the Glade Top Trail include Arkansas calamint (Satureja arkansana), aromatic aster (Symphotrichum oblongifolium), Barbara’s buttons (Marshallia caespitosa var. signata), Bush’s skullcap (Scutellaria Bushii), Gattinger’s goldenrod (Solidago Gattingeri), Missouri black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia missouriensis), Missouri evening primrose (Oenothera missouriensis), purple beardtongue (Penstemon Cobaea var. purpureus), purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), rosinweed (Grindelia lanceolata), stenosiphon (Stenosiphin linifolius), silky aster (Symphotrichum sericeum), Spanish needles (Palafoxia callosa), Trelease’s larkspur (Delphinium treleasei), and yellow coneflower (Echinacea paradoxa).
Safety First: Visitors can view many wildflowers along roadsides, but most glades occur on steep ridgelines and in areas of loose rock. If proceeding off the roadsides, please use caution on steep slopes and near rocky outcroppings. Beware of slippery rocks when crossing creeks, and always be on the lookout for rattlesnakes (they like to spend the hot summer days hidden in the many rock crevices). Always carry a snack, insect repellant, and water, and wear (comfortable) hiking boots when hiking.
Directions: The Glade Top Trail is located about 60 miles southeast of Springfield, Missouri. The trail includes portions of Forest Roads 147 and 149 and has three entry points. The most popular is the northeast entry located near the Douglas/Ozark County line about ten miles southwest of Ava. It is accessed off State Highway 5 by State Highway A and County Road A-409. The south entry point is just north of the town of Longrun off State Highway 95 and about five miles north of US Highway 160. The west entry is just off State Highway 125 about two miles south of the Hercules Glades Wilderness.
Ownership and Management: U.S. Forest Service, Mark Twain National Forest, Ava-Cassville-Willow Spring Ranger District, Ava, Missouri. (417) 683-4428.
Closest Town: Ava, Missouri.
Yatskievych, G. 1999. Steyermark’s Flora of Missouri, Vol I. revised ed. Missouri Botanical Garden Press. St. Louis, MO. 991 pp.