Missouri Horse Trails- Mark Twain National Forest and Beyond

Cristlyn Randazzo of Show Me Missouri Back Country Horsemen shares why she loves trail riding in Missouri, as part of the Equitrekking 50 State Trail Riding Project.

by Cristlyn Randazzo

The smell of coffee floats in the air as I sit by the campfire and watch the mist rise from the valley. The morning sun's rays are muted by the low lying fog. The bird calls are a musical backdrop for the sounds of my horse munching contently on his hay. Another perfect Missouri fall morning has begun.

brushy creek horseback missouri trails

Missouri horse trails may wind by mountains, ridges, low-lying floodplains, historic stables, rocky creek crossings and more.

The crisp fall air fills my lungs as I lift the saddle onto my horses back and secure the cinch. I lift my foot to the stirrup and swing my leg over my horse's back. As I settle into the saddle I think of how lucky I am to have access to the trails in Missouri.

The sounds of my horse's shoes echo across the rocks as we follow the trail winding up the side of the hill. My horse stops and pricks his ears as the loud sounds of rustling through the autumn leaves. I search the undergrowth and find the squirrel that has scampered up a tree. I ponder why a herd of deer can run through the woods leaping downed trees and avoiding rocks without making a sound, yet a single squirrel sounds like a herd of elephants crashing over broken china.

big piney missouri horse trails

Horseback riders are welcome at 16 Missouri state parks where equestrian trails often wind through wilderness settings.

My horse picks his way through the rocks until we reach the top of the bluff. I dismount and walk across the flat rock surface to the edge. Looking down I see the river winding far below me. The rolling hills surrounding are covered with the brilliant yellows and reds that can only be seen on autumn leaves. The few puffy white clouds look like cotton candy floating in the clear blue sky. Hawks float on the air currents, some high in the sky and some circling lower. I think how fascinating it is being above these beautiful birds, looking down at their backs as they fly. I feel both totally separated and on top of the world as well as totally one with nature at the same time.

Flying Raug horse trails missouri

Show-Me Missouri Back Country Horsemen (SMMBCH) is part of the Back Country Horsemen of America. They are active in helping to keep trails open to equestrians in Missouri.

The autumn sun warms the air as the day grows older. After a morning of following meandering trails in the forest I have made my way to the river. My horse picks his way through the river rocks until he stands with his front feet in the water. He reaches his head down to take a drink and my attention is drawn to the small fish swimming in the cold water. I think how tough they must be, as I know from experience the spring waters feeding the river are ice cold. The water is so clear it looks only inches deep, though I know that it's way over my head in places. My mind drifts back to the summer when the cold water was a welcome relief from the hot air. Missouri's spring fed rivers contain water throughout the year, making them one of my favorite place to visit during any season.

Eminence horse trails missouri

For those wanting to ride in Eminence, Missouri, local stables offer rental horses for short rides, pack trips for several days, or week long trail riding events. 

Missouri was named the “Best Trails State” by American Trails, a national, nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting our nation's hiking, biking, and riding trails. Considering how horse-friendly the state is, it's easy to understand why so many equestrians flock to the state every year for the superb trail riding.

The Mark Twain National Forest encompasses almost 1.5 million acres in multiple patches throughout the state. Camping and riding opportunities are limitless in these fabulous wild areas. Horseback riders are welcome at 16 Missouri state parks where equestrian trails wind through wilderness and historic areas. There are also riding opportunities at Corps of Engineers run parks as well as locally maintained areas. It's possible to explore practically every part of the state by horseback.

cory hill missouri horseback

Missouri is crisscrossed by hundreds of miles of trails to accommodate a wide variety of activities and interests.

There are countless primitive camping areas as part of the various park systems. In addition, there are several national, state, and locally run campgrounds with electric and water hookups. For those who prefer a little more luxury, Missouri boasts dozens of private run campgrounds with access to the state's fabulous public trails. Riding Missouri's trails all day, then enjoying hot meals cooked for you and climate controlled cabins while your horse beds down in his stall sounds like some people's ideal vacation.

As I make my way back to camp I think of all the trails I've traveled in the past, and all I would like to visit in the future. Open fields, rolling hills, river bottoms, rocky outcroppings, caves, and thick woods are all easily found from Missouri's horse trails. Later in the evening I relax by the fire. Looking up at the cloudless sky I am amazed at the star's brilliance. I am always in awe of nature, and riding the fabulous trails in Missouri is my favorite way to drink in the atmosphere.

panther creek horseback

Show-Me Missouri Back Country Horsemen coordinate activities throughout Missouri to keep Missouri’s public trails open to horsemen.


About the author: Cristlyn Randazzo lives in central Missouri. Between working to pay for the feed bills for her horses, dogs and cats and acting as their servant, she does as much trail riding as possible. She also involved in the Brownfield Chapter of the Show Me Mo Backcountry Horsemen (SMMBCH) as well as acting as a board member for SMMBCH. Though she enjoys the variety in visiting other trails, she always falls back to her favorites in Missouri.