Special Places

Devils Backbone Wilderness

This Wilderness, taking its name from a long narrow ridge known to the early settlers as Devils Backbone, is a unique blend of Missouri Ozark flora and fauna, characterized by rugged topography, springs and the North Fork River. With 6,687 acres inside the Wilderness boundary, this is an ideal area for day hiking or overnight backpacking. A long, narrow ridge supports the center of the Wilderness, with 1,020 feet as its highest “vertebra.” Thirteen miles of maintained foot and horse trails follow the Devils Backbone and four other ridges, dropping off into surrounding hollows in a forest dominated by oaks, hickories, and shortleaf pines. Elevations range from 1020 feet to 680 feet along the North Fork of the White River, a high quality, spring fed Ozark stream. Blue Spring, Amber Spring and McGarr Spring provide water to the river year-round.

Dogwood, redbud and wild azaleas give the wilderness a wild burst of color in the spring. Fall isn’t to be outdone when the oaks, sweet gum, and sugar maple put on a show of yellow, oranges and reds. Scattered limestone glades and other openings provide some of the more favorable places to view wildlife. White-tailed deer, gray squirrel, raccoon, coyote, red and gray fox, bobcat and striped skunk are some of the mammals native to the area. Wild turkey, red-tailed hawk, great horned owl, bald eagle, turkey vulture, great blue heron, pileated woodpecker and various songbirds can be seen. Among the reptiles common to the area are two poisonous snakes, the copperhead and the eastern timber rattler.

A printable brochure (2.6m pdf format) of the Wilderness is available for download.

Trails: There are 13 miles of moderate trail within the area accessable from McGarr Ridge Trailhead. Foot, and horseback travel only, no motorized or mechanized use.

Rating: Moderate. Terrain is sometimes steep. Elevations range from 1020 to 680 feet.
Length: 13 miles
Best Seasons: Fall, winter, and spring.
Leave No Trace: Pack out what you pack in.
Restrictions: Foot and Horse only. Limit your party size to 10 persons; no camping within 100 feet of trails, water sources and other camps.
Surface Type: Unsurfaced, native material.

Other Activities: Backpacking, horseback riding, bird watching, and hiking.

Safety: No drinking water is available at parking areas or along the trail; bring what you will need, or be prepared to sterilize water you find. During temperate months, be prepared for biting insects, poison ivy and high temperatures. Be advised of hunting seasons. Avoid using the trail during excessively wet periods. Wilderness has inherent dangers. Know where you are, and carry what you need to be self-reliant.

Camping: North Fork Recreation Area (locally known as Hammond Camp), adjoining the north edge of the wilderness, provides quality camping and picnic opportunities. Dispersed camping is allowed. Practice the leave no trace outdoor ethic. To protect solitude, seek campsites that are out of site and sound of trails and other camps. Do not build rock fire rings, extinguish all fires and naturalize the site. Never tie stock directly to trees. Bury human and stock waste.

How to get there:

Four trailheads provide entry to Devils Backbone Wilderness.

From West Plains, MO: take Hwy CC west approximately 15 miles of Hwy 63 to McGarr Ridge Trailhead.

From West Plains, MO: take Hwy CC west approximately 16 miles of Hwy 63 to North Fork Recreation Area, where Blue Ridge trailhead leads into the wilderness. The trail combines 2 loops totaling 11 miles.

From West Plains, MO: take Hwy CC west approximately 18 miles of Hwy 63 to Raccoon Hollow trailhead provides access to the west side of the wilderness.

From West Plains, MO: go 10 miles west on Hwy K, then 4 miles on Hwy KK, turn onto dirt County Road for about 1.5 miles to Collins Ridge is the southern trailhead.

Collins Ridge to McGarr Ridge is part of the Ozark Trail. Addtional information on the Ozark Trail can be obtained from the Ozark Trail Web Site. There maps can be downloaded and printed, here is the map link.