Devils Backbone Wilderness

Area Status: Open

Devils Backbone 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.

Brochure and Maps

  • A printable brochure (2.6m pdf format) of the Wilderness is available for download.
  • Trail System Map (printable) and Trail System Map available on the Avenza app.

Trails: There are 13 miles of moderate trail within the area accessible from McGarr Ridge Trailhead. Foot, and horseback travel only.

At a Glance

Operational Hours: Year round, quiet hours 10:00 PM – 6:00 AM.
Fees: There are no fees, however there are self-registration stations at each wilderness trailhead entrance. Overnight and day use visitors are requested to register.
Permit Info: Commercial use will not be permitted. Special uses will not be permitted, except for access to surrounded private property.
Usage: Light
Restrictions: The following are not allowed within the wilderness area:
  • No placing in or near a stream, lake, or other water any substance which does or may pollute a stream, lake, or other water;
  • Cutting or defacing live or dead standing trees or other vegetation;
  • Possessing or using a motor vehicle, motorboat, motorized equipment, or mechanical transport (including mountain bike and wagon);
  • Landing of aircraft, or dropping or picking up any material, supplies or persons by means of aircraft, including helicopters;
  • building of "structures" such as rock fire rings, tables, lean-tos and the like;
  • Discharging a firearm or any other implement capable of taking human life or causing injury, in or within 150 yards of an occupied area, or in any manner or place whereby any person or property is exposed to injury or damage as a result of such discharge;
  • Firing any tracer bullet or incendiary ammunition
Closest Towns: West Plains; Dora
Water: No potable water
Operated By: USDA Forest Service and volunteers
Information Center: Ava Cassville/Willow Springs Ranger District
Email | Phone and Address

General Information


Four trailheads provide entry to Devil's Backbone Wilderness:

From Dora

  • Raccoon Hollow Trailhead is located on the south side of CC Highway about 1 1/2 miles east of Dora, MO;
  • McGarr Ridge Trailhead is located on the south side of CC Highway about 4 miles east of Dora, MO; and

From West Plains

  • Blue Spring Trailhead is located within the North Fork Recreation Area (no horses allowed on this short section)
  • Collin's Ridge Trailhead is located on County Road KK 362 which comes off KK Highway about 16 miles west of West Plains, MO on the south side of the wilderness. ‚Äč

General Notes:

The Ozark climate is mild enough to make Wilderness visits feasible throughout the year, as long as visitors bring proper gear. When possible, take advantage of this opportunity and plan your visit outside the peak spring and fall use seasons.

Open water sources within the wilderness are not recommended for drinking.

USGS quadrangle maps can be purchased from the Forest Service or the U.S . Geological Survey. The Wilderness is located on Dora, Siloam Springs, Curea ll NW, and Pottersville quadrangle maps. Maps of each Ranger District at one half inch to the mile scale may be purchased from the Forest Service.

Wilderness rangers visit trail heads and patrol the interior of the area. They are there to assist you and answer questions. Have a pleasant wilderness experience and remember, leave only footprints and take only photographs and memories.

Be prepared --- have the right equipment and clothing for primitive travel and the season o f the year. Carry a good map and compass; practice safety and carry a first aid kit. The universal distress signal is three of anything: shots, shouts, smokes, whistles.

Devils Back bone Wilderness is surrounded by private property. Please respect the rights and property of private landowners.

Recreation Map

Map showing recreational areas. Map Information


Dispersed Camping

Recreation areas with activity Dispersed Camping:

North Fork Recreation Area locally known as Hammond Camp adjoins the north edge of the wilderness and provides quality camping and picnic opportunities. There is a designated canoe launch in this Recreation Area.

Dispersed camping is the term used for free camping anywhere in the National Forest OUTSIDE of a designated campground.

Dispersed camping means there are no toilets, no structures, no trash cans, no treated water, and no fire grates.

There are extra responsibilities required for this type of camp. It's a must to educate yourself before you try it, but we hope the adventure of dispersed camping in the Mark Twain National Forest calls to you!

  1. Pick a Campsite and follow the Leave No Trace Principles
  2. Camp 100 feet away from trails and water sources.
  3. Treat any water found in the area before consuming it.
  4. Human waste (Feces) must be buried at least 6 inches deep and covered.
  5. Pack out all of your garbage.

For more information on Dispersed Camping visit our dispersed camping page which has information on picking a campsite, how to protect water quality, and campfires!

Day Hiking

Recreation areas with activity Day Hiking:

When traveling on a trail, stay on the trail. When traveling cross-country use your map and compass. Use of blazes, ribbons or other trail markers should be avoided; let the next fellow find his own way as you did.

Remember saddle and pack stock have the right-of-way on trails. Give way to them and avoid conflicts and possible accidents.


Recreation areas with activity Backpacking:

When traveling on a trail, stay on the trail. When traveling cross-country use your map and compass. Use of blazes, ribbons or other trail markers should be avoided; let the next fellow find his own way as you did.

Remember saddle and pack stock have the right-of-way on trails. Give way to them and avoid conflicts and possible accidents.

Backpackers should leave no sign of their presence so that the next person can enjoy natural scenes and solitude. You must tread lightly so nature can endure and replenish.

  • Trail Length: 13 miles
  • Trail Surface Type: Unsurfaced, native material.

Terrain: Terrain is sometimes steep. Elevations range from 680 to 1,020 feet.
Best Seasons: Fall, winter, and spring.


Horse Riding

Recreation areas with activity Horse Riding:

Don't tie saddle and pack stock to trees as the rope rubbing and concentrated animal tramping will injure and eventually kill the vegetation.

It' s better to hobble or tie a rope between two large trees and use it as a hitch rail.

When breaking camp, scatter manure and smooth up the area.

Avoid prolonged stock grazing in one area; it can have a serious impact on vegetation. Bring concentrated supplement stock feed to help reduce this impact.

Picket your stock at least 200 feet away from waterways, trails, or camps

Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities


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