Devils Backbone Wilderness

Area Status: Open
This area is Open

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. Trail System Map (GEO Referenced).

Trails: There are 13 miles of moderate trail within the area accessible 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.

At a Glance

Operational Hours: Year round, quiet hours 10:00 PM – 6:00 AM.
Usage: Light
Restrictions: Limit your party size to 10 persons; no camping within 100 feet of trails, water sources and other camps. Terrain is sometimes steep. No motorized or mechanized equipment allowed. Practice Leave No Trace outdoor ethics; Never tie stock directly to trees. Commercial use will not be permitted. Special uses will not be permitted, except for access to surrounded private property.
Closest Towns: West Plains; Dora
Water: None
Operated By: USFS and volunteers

General Information


Four trailheads provide entry to Devil's Backbone Wilderness. Blue Spring Trailhead is located within the North Fork Recreation Area(no horses allowed on this short section); 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 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.

Recreation Map

Map showing recreational areas. Map Information


Camping & Cabins

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Horse Riding & Camping

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Areas & Activities


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