Hercules Glades Wilderness


Area Status: Open
The Falls located in Hercules Glade Wilderness

Hercules Glades Wilderness Area is 12,413 acres of the most scenic and unique country in the Midwest. The Wilderness is located 10 miles northeast of Branson, MO.

Its combination of open grassland, forested knobs, steep rocky hillsides, and narrow drainages offers unusual beauty and a measure of solitude within easy reach of wilderness lovers.

Wilderness Area History

This Wilderness was designated in 1976, making it the oldest Wilderness in Missouri. The name comes from the limestone glades throughout the Wilderness and the nearby town of Hercules.

The Hercules Trailhead is also home to the 100 foot tall Hercules Fire Tower, built in 1936 and still in use today. The tower itself is closed to the public.

Terrain and Topography

The area is characterized by shallow droughty soils and limestone rock outcroppings.

The high points of Coy Bald and Pilot Knob stand more than 600 feet above Long Creek, one of only two (along with Cane Creek) year-round sources of water. There are numerous waterfalls in the Wilderness, and Long Creek has several smaller waterfalls and cascades along its path.

Long Creek bisects the wilderness east to west. Over history the creek has carved deep channels into the rock.

Trails

From the trailheads there is 32 miles of maintained trails which follows along open glades, forested ridgetops and Long Creek, the primary drainage of the area.

Wilderness Environment

The wilderness holds an array of environments, from open grasslands, forests, scenic creeks and rocky outcroppings. Eastern red cedar and oak trees are interspersed with open glades supporting native tall prairie grasses. Redbud and dogwood provide beautiful spring flowers, while smoke tree and maple put on vivid fall colors.

Brochures and Map

  • A printable brochure (3.2m pdf format) is available for download.
  • Trail System Map (printable) and Trail System Map available on the Avenza app.

At a Glance

Area Amenities: Tent camping,Camping trailer,Picnic tables,Toilets,Parking
Fees: There are no fees at any trailhead
Permit Info: Commercial use will not be permitted. Special uses will not be permitted, except for access to surrounded private property.
Open Season: January - December
Usage: Light
Restrictions: In the Wilderness
  • No camping within 100 feet of an established trail, stream, body of water, cave, rock, shelter, other occupied campsites or other restricted camping areas.  
  • No building, maintaining, attending or using a fire, campfire, or stove fire within 100 feet of an established trail.
  • Group size is limited to 10 people
  • No possessing or using mechanized or motorized vehicle.
  • No riding, hitching, tethering, or hobbling a horse or other saddle or pack animal in violation of posted instructions.
  • No hitching or tethering saddle or pack animals directly to live trees.
  • No picketing horses or mules within 100 feet of water or trail.
Trailhead
  • No trash containers; please pack out all your trash.
  • Dogs must be on a 6 foot leash in the trailheads.
  • Fireworks are prohibited
Closest Towns: Bradleyville; Forsyth; Theodosia, Taneyville
Water: None
Restroom: Hercules Tower Trailhead
Operated By: USDA Forest Service
Information Center: Ava Cassville/Willow Springs Ranger District
Email | Phone and Address

General Information

Directions:

Three trailheads provide entry to the Hercules Glades Wilderness.

From Bradleyville

The Hercules Tower Trailhead 

  • Travel south on Highway 125 for 9.3 miles
  • The site will be on your right.

The Blair Ridge Trailhead 

  • Travel 9.5 miles south on Highway 125
  • Turn right onto Forest Road 155 and travel approximately 2 miles

From Forsyth

The Coy Bald Trailhead 

  • Travel on Highway 160 east for 9 miles
  • Turn left onto Forest Road 566 and travel for approximately 4 miles

Parking:

Blair Ridge Trailhead

This is a small parking lot that holds about 4 vehicles.

Coy Bald Traihead

This is a small parking area. The road loops around and goes back out to the main road. Within the loop there are several picnic tables and campsites.

Hercules Tower Trailhead

The three parking sites that hold four cars each. The campsites are near those parking areas.


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.

Private Property – Hercules Glade Wilderness is surrounded by private property. Please respect the rights and property of private landowners.

Safety Information

Wilderness has inherent dangers, and is a primitive setting where you meet nature on its own terms.

  • Bring a map and compass, and first aid kit.
  • 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.
  • Be sure to tell someone your plans,
  • don’t hike the wilderness alone and
  • carry extra supplies so you are prepared to take care of yourself in case you get lost, injured, or delayed.
  • The universal distress signal is three of anything: shots, shouts, smokes, whistles.
  • Be prepared to sanitize water for drinking

For more safety tips visit the Safety section of the website.

Maps

Quadrangle maps for this wilderness are: The wilderness is located on Hilda and Protem NE quadrangle maps. They are available for sale at Forest Service Offices or on the USGS Website.


Recreation Map

Map showing recreational areas. Map Information

Activities

Dispersed Camping

Protect the solitude; seek out campsites in the Wilderness that are out of sight and sound of trails and other camps. When sharing an area keep a low profile and maintain the solitude.

Hercules Tower Trailhead

There are five campsites, two are down a set of stairs. The other 3 are located next to the parking areas. There are picnic tables and fire rings at each site.

Coy Bald Trailhead

There are 3 pull-in sites where you can camp with picnic tables and fire rings.

Camping in the Wilderness

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!

General Info:

Parking

Blair Ridge Trailhead

This is a small parking lot that holds about 4 vehicles.

Coy Bald Traihead

This is a small parking area. The road loops around and goes back out to the main road. Within the loop there are several picnic tables and campsites.

Hercules Tower Trailhead

The three parking sites that hold four cars each. The campsites are near those parking areas.


Day Hiking

Key attractions along the trails include Long Creek Falls, panoramic views of the Ozarks countryside, and a variety of native communities including open limestone glades and mixed forests.

Hiking the Wilderness

  • Visiting the Wilderness is a primitive experience: trails are not well marked, and there are no bridges crossing streams.
  • Be aware of natural hazards that may occur within the Wilderness, and take precaution to maintain your safety.
  • We recommend you download a digital map or obtain a print map before heading into the wilderness.
  • Backpackers should leave no sign of their presence so that the next person can enjoy natural scenes and solitude. Tread lightly so nature can endure and replenish.
  • Remember that saddle and pack stock have the right - of – way on trails. Step surely off the trail on the downhill side. Give way to them and avoid conflicts and possible accidents.

Wilderness Trails

There are 9 trails within the Wilderness for a total of 32 miles of trail. Some sections of the trails are steep and there are several creek crossings. Most of the trails are connected to each other.

  • Blair Ridge Trail – 2.6 miles
  • Coy Bald Trail – 4 miles
  • Long Creek Trail  - 5.4 miles
  • Lower Pilot – 1.7 miles
  • Middle Trail  1.3 miles
  • Pees Hollow Trail – 5.5 miles
  • Pete Hollow Trail – 1.3 miles
  • Tower Trail – 6.7 miles
  • Upper Pilot – 1.7 miles

Coy Bald Trailhead is the western trailhead. It connects you to the Coy Bald and Long Creek Trails. Long Creek Trail connects to the 4-mile Pea's Hollow loop and you can hike north along the hollow bottom, then back along the ridge.

Long Creek Trail crosses the creek several times. From this trail you can access the waterfalls.

Hercules Tower Trailhead is on the east side of the wilderness and connects you with Pees Hollow (loop trail), the Tower Trail and Long Creek.

The first part of the Tower Trail is mostly level, then it descends a slope to Long Creek.

Lower Pilot, Middle Trail, Pete Hollow and Upper Pilot are connecting trails between Long Creek and Tower Trail, located at intervals along those two trails. From these trails you can hike loops of varying lengths throughout the wilderness.

Blair Ridge Trailhead connects you to the Blair Ridge Trail. From there you can connect to the Long Creek Trail, this is the trail that takes you straight to the Long Creek Falls. The falls are a 10-foot tall where water has carved out the rock. Pools are created during warmer months, but dry out during the summer or dryer weather.

Backpacking

Key attractions along the trails include Long Creek Falls, panoramic views of the Ozarks countryside, and a variety of native communities including open limestone glades and mixed forests.

Hiking the Wilderness

  • Visiting the Wilderness is a primitive experience: trails are not well marked, and there are no bridges crossing streams.
  • Be aware of natural hazards that may occur within the Wilderness, and take precaution to maintain your safety.
  • We recommend you download a digital map or obtain a print map before heading into the wilderness.
  • Backpackers should leave no sign of their presence so that the next person can enjoy natural scenes and solitude. Tread lightly so nature can endure and replenish.
  • Remember that saddle and pack stock have the right - of – way on trails. Step surely off the trail on the downhill side. Give way to them and avoid conflicts and possible accidents.

Wilderness Trails

There are 9 trails within the Wilderness for a total of 32 miles of trail. Some sections of the trails are steep and there are several creek crossings. Most of the trails are connected to each other.

  • Blair Ridge Trail – 2.6 miles
  • Coy Bald Trail – 4 miles
  • Long Creek Trail  - 5.4 miles
  • Lower Pilot – 1.7 miles
  • Middle Trail  1.3 miles
  • Pees Hollow Trail – 5.5 miles
  • Pete Hollow Trail – 1.3 miles
  • Tower Trail – 6.7 miles
  • Upper Pilot – 1.7 miles

Coy Bald Trailhead is the western trailhead. It connects you to the Coy Bald and Long Creek Trails. Long Creek Trail connects to the 4-mile Pea's Hollow loop and you can hike north along the hollow bottom, then back along the ridge.

Long Creek Trail crosses the creek several times. From this trail you can access the waterfalls.

Hercules Tower Trailhead is on the east side of the wilderness and connects you with Pees Hollow (loop trail), the Tower Trail and Long Creek.

The first part of the Tower Trail is mostly level, then it descends a slope to Long Creek.

Lower Pilot, Middle Trail, Pete Hollow and Upper Pilot are connecting trails between Long Creek and Tower Trail, located at intervals along those two trails. From these trails you can hike loops of varying lengths throughout the wilderness.

Blair Ridge Trailhead connects you to the Blair Ridge Trail. From there you can connect to the Long Creek Trail, this is the trail that takes you straight to the Long Creek Falls. The falls are a 10-foot tall where water has carved out the rock. Pools are created during warmer months, but dry out during the summer or dryer weather.

Horse Riding

Key attractions along the trails include Long Creek Falls, panoramic views of the Ozarks countryside, and a variety of native communities including open limestone glades and mixed forests.

Hiking the Wilderness

  • Visiting the Wilderness is a primitive experience: trails are not well marked, and there are no bridges crossing streams.
  • Be aware of natural hazards that may occur within the Wilderness, and take precaution to maintain your safety.
  • We recommend you download a digital map or obtain a print map before heading into the wilderness.
  • Backpackers should leave no sign of their presence so that the next person can enjoy natural scenes and solitude. Tread lightly so nature can endure and replenish.
  • Remember that saddle and pack stock have the right - of – way on trails. Step surely off the trail on the downhill side. Give way to them and avoid conflicts and possible accidents.

Wilderness Trails

There are 9 trails within the Wilderness for a total of 32 miles of trail. Some sections of the trails are steep and there are several creek crossings. Most of the trails are connected to each other.

  • Blair Ridge Trail – 2.6 miles
  • Coy Bald Trail – 4 miles
  • Long Creek Trail  - 5.4 miles
  • Lower Pilot – 1.7 miles
  • Middle Trail  1.3 miles
  • Pees Hollow Trail – 5.5 miles
  • Pete Hollow Trail – 1.3 miles
  • Tower Trail – 6.7 miles
  • Upper Pilot – 1.7 miles

Coy Bald Trailhead is the western trailhead. It connects you to the Coy Bald and Long Creek Trails. Long Creek Trail connects to the 4-mile Pea's Hollow loop and you can hike north along the hollow bottom, then back along the ridge.

Long Creek Trail crosses the creek several times. From this trail you can access the waterfalls.

Hercules Tower Trailhead is on the east side of the wilderness and connects you with Pees Hollow (loop trail), the Tower Trail and Long Creek.

The first part of the Tower Trail is mostly level, then it descends a slope to Long Creek.

Lower Pilot, Middle Trail, Pete Hollow and Upper Pilot are connecting trails between Long Creek and Tower Trail, located at intervals along those two trails. From these trails you can hike loops of varying lengths throughout the wilderness.

Blair Ridge Trailhead connects you to the Blair Ridge Trail. From there you can connect to the Long Creek Trail, this is the trail that takes you straight to the Long Creek Falls. The falls are a 10-foot tall where water has carved out the rock. Pools are created during warmer months, but dry out during the summer or dryer weather.

Viewing Wildlife

A variety of wildlife species live within the Hercules Glades including white-tailed deer, raccoons, rabbits, squirrels, turkey, quail, songbirds, lizards and snakes.

Copperheads and rattlesnakes may be encountered. Roadrunners, collared lizards, tarantulas, wild hogs and black bears are some of the more uncommon wildlife residents.

The ultimate wildlife viewing experience is watching animals in their habitat.  Here are some helpful tips to become a wildlife friendly viewer:

  • Use the right tools - A field guide, a pair of binoculars and a camera.  Wear clothing that is appropriate for the season and activity.
  • Watch at dawn and dusk - This is the time when most wildlife species are active enough to view.
  • Keep your distance - Maintain a distance that is comfortable for the wildlife.
  • Stay quiet - Move slowly and quietly to increase your chances of viewing wildlife, and to avoid stressing the animals you wish to watch.
  • Do not feed the wildlife - There is plenty of food availale in the wild.  Human food can cause digestive problems, provide improper nutrition, and even kill an animal. 

An online version of the Missouri Wildlife Viewing Guide is available on their website.

Picnicking

Hercules Tower Trailhead

Several picnic tables are available when no one is using the campsites and there is one table in the loop for general use.

Coy Bald Trailhead

There are 3 picnic tables, no grills are available. There are rock fire rings near each table.

Amenities

Camping trailer: Hercules Tower
Picnic tables: Hercules Tower, Coy Bald
Tent camping: Hercules Tower, Coy Bald
Parking: Hercules Tower, Coy Bald, Blair Ridge
Toilets: Hercules Tower

Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities

Location

 
  Latitude : 
36.69281842

  Longitude : 
-92.91771767