Bell Mountain Wilderness and Trail


Area Status: Open
View of the Igneous Glade found in the Bell Mountain Wilderness

This is a wonderful place to spend the day hiking!

This 9,143 acre wilderness is part of the St. Francois Mountains, one of the oldest landforms in North America. The wilderness is named for a family that once lived and farmed along the ridge top that is now known as Bell Mountain. Elevations range from 1,702 feet at Bell Mountain to 970 feet in the Joe's Creek drainage. Local relief is about 600 feet and is characterized by steep felsite and rhyolite outcroppings. Both Bell Mountain and Lindsey Mountain offer outstanding views of the surrounding area. The associated granite glades provide a variety of interesting plant and animal life.

Shut-in Creek crosses the area. It is a perennial spring fed stream with several shut-ins or gorges along its course. Steep talus slopes intersect the stream at several locations. Joe's Creek is another small perennial stream within the wilderness.

There are approximately 11.9 miles of trails maintained for hikers, including a small segment of the Ozark Trail.

A Wilderness is a special area set aside by Congress which "generally appears to have been affected primarily by the forces of nature with the imprint of man's work substantially unnoticeable?" The area is rugged and is for experienced hikers only. Before you start, be prepared with adequate supplies; water sources within the Wilderness are not recommended for drinking. Groups are limited to a maximum of 10 people, to help protect wilderness values.

Oak and hickory are the predominate tree species, with some areas of natural oak-pine and some short leaf pine plantations. Upland brush and red cedar make up a small portion of the vegetative component. Blackjack oak, winged elm, hickories, sumac, and native grasses are found on the glades. Lichens abound on the exposed-surface rock. Some areas on Bell Mountain that were cleared in the 1940's now have almost pure stands of Northern Red Oak.

Bell Mountain Wilderness provides a unique habitat situation not typical of the majority of Missouri's Ozarks. The predominately oak-hickory forest is interspersed with pine and scattered glades resulting in a diversity of plant species more common to old growth forest. This habitat situation favors mature forest species such as pileated woodpeckers, wood thrush and oven birds. Moderate populations of most game species such as white-tailed deer, wild turkeys and squirrels can be found. Visitors have a chance to see a unique environment and combination of plant and animal communities not found in other areas of the Missouri Ozarks.

 

Brochures with Maps

View overlooking Bell Mountain Wilderness on a clear day View of the Igneous Glade found in the Bell Mountain Wilderness

At a Glance

Area Amenities: Tent camping,Parking
Fees: No fees
Permit Info: Permits needed for any groups above 10 people. Contact the Potosi Ranger Station for more information.
Open Season: January - December
Usage: Light
Restrictions:
  • Limit your party size to 10 persons.
  • No camping within 100 feet of trails, water sources and other camps.
  • Practice Leave No Trace outdoor ethics;
  • Never tie stock directly to trees.
  • No motorized or mechanized equipment allowed.
Closest Towns: Belleview, Ironton
Water: None
Operated By: USDA Forest Service and Ozark Trail Association
Information Center: Potosi-Fredericktown Ranger District
Email | Phone and Address

General Information

Directions:

From St. Louis

Bell Mountain Wilderness Trail

Ottery Creek Trailhead

  • take Hwy. 21 for approximately 90 miles south through Potosi and then Caledonia to Hwy 32
  • turn right/west on Highway 32 and travel for about 7 miles to Highway A.
  • then travl south about 5 miles on Highway A to the trailhead, the trailhead will be on the right side of the road.

North Bell Trailhead

  • take Hwy. 21 for approximately 90 miles south through Potosi and then Caledonia to Hwy 32
  • turn right/west on Highway 32 and travel for about 7 miles to Highway A.
  • then travl south about 1.5 miles on Highway A to the trailhead,
  • turn left onto Iron County 61 and travel 1.5 miles to the trailhead, located on the right side of the road. 

Lindsey Mountain Trail

  • take Hwy. 21 for approximately 90 miles south through Potosi and then Caledonia to Hwy 32
  • turn right/west on Highway 32 and travel for about 7 miles to Highway A.
  • then travl south about 1.5 miles on Highway A to the trailhead,
  • turn left onto Iron County 61 and travel for 1.5 miles and Iron County 61 becomes FR 2228
  • Travel 2 miles on FR 2228 and take a right onto FR 2359.
  • FR 2359 dead-ends at the trailhead.

Recreation Map

Map showing recreational areas. Map Information

Activities

Dispersed Camping

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

Bell Mountain Trail

When entering the wilderness from the Ottery Creek Trailhead a short, 2 mile trail will take you to an intersection for the Taum Sauk Ozark Trail section and the Bell Mountain trail. If you head south you will be on the Taum Sauk, if you go north on the 1 mile connector trail you will be on the Bell Mountain trail. 

The trail can be challenging as it is rugged and rocky, you start at the base of a mountain and work your way up, so there is a lot of climbing. 

We recommend you download a digital map or print a map before heading into the wilderness. 

If starting from Ottery Creek the trail loop is 12 miles. If you start at the Bell Mountain North Trailhead it's around an 11.7 mile hike. 

 

Lindsey Mountain Trail

This a 2.2 mile out and back trail. The terrain is rocky, and can be difficult and is not marked. This is a primitive and challenging trail. 

General Info:

Safety Information

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.

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.

Drinking water is not available in Bell Mountain Wilderness, open water sources within the wilderness are not recommended for drinking. Bring your own drinking water or be prepared to boil or treat water chemically.

Flash flooding may occur during and after rainstorms; trees and limbs may fall with even moderate winds.

The universal distress signal is three of anything: shots, shouts, smokes, whistles.

You most likely will not get cell phone or internet service in many locations: even GPS satellite coverage may be spotty in some circumstances. 

Leave your camp cleaner than you found it. Pack out what you pack in. Animals generally dig up what you bury, so don't. Dispose of human waste at least 100 feet from campsites, trails and waterways, by digging a shallow hole and covering it, nature will biologically decompose.

Much of Bell Mountain Wilderness borders private property. Please respect the rights and property of private landowners.

Make sure someone knows where you are going, and when you plan to return. USGS quadrangle maps can be purchased from the Forest Service or the U.S. Geological Survey.

The Wilderness is located on the following quadrangle/topographic maps:

  • Johnson Mountain,
  • Banner,
  • Edgehill and
  • Johnson Shut-ins

A map of the Potosi District can be purchased at Mark Twain National Forest offices.

Wilderness Rangers occasionally visit trailheads and patrol the interior of the area. They are there to assist you and answer your questions.

Have a pleasant wilderness experience and remember, leave only footprints and take only photographs and memories.


Backpacking

Bell Mountain Trail

When entering the wilderness from the Ottery Creek Trailhead a short, 2 mile trail will take you to an intersection for the Taum Sauk Ozark Trail section and the Bell Mountain trail. If you head south you will be on the Taum Sauk, if you go north on the 1 mile connector trail you will be on the Bell Mountain trail. 

The trail can be challenging as it is rugged and rocky, you start at the base of a mountain and work your way up, so there is a lot of climbing. 

We recommend you download a digital map or print a map before heading into the wilderness. 

If starting from Ottery Creek the trail loop is 12 miles. If you start at the Bell Mountain North Trailhead it's around an 11.7 mile hike. 

 

Lindsey Mountain Trail

This a 2.2 mile out and back trail. The terrain is rocky, and can be difficult and is not marked. This is a primitive and challenging trail. 

Horse Riding

Bell Mountain Trail

When entering the wilderness from the Ottery Creek Trailhead a short, 2 mile trail will take you to an intersection for the Taum Sauk Ozark Trail section and the Bell Mountain trail. If you head south you will be on the Taum Sauk, if you go north on the 1 mile connector trail you will be on the Bell Mountain trail. 

The trail can be challenging as it is rugged and rocky, you start at the base of a mountain and work your way up, so there is a lot of climbing. 

We recommend you download a digital map or print a map before heading into the wilderness. 

If starting from Ottery Creek the trail loop is 12 miles. If you start at the Bell Mountain North Trailhead it's around an 11.7 mile hike. 

Equestrian users are encouraged to start their trip at Bell Mountain North Trailhead. 

 

Viewing Scenery

The views near the summit of Bell Mountain are some of the best in the Ozarks. From here you can see the rest of the St. Francis mountain range.

Concrete pilings of an old fire tower are right at the top of the summit. The tower is no longer there. 

Amenities

Tent camping:
Parking: Ottery Creek - 8 cars; North Bell - 10 cars

Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities

Location

 
  Area/Length : 
11.9 miles

  Latitude : 
37.666169

  Longitude : 
-90.851764