I heard about the Glade Top Trail for the first time this week courtesy of Jennifer Davidson’s report on KSMU about a trip she took to see the autumn colors.
My friend Aaron and I hopped in the car today and decided to take a trip of our own out to the trail after church. After roughly an hour and 20 minutes of driving from Springfield, we found the entrance to the trail and instantly began to climb upward.
The winding 23-mile gravel road, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, offers dramatic sweeping views of areas below at multiple points along the ride. At this time of year, it is awash in red, amber and yellow as the leaves on the thousands of trees the trail passes prepare for their annual descent to the ground below.
Please note that we drove south from Ava using the north entrance to the trail.
I invite you to take a visual journey as we saw it in our trip today. A camera can never do the views from the human eye justice — but we can sure try, and try I did. I hope you enjoy the album!
The south entrance to the Glade Top Trail is a popular spot for ATV riders.
One of the first views offered to the south is a foretaste of the more dramatic and sweepjng views to come.
The first turnout, roughly 2 miles into the drive, offers a southward view of the hills and plains in the distance.
For some, driving the trail can be a bit confusing as there are numerous roads that split off from the main road. However, the Forest Service has put up signs denoting the direction of the trail.
Some views can only be seen from the road, such as this one between turnouts roughly 4 miles in.
The Arkansas View offers a miles-long view all the way to the state immediately bordering Missouri to the south.
Here’s an equally impressive view miles north into Missouri, showing off the scenery on both sides of the road.
The leaves’ collective color-changing is at its peak in Missouri, and some spots along the trail offer a view of evergreens mixed in with deciduous trees.
These leaves are just two of millions that bring the Ozarks to life in the autumn.
We hiked south from a picnic area eight miles along the road for this view.
A fire tower, used by the Forest Service and inaccessible to the public, stands high above the trees.
Just down from the picnic area is yet another view to the south.
About a mile past the picnic area, colorful leaves on trees begin to border both sides of the road.
The road narrows roughly 15 miles in, and doesn’t offer many turnouts — but the scenery under the trees is still amazing.
Many people were led to think this road was part of the trail, and who wouldn’t with this gorgeous setting?
More signs, this time in Taney County, continue to mark the way for drivers along the Glade Top Trail.
Trees begin to thin out as the trail continues to progress through into Taney County.
One final sweeping view offers a reminder of the beauty beyond the immediate trees — and offers a last chance to stretch the legs before getting back onto Missouri Route 125.
If You Go…
I highly recommend taking the north entrance into the Glade Top Trail. From Springfield, head east on U.S. Highway 60 to Mansfield, and take the Missouri Route 5 exit. Follow Missouri 5 through Ava and look for an intersection for Route A. Take a right on Route A, proceed roughly four miles and take a left where you see a sign for Glade Top Trail. The road is signed as “A 409.” Three miles beyond that, the trail begins. Happy driving!