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HERCULES GLADES

Glades, part of the Ava-Cassville-Willow Springs wilderness district – located in Douglas county, has 12,413 acres of the most scenic and unique country in the Midwest. It’s combination of open grassland, forested knobs, steep rocky hillsides, and narrow drainage offers unusual beauty and a measure of solitude sought out by nature lovers of all sorts.

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The United States Congress designated it a wilderness in 1976, making it the oldest wilderness area in Missouri. Some of the most scenic country in Missouri, perhaps in the Midwest, lies protected by the Hercules Glades Wilderness: open grassland, forested knobs, steep rocky hillsides, limestone outcroppings, a maze of narrow drainages, and hollows cut by water. 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.

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Three trailheads provide entry to the Hecules Glades Wilderness. The Hercules Tower Trailhead is located along Highway 125 8.5 miles south of Bradleyville, MO. There is a vault toilet, space for camping and parking at this location.Redbuds and dogwoods flower beautifully in spring, and smoke tree and maple vividly paint the fall. Glades of prairie grass often open a forest dominated by eastern red cedar and oak. This is a fine home for deer, raccoons, rabbits, squirrels, turkeys, and quail. Rattlesnakes and copperheads may be encountered. Rare but well-documented sightings report roadrunners, tarantulas, and collared lizards.

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The Hike: The Hercules Glades Wilderness has three trailheads.  The one used for this narrative is the Hercules Tower (aka Pilot) trailhead on the east side of the wilderness, and is accessed by Missouri Highway 125. Highway 125 is a good black top road and the entrance is a short flat gravel road suitable for any vehicle.  The second is the Coy Bald Trailhead, on the west side. Take the Cross Timber Rd off US Highway 160 and follow it to Cane Creek.  At the creek the road becomes rough gravel as it climbs the hill.  It may not be suitable for low clearance vehicles.  The third trailhead is to the south, off Blair Ridge Rd.  There is a small parking lot just off the black top.

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The first part of the trail is mostly level, then it descends a slope to Long Creek. Or, take the 4-mile Pea's Hollow loop north along the hollow bottom, then back along the ridge. The Blair Ridge Trailhead is located 9.5 miles south of Bradleyville, MO on Highway 125; turn right onto Forest Road 155, go approximately 2 miles. There is only parking available at this location. The Coy Bald Trailhead is located off of Highway 160 east of Forsyth, MO 9 miles, turn left onto Forest Road 566 and go approximately 4 miles. There is parking available at this location.

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