Enjoy unusual volcanic rock formations and views of the Ozark landscape from atop this ancient mountain.
September is a great time to hike, watch wildlife and enjoy scenic views at Hughes Mountain Natural Area in Washington County. A combination of igneous glades and three types of woodland, the 462-acre area was designated a natural area in 1982 to protect its unique geology and natural communities. In fact, the area’s dramatic geology is what makes it interesting to visitors and forms the basis of its natural diversity.
Hughes Mountain, named for the region’s first European settler, rises 380 feet above the surrounding Big River floodplain and is comprised of rhyolite, a type of volcanic rock.
Hikers will enjoy the moderately challenging .75-mile Devil’s Honeycomb Trail, which leads to a stark, chunky volcanic rock formation at the summit. Known as columnar jointed rhyolite, this feature was formed from lava flows around 1.4 billion years ago. It’s the same kind of formation that appears at many other well-known sites, including Devil’s Tower in Wyoming and Giant’s Causeway in Ireland.
Aside from fascinating geologic features, you’ll also get great views of the Ozark countryside below. As you hike, notice that igneous glades are harsh places for plants, with lots of exposed rock and hot, dry conditions. Glade plant species, therefore, are hardy and diverse. They include little bluestem, broomsedge, poverty grass, the small but colorful flame flower, prickly pear cactus, yellow star grass, spiderwort and wild hyacinth. Lichens and mosses are also common on many of the rocks.
Animals often found on these glades include fence lizards, lichen grasshoppers and prairie warblers. In late September, you may also see monarch butterflies, which occasionally stage on Hughes Mountain vegetation during their journey south. They are best seen in the morning before they warm up and take off. Keep your eyes and ears sharp for fall migrating birds, such as the yellow-rumped warbler.
The area’s high natural diversity is maintained with a variety of management techniques, including prescribed burning and cedar removal.
To get to the area, travel from Potosi south 11 miles on Highway 21, then turn left on Highway M. Follow Highway M for 5 miles, and look for the parking lot on the south side of Highway M. As always, visit the area’s online atlas page (listed below) for the map and brochure before traveling.
—Bonnie Chasteen, photo by Noppadol Paothong
Recreation Opportunities: Wildlife watching, hiking and squirrel and turkey hunting during season.
Unique Features: An unusual geologic formation known as “devil’s honeycomb” atop Hughes Mountain
For More Information Call 636-441-4554 or visit mdc.mo.gov/a8252.
Editor In Chief - Ara Clark
Managing Editor - Nichole LeClair Terrill
Art Director - Cliff White
Staff Writer - Bonnie Chasteen
Staff Writer - Jim Low
Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner
Designer - Stephanie Thurber
Artist - Mark Raithel
Circulation - Laura Scheuler