Explore conservation areas on National Trails Day

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – National Trails Day is Saturday, June 4, and Missouri conservation areas (CAs) have more than 700 miles of foot, bicycle and equestrian trails to celebrate and explore.

This is the American Hiking Association’s 19th annual National Trails Day. The program is a way to celebrate trails that allow people to discover the natural world through outdoor activities. The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) provides trails at more than 136 CAs and 10 nature and education centers throughout the state. This includes 45 areas for horseback riding and 52 areas that allow cycling.

Bluffwoods CA in Buchanan County is one example of the hiking opportunities available at CAs. This area has five trails and one of northwest Missouri’s last remnants of oak-history forest. Trails include the disabled-accessible Forest Nature Trail and Lone Pine Trail, which offers a scenic overlook across the Missouri River.

Caney Mountain CA in Ozark County offers hikers a chance to roam through diverse land types that include savanna, glade and woodlands, along with a natural spring. The area even maintains a six-and-a-half-mile, multi-use trail for hiking, cycling and horseback riding.

Castor River CA in Bollinger County maintains six multi-use trails through woodlands, wetlands and streams. The area also is home to Blue Pond, Missouri’s deepest natural pond.

Brochures for self-guided interpretive hikes are available for some trails, and 28 CAs have disabled-accessible trails.

You can find a trail near you by contacting the nearest Conservation Department office or at http://1.usa.gov/kUlcW8. Check the “Designated Trails” box on this web page, and you can search for trails by region, county or type of trail and access area maps and regulations.

Hiking is permitted on all designated CA trails. Horseback riding and cycling are limited to trails specially designated for these activities. Many CA trails allow pets, but they must be leashed or confined at all times. Pets are not permitted at Nature Centers.

When hiking or riding a trail, follow these tips to help ensure a safe experience.

• Get a map and familiarize yourself with the CA you want to visit.

• Tell someone about your plans, including when you expect to return.

• Check weather conditions and avoid inclement weather.

• Dress appropriately.

• Learn to recognize possible plant and animal hazards such as poison ivy and ticks.

• Follow all area regulations.

• Leave only footprints and take only photographs.

MDC Nature Shops also offer “Conservation Trails,” a comprehensive guide to MDC trails that includes maps and facility information, points of historical and geological interest, and plants and wildlife you may encounter along the way. It is available for purchase at www.mdcnatureshop.com or at conservation nature centers for $5 plus tax. Get a 15% discount with a Conservation Heritage Card.

-Rebecca Maples-