Fly fishing rod

Roaring River State Park offers trails for all abilities

For hikers and anglers who like quiet parks, February is a great time to hike or catch a fish at Roaring River State Park.

There’s plenty to do at this Missouri state park south of Cassville, Mo. Anglers can catch and release rainbow trout during the park’s fly-fishing season every Friday, Saturday, Sundays and Mondays. The last day of the season is Monday.

Roaring River trails are open year round, and there are some great ones. These next two weeks are a great time to visit as Roaring River will soon be very busy.

Catch and keep trout fishing season begins March 1. This brings hundreds of anglers to the park for opening day. This is also when the campgrounds, cabins, lodge and restaurant open for the season. Roaring River State Park receives more visitors per year than any state park in Missouri.

There are easy hiking trails under a mile, or try the Fire Tower Trail for a 5 mile hike. Between the two is Devil’s Kitchen Trail at 1.5 miles and Eagle’s Nest Trail at 2.75 miles.

We had never hiked Eagle’s Nest before, so after a morning of trout fishing on January 31st, we stashed the fly rod and grabbed a hiking pole to head out into uncharted territory. Two expected surprises.

Eagle’s Nest starts at the end of Campground 2 where there is a sign and trail map. The path follows the Roaring River downstream above the water for beautiful views of the water and the fly fisherman. It is mostly flat on a north-facing hill that receives no sun. There were patches of ice the afternoon we hiked Eagle’s Nest.

After three-quarters of a mile, the trail turns right, away from the river, and hikers arrive on a gravel road. Part of the trail goes up this gravel road, which is gated and gated so there are no vehicles.

Surprise #1 is that it is a breathtaking climb on this road for about half a mile all uphill. As my dad would say, “Just think how much they would charge you for all that exercise at the spa.”

The road bends left and at a sign the trail luckily heads right back into flat forest. Here, hikers are near the top of one of the tallest hills in the park.

Rugged cliffs surround this scenic section of the path. Look down and you can see the trailhead well below where the hike started. Along this section some nice icicles made for a pretty sight, including a 15ft one clinging to the rock.

Got the idea that the trail should start meandering downhill from here and back to the trailhead, but no. Surprise #2 is another steep climb back to the gravel road. We would rate both climbs a 7 on the wheeze scale.

Go left on the road and there is still a small uphill bump, put there just to disturb hikers I’m sure. Then it’s the descent to the river and the start of the trail.

All Roaring River trails are great for hiking, bird watching, and nature photography. If climbing is not on the agenda, the Eagle’s Nest hike along the river and back to the car is an option.

Devil’s Kitchen Trail is another challenge. There is only one steep climb of about 150 meters, but it will catch your eye. For an easy and level hike, try the River Trail which starts at the CCC lodge and follows the river. It is a scenic 0.7 mile round trip for a 1.4 mile round trip.

If the trails aren’t your thing, just walking the park roads makes for a really nice visit. This is especially true in February, before the park’s peak season begins on March 1.

Flip Putthoff can be contacted at [email protected]

A 15-foot-tall icicle seen Jan. 31, 2022 along the Eagle’s Nest Trail in Roaring River State Park. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)
Photo Eagle’s Nest Trail follows Roaring River for the first part of the hike. Watch for ice along the trail. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)