"Climbing" Taum Sauk Mountain
(Missouri's High Point)

24 Sep 1995 - by Alan Ritter (view roster page)

Highpointers Club Logo Somehow, it would have been fitting to do our home state highpoint first, but as these things evolve, Taum Sauk would be our second highpoint.

Nathan (six-going-on-seven) and I hooked up with a Sierra Club group hiking to the top of Taum Sauk Mountain, the highest point (1,772.68 feet) in Missouri. The high point is now in a state park approachable by road, with a parking lot and all of a quarter-mile paved path to the high-point marker. However, not wishing to make it too easy on ourselves, we chose the bipedal approach, instead.

The hike started at the Claybaugh Creek trailhead on Highway 21, about a mile south of Highway CC which leads into the park. From there it is about 6 miles and 700 net vertical feet to the summit of Taum Sauk. The trail winds through mixed hardwood forests and up to about 1,600 feet on the adjacent Russell Mountain before dropping down about 250 feet to cross the valley between Russell and Taum Sauk. (Why the trail doesn't skirt the nearly-level ridge is a puzzlement...) That gives a total of about 1,200 feet of gross vertical motion, following the old backpacker's rule "that which goes down must come back up."

The weather was delightful, starting out in the low 50's and warming well into the 60's by noon. The leaves had just started to turn, with sumac and dogwood showing some color here and there. Early frosts the preceding mornings had knocked down the ticks and chiggers, which made for more pleasant hiking. We stopped on a rocky outcrop on Russell Mountain about halfway for lunch, where Nathan had a chance to chase a late-season skink before it skittered off into the undergrowth. By the time we had regained the altitude lost crossing the creek, Nathan was getting a bit tired, but the Sierra Club "trailer" was understanding even though we fell fairly far behind the rest of the group. Once again, Nathan held up his tradition as the Energizer Bunny...he just keeps going and going and going...

The top of Taum Sauk is nearly dead flat for the last half-mile of the trail, with perhaps a total of 20 feet change in altitude. As we approached the summit, the trail widened out with greater use and we soon came to the paved path leading to the summit and parking lot.

The Missouri highpoint is marked by a granite plaque proclaiming its altitude and status.

After signing the summit log and taking the requisite summit photos, we headed back to the cars which the drivers had ferried up before starting the hike. Two-and-a-half hours later, we picked up a pizza for dinner and arrived back home...not a bad day's outing!

Taum Sauk Summit Marker

Atop Taum Sauk Mountain

In 1999, the Highpointers Club convention was held at Taum Sauk, so Nathan and I drove down for the day and revisited our "home" highpoint.

Someone must have been feeding Nathan...he seems to have grown a bit over the intervening four years!

Once Again, on Top of Missouri

Taum Sauk Mountain, the Missouri High Point

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The Missouri highpoint is marked with this granite monument, made appropriately of pink granite mined in the state. The area around the highpoint has scattered granite boulders, and a nearby state park is called Elephant Rocks after the rounded granite outcrops which (if you have a vivid imagination) resemble huge pink pachyderms.

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Nathan and I first visited Taum Sauk as the destination of a 6-mile day hike in the fall of 1995.

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Then, in July, 1999, the Highpointers Club convention was held in Missouri, so we drove down for the Club meeting and revisited the summit, this time choosing just the short paved walk from the parking lot to the summit boulder.


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