Are you looking for a place to hike, fish, and paddle in the Midwest? If your answer is “yes,” look no further than Crane Lake. Set within the Mark Twain National Forest, this day use area features some nice trails, a small but scenic lake, and some picturesque shut-ins. And with the area being located two hours south of St. Louis, chances are you’ll find some solitude, too.
The Mark Twain National Forest features some nice trails, a small but scenic lake, and some picturesque shut-ins.
Heading out from the trailhead parking lot, I was treated to a moderate 5-mile trek set amid a deep forest, rocky glades, a scenic shut-in, open fields and a spectacular lake overlook. The 3-mile North Loop and the 2-mile South Loop make for an excellent day hike. Without question, the best part of the trail is found in the shut-ins on the South Loop along Crane Pond Creek. The gorge-like streambed of boulders and bedrock is reminiscent of the nearby Silver Mines Recreation Area, albeit on a smaller scale and missing the crowds. Be sure to pack a camera in your pack, as the shut-ins afford some magnificent opportunities to capture the panorama of the area. Day hikers can expect to trek the 5-mile trail in three hours.
If you’re looking to backpack, the western end of the 8-mile Marble Creek Section of the Ozark Trail can be accessed here. The route requires a two-car shuttle, and it’s possible to hike the trail as a day hike, also. The eastern end of the trail is found at the nearby Marble Creek Recreation Area. Backpack camping is free on the 8-mile Marble Creek Section of the Ozark Trail.
Be sure to pack a camera in your pack, as the shut-ins afford some magnificent opportunities to capture the panorama of the area.
After my trek, I was able to explore the waters of the 100-acre lake in my kayak. The lake is known for its smallmouth bass if you’re looking to “cast” your troubles away. But no matter what your hobbies: fishing, hiking, mountain biking or kayaking, the real reason to visit Crane Lake is its solitude.
Directions From St. Louis
Crane Lake is located 114 miles south of St. Louis. Take Interstate 55 south to Hwy 67, head south on 67 to Hwy E. Head west on Hwy E 21 miles (go past the Marble Creek Recreation Area) to FH 69; head west 2.8 miles to Crane Pond Road, go south on Crane Pond Road to the parking area.
“100 Hikes in the Ozarks,” by Alan McPherson ($17.95, Cache River Press, 888-862-2243) is an excellent guide to outdoor recreation around the Crane Lake area.
After your trek be sure to stop in at the nearby Arcadian Cafe for a post-hike fuel up. Most weekend nights, the Arcadian features live entertainment in the evenings. For more information, contact: Arcadian Cafe, 123 Main Street, Arcadia, MO 63621; 573-546-2432; E-mail: email@example.com.