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The Historic Glade Top Trail

Situated in an area southwest of Ava on the Douglas-Ozark county line is the 23 miles of Glade Top Trail. This is the only National Scenic Byway in Missouri.  The two lane gravel road that winds along the ridgetops and over the hills was constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the late 1930s.
Depending on the route you take, one can drive through any of four counties – Douglas, Ozark, Christian and Taney – and each has its points of interest and amazing views, especially at this time of year.
Because of the stunning and unique vistas, Glade Top Trail was added to The National Scenic Byway system in 1989.  To the south you can see the Boston Mountains in Arkansas and to the northwest you can see the Springfield Plateau.
The large glade areas are shallow soil with limestone outcroppings. Native tall prairie grasses fill the glades with scatterings of Eastern red cedar and oaks.  The glades are also home to an abundance of wildflowers in season.  The 23 mile trail also has many spring blooming trees such as redbuds, dogwoods, service berry and wild fruit trees.
When you go, bring your camera and be ready.  Besides the stunning vistas, traditional Ozarks small game like deer, turkey, rabbits and squirrel are plentiful.  You might see an immigrant to the Ozarks, the road runner. This area of our county is also home to the Bachman’s sparrow, a state endangered species.
Points of interest along the trail  highlighted in brochures designed by the Ava Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Forest Service include:
• Haden Bald which offers travelers a picnic table and parking area. This 40 acres of glade is designated as a State Natural Area that will never be grazed, but will be burned every 4 to 6 years to maintain its natural state.
• Smoke Tree Scene where the grassy glade is dotted with the brightly-colored smoke trees (or yellow woods) that almost appear to be neon when lighted by the Ozarks sunshine.
• Arkansas View offers a spectacular view into Arkansas some 40 miles away;
• Watershed Divide. This ridge is the division between the Beaver Creek watershed and the Little North Fork watershed.
• Caney Tower. Once regularly manned as a fire lookout, a house once stood on this property and a towerman lived at the tower base. The tower overlooks the Caney Picnic Area where Sunday’s activities will take place.
• Caney Picnic Area. The bare knobs seen at the Caney Picnic Area are called balds. It was on knobs such as this that the famous Bald Knobbers met and planned their raids. There is also a cave just north of the parking area which may be of interest to some.
• Mrs. Murray’s Gold Mine. The story goes that a lady living in Kansas City had a vision to dig on “The Pinnacle” and she would find gold. Although she never found it, evidence of her digging remains. Legend says local mountain people used to gather on the Pinnacle on the first Sunday in May for church services. It is said it was not unusual for a crowd of 500 people to come to these all-day events.
• Houseplace: the first settlers in this area were hunters. Then, lured by cheap land, settlers moved in until the depression years. Because of the depression, the settlers moved on. A schoolhouse at the Skyline Drive junction had over 40 children attending in the 1930s.
• Cedar Tree: This tree can survive where few other species can. The waxy blue berries, eaten by birds, are spread quickly. These berries are also used for making gin. Cedar trees have separate sexes which is why berries are seen only on half the trees.
Close to the Glade Top Trail on the southwest end is the Hercules Glades Wilderness which offers trails for hikers and horses, and dispersed camping. A vault toilet is present at the Hercules Tower Trailhead.