AVA, Mo. (Oct. 17) – The Glade Top Trail is a National Forest Scenic Byway on Mark Twain National Forest. Originally constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s, this popular graveled road winds its way along ridgetops in beautiful glades and woodlands. The blend of trees and open spaces provides spectacular vistas in autumn and makes the annual Flaming Fall Revue a very popular event. Those who traveled to the Revue on Oct. 21 also found a large section of the Glade Top Trail had been improved by the Forest Service this year.
Recently, the Forest Service improved 17 miles of the two-lane, gravel road, from Douglas County Road 409 to Forest Road 174. The project removed large exposed rocks from the road’s surface and ditches, removed old (and unneeded) cattle guards, replaced deteriorated and undersized culverts, reshaped ditches to improve drainage, put down fresh gravel, and installed new signage. The road is much more enjoyable to drive along the whole 17-mile length, especially in areas where it was widened to accommodate two lanes of traffic; and the drainage improvements should help keep it looking nice for years to come. Engineers from Mark Twain National Forest and contractors made these improvements possible, meeting all project timelines.
Alongside this effort, the forest’s Lands Program staff facilitated a land acquisition along the National Scenic Byway and in doing so will also allow more public access to the beautiful glades now and for future generations.
Even if you did not attend the Flaming Fall Revue there are many ways to enjoy the Glade Top Trail year-round. Along this byway are seven scenic overlooks that provide panoramic views, reaching the Springfield Plateau twenty miles to the northwest and to the Boston Mountains in Arkansas forty miles to the south. The Glade Top Trail Interpretive Tour is a self-paced driving tour with stops identified with a 4-inch-wide blue post and a QR code (for smart devices to read to learn more about the Forest and the District). Please ensure that you have downloaded a QR code reading app before visiting the locations. Learn more on the tour’s website at www.fs.usda.gov/goto/GladeTopTrail.
Glade Top Trail was nominated and selected as a Top Ten Nature viewing site just last year. The reason is because of the plants and wildlife visitors can see and encounter in this amazing ecosystem. It offers opportunities to view wildflowers from the spring through the fall, including purple and yellow coneflower, Missouri primrose, Indian paintbrush, prairie roses, prairie dock, and milkweed (a favorite of butterflies). Missouri has among the greatest abundance and diversity of glades in the United States and the Glade Top Trail lies within the heart of some of the best remaining examples of this unique natural community.
There is a high diversity of both common and rare plants native to these glades. Wildflowers that can be seen along the Glade Top Trail include Arkansas calamint, aromatic aster, Bush’s skullcap, Gattinger’s goldenrod, Missouri black-eyed Susan, Missouri evening primrose, purple beardtongue, purple coneflower, and yellow coneflower.
Wildlife such as songbirds, raptors, upland birds, pollinators, insects, reptiles, amphibians, and small and large mammals can all be found in the vicinity as well. Visitors may encounter turkeys strutting during mating season, turkey vultures preening on Caney’s historic fire tower, deer munching on fresh new growth in meadows and glades, and even roadrunners as they chase lizards along the road. Bobwhite quail can be found frequently in the glades and many song birds can be observed year-round.
The Glade Top Trail is waiting for you to explore. Stay informed about the Mark Twain National Forest by following us on Facebook. Remember, #ItsAllYours!