“A Complete Guide to Hiking and Backpacking in Missouri” describes the Piney Creek Wilderness as “a terrain of tortured roughness” and “Hiking Missouri” gives its Lookout Tower Trail the highest difficulty rating (5 boots!) so I was immediately smitten, of course. Still, it took nearly a year for me to get there, which I did on my way back from the North Sylamore Creek trip.
I intended to hike the 4 mile Lookout Tower Trail loop counter-clockwise. The trail south to the creek was easy enough to follow, as was the part that ran along the south side of the creek. The trail heading back north, however, turned out to be a different one a little further east. Instead of heading up a drainage and then gradually climbing onto a ridge, it climbed about 350 feet right up the steep tail-end of the ridge. There were some switchbacks but even they were pretty steep. Fortunately, after that climb you have more than a mile of relatively level trail.
The main purpose of this trip was reconnaissance for future backpacking trips. I had read comments on-line that said that the terrain was so rugged that it was difficult to find areas to camp. Along the south-bound leg of the trail I saw two areas that had been used before – with fire rings – where one could probably cram 4 tents. Along that ridge on the north-bound leg I think you could fit many more and be less crowded.
I saw just a tiny bit of the area but it looks promising and is about 1/2 hour closer (and less used?) than Paddy Creek Wilderness, so I’ll definitely be back. Someday I’ll make it to the nearby Roaring River State Park as well, to hike the interesting-sounding trails there.
I’ve now seen 6 of Missouri’s 8 wilderness areas and may be able to see another (Rock Pile Mountain) within the month.