Day Trippin near southwest Missouri: Pedestal Rocks and King's Bluff Looped Trails

Seth Kinker
Neosho Daily News

Over the course of this summer, I’ll be plotting out and exploring some day trips that can be made in the southwest Missouri area.

This past weekend, I tackled #3 and #6 off of the list of the “best Ozark hikes” which were the Pedestal Rocks Loop and King's Bluff Loop trails.

This trip teetered right on the edge of a “day trip” for me, taking just over three hours to get there but I wanted to knock it off the list.

I know had mentioned in my last trip to Tanyard Creek that I had been keeping the rising temperature in mind and looking for hikes that ideally had water in form of waterfalls or rivers on these hikes.

This hike had a couple of very small waterfalls and one bigger waterfall that wasn’t flowing very strong, probably due to the hot streak of weather we’ve been having. So, bring some extra water and don’t plan on being able to swim!

Travel time: I left from Joplin a little bit after 9:30 and arrived just before 1 p.m. I used Google Maps and easily found the Pedestal Rocks and King's Bluff Trailhead.

There’s a bathroom in the looped parking area right next to the trailhead.

I finished the Pedestal Rocks Loop trail at 3 p.m. with the trail connecting to the King's Bluff Loop trail and went right into that loop.

I arrived back to my car at 4 p.m. and was home by 8 p.m. with around trip total of 345 miles.

There is a section of the road closed off on the way there making it one lane traffic and forcing you to wait for the other side to drive through, that caused a small delay in getting there and home.

A sign just past the trailhead parking, showing you your options to hike the Pedestal Rocks or King's Bluff Loops.

What to look out for: After going down the trailhead a bit, you come to a sign that shows you the way to Pedestal Rocks or King’s Bluff. Posts online said the trails were hard to find, but I found the trails are fairly straightforward, despite being unmarked and only one to two people wide.

I went straight towards the 2.2-mile Pedestal Rocks Loop trail first because I saw it connected with the King's Bluff Loop trail and that brought me to three paths, one that went left, straight, and right.

The sign on the right was marked for the King's Bluff trail so I went straight and eventually came out at the left path before crossing over to the marked King's Bluff trail.

The majority of the trail was through the woods, you don’t see anything noteworthy until you take the bend of the looped trail that takes you back towards the three initial trails that you started at.

On the right-hand side after the bend, they’re not marked, but if you look through the foliage you can begin to see the rock shelves peek through. As you continue along the trail, more outlook spots will be on smaller unmarked trails on your right-hand side.

Some of them have had their views naturally blocked by growing foliage over the years but many provides excellent open-air views where you’ll be standing right on the edge if you so choose.

I spent a lot of time on this trail because at the first pedestal rock, I noticed there were other paths going down below the rock shelf. Once down there, you can continue to go along the rock shelf, exploring and climbing over small caves and crevasses along the way.

A view from under the rock shelf on the Pedestal Rocks Loop trail.
A view from under the rock shelf on the Pedestal Rocks Loop trail.

As long as you’re keeping the rock shelf on your left, you’re walking parallel with the trail. I was able to explore under the rock shelves while eventually coming out to a path that lead me back to the trail.

Crossing over to the King's Bluff Loop trail, it was another short walk through the woods and then you were out on the very edges of the rocks with a huge drop-off on your left-hand side.

There were tons of opportunities all along the bluffs for great unobscured views over the valley below.

That took me to the waterfall on the King's Bluff, you know you are there when the path opens out onto the top of a huge rock shelf, with a fence along the edge.

A view from the King's Bluff Loop trail.

As you walk towards the end of that rock shelf, the waterfall flows along the far side and drops over the edge. This waterfall’s flow is probably much more substantial after any small amount of rain, but it has been so sunny lately that the stream was weak when I hiked it.

As you walk along that big rock shelf with the drop off and fence to your left, on your right-hand side will be a sign that points you back to the parking loop. It is .9 miles to the parking, just over half of the 1.7-mile loop.

The travel time wasn’t great but the ability to explore under the big shelves of rock along with the views when you were above made it worth it to me.

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