Ha Ha Tonka - Camdenton MO - Spring/Summer 2019
Ha Ha Tonka had peaked my interest as I drove through the town of Camdenton on my way to Northern Missouri. I spotted signs suggesting campgrouds, trails, and bluffs were all in the same vicinity. After doing a little research on the area, I was on my way back down to this small town to explore the area. I arrived at the lower parking lot/trailhead, and set out without any idea of where I was going to end up!
A map at the lower trailhead displayed multiple routes to the top, where I could allegedly find the remains of an old castle, as well as multiple trails to other parts of the state park. The included trails were the Spring Trail, Boulder Ridge Trail, Devil's Kitchen Trail, Acorn Trail, Island Trail, Colosseum Trail, and Turkey Pen Hollow. I figured I may as well do them all, and experience everything this area had to offer! The Total Distance on Trail is 12.6 Miles. Fun fun!
Starting from the lower parking lot/trailhead, most people seemed to start their hike heading east down the Spring Trail. It's a nearly level hike to the featured spring and back. Most of the way is paved or boardwalk, accessible, and wide enough to pass people going either way. The spring valley is forested but canyon like, due to being a collapsed cave system. The spring forms a large creek that flows into a large pool (rich with plants and often wildlife), which drains on the far side of the island into Lake of the Ozarks. Blue spring water emerges from under a cliff, and trout may be seen there for those who look closely for movement.
Beyond the spring, the path becomes stairs and boardwalk, rising steeply up a cliff face. This is the fun part! At the top, there is a choice to take other trails, or continue the loop around and eventually back to the lower parking area. Much of the trails at the top are over natural terrain and singletrack, although wider in the more popular parts and narrower in others. The top of the Spring Trail connects to the Devil's Kitchen Trail, which splits off to the other trails listed above. If you continue up the main trail, past the steep stairs, you eventually end up at the remains of an old castle.
The Island Trail begins at a bridge connection to the Spring Trail. The bridge is actually the remains of a mill that once used the spring for power. The "island" was formed when cave passages around it collapsed to become the Spring Canyon. From the bridge, the trail climbs steeply up the island, on mostly natural terrain, with timbers for erosion control.
From there, the trail becomes a labyrinth of branching footpaths, exploring the limits of the island. Diligent explorers may find the "balanced rock," a limestone boulder that, when seen from the correct angle, has an eroded layer almost entirely under it. In my case, I did find the "balanced rock" and climbed it up and down a few times discovering any fun problems that I could find.