The state of Missouri is well known for its beautiful forests – especially in the southwest area. The terrain and the lay of the land here is unique to this area – you would find geography like it anywhere else. Busiek State Forest and Wildlife Area, located directly off of Highway 65 in the Mark Twain National Forest, is one of the best places to go to see some of southwest Missouri’s rugged landscape showcased. Whether you are a hiker, a trail rider, a bird watcher, a naturalist, or something else, you’re sure to fall in love with this beautiful forest.
If you are an avid hiker, you’ll want to grab your favorite pair of walking shoes and your backpack and make a trip to Busiek State Forest. Busiek has a range of 2,505 forested acres, and the fourteen miles of trails that the conservation area offers gives hikers a small taste of everything. Busiek State Forest has several different trails of varying degrees of length and difficulty. Some of the trails have shortcuts and loop back on each other, but don’t worry – trails are well marked for ease of navigation! Be aware of the loose rock on some of the trails and be mindful of snakes in the warmer season! For more information on the trails, visit the Missouri Department of Conservation’s website.
Some of the best horseback riding in southwest Missouri can be found here at Busiek State Forest. The terrain (and the footing!) changes alternately depending on which trail you ride. The Silver Trail, for example, is one of the most challenging trails to tackle horseback. Large rocks and nearly vertical uphill slopes require physical fitness on the part of both the horse and rider – but the views from the top of the trail are worth it! The Red Trail, which is a bit shorter and not nearly as grueling, follows some of the flatter parts of Busiek in some areas – so if you and your steed aren’t up for as many hills, this would be a good loop to ride. All of the trails provide horse and rider with obstacles such as creek crossings, rocks, the occasional fallen tree, mud holes and wildlife encounters. If you plan to pack your saddlebags and ride all day, there are numerous places along the trails where you can stop to water your horse and let him or her grab a bite of grass!
Flora, Fauna, Wildlife and Camping
Busiek State Forest is home to enough critters and plants to keep any naturalist happy for weeks on end – plus it all changes with the seasons, so there is always something new to see! During the spring, Redbud and Dogwood trees practically explode with flowers, giving the forested slopes a purple, pink and white hue. During the summer, the sycamores along the creek banks leaf out, making nice shady spots to sit and enjoy nature, and many of Missouri’s wildflowers begin to dot the hillsides. Autumn is a great time of year to climb up to the top of the high ridges and check out the colors of the fall leaves. Whitetail deer are prevalent throughout the forest year-round – you can often find their tracks along the trails after a rainstorm. You might even find the occasional buck rub. Smaller critters like rabbits, armadillos and squirrels can also be seen here. Busiek State Forest is home to many birds as well – Red Tailed Hawks, assorted finches, and Blue Jays are just a few of the feathered friends that make their home here. During the first two weeks of May, several varieties of warblers (American Redstart Warbler, anyone?) pass through the area. If you just can’t get enough of Busiek, you can obtain a camping permit from the conservation department and camp at one of the forest’s beautiful creekside campsites. Just be sure to respect Mother Nature and pick up all of your trash!
For a great nature experience in the Ozarks, come spend the day at Busiek State Forest – it’s a place you won’t mid getting lost in for a little while!