My husband, Richard, and I live in Denison, Texas, which is about an hour north of Dallas. Last fall, we decided to be adventurous, and go afield to the Ozarks of Missouri. We decided on a place called Slabtown Trail Rides, about 20 minutes west of Licking, in south-central Missouri. The drive to Slabtown took us a little over eight hours.
Greg Cook, the owner of Slabtown Trail Rides, built most of the camping facilities himself. There are 20 nicely shaded campsites, complete with electricity, water hookups, picnic tables, fire rings, and even leveling blocks. The town of Licking is an easy 20-minute drive away, if you need groceries or would like to eat at a good restaurant.
Across from the campsites is a shed row with 40 covered stalls. Adjacent to the camp area is a heated bathroom and shower house.
When we arrived, we settled in our two Missouri Fox Trotter mares, Shady and Trixie. The first day, we took a short ride into the Mark Twain National Forest. Greg's property backs right up to it. A lot of the trail goes through shady creek beds.
When we returned to our campsite, Greg greeted us with a plate full of freshly caught croppy, the first of many nice things he did to make us feel at home. He's very knowledgeable about the area, and knows the trails inside and out. He's happy to guide you on the trails when his schedule permits.
We spent the next three days riding on the Big Piney Trail in the Paddy Creek Wilderness, also accessible right from the campground. This area features more than 7,100 acres of pristine wilderness. There are two main trails: the North Loop (about 10 miles long) and the South Loop (about eight miles long). There are many side trails to explore, as well.
On each loop, there are several scenic overlooks with breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and Paddy Creek below. There are also unusual rock formations and rocky outcroppings and bluffs.
If You Go
It's recommended that your horse be shod, but we were surprised to find that most of the trails weren't very rocky. Those with gaited horses will enjoy the many smooth trails, ideal for moving along at a faster clip.
Your horse should be in good physical condition for the uphill climbs. I'd rate the trail difficulty as "moderate." The trails were fairly well-marked. We met several other riders, but no motorized vehicles are allowed, which is great for us equestrians!
Slabtown Trail Rides is open year-round, but probably the best times of year to go are fall - when maples and other hardwoods are in full color - and mid- to late April, when the dogwoods are in bloom.