The Hercules Glades Wilderness is a 12,413-acre wilderness in southern Missouri located about seventy miles southeast of Springfield.

One thing we under appreciate as backpackers is the value of an overnight. For those who are mortals in the backpacking world (work a job), our schedules don’t allow for big hikes.

But an overnight will allow us to get our legs in shape, test gear, and see incredible things!

My overnight started from the Tower Trail-head. The Pilot Trail runs for 7.4 miles along the north side of the wildness area. The trail is clear and easy to follow.

One intersection is marked with the biggest trail marker ever. No missing this one.

Worlds Largest Trail Marker


My plan the night was camping on top of Pilot Knob, one of three peaks in Hercules Glades. I reached the first knob at dusk and bushwhacked up the hill in the dark. My friend David had told me about a camping spot on top of the knob.

Not even sure I was on the right knob, I eventually settled for, “Here’s a flat spot!” I quickly set up for the night.

About 11:00 PM I was awakened by something “chuffing” at me from across the bald. I am pretty sure it was a bear curious about what was on the other side of the clearing. It could have been a deer, but a bear makes a much better story!

The next morning the thermometer registered 37 degrees! A warm cup of coffee and some oatmeal hit the spot.

I looked for evidence of bears around the clearing. Because the bald was mostly hard rock and thick grass, I did not find any tracks. I’m sure he looked like this!

I packed up, bushwhacked down the hill back to the trail.


The further you get from the day use areas, the more spartan the trail becomes. In contrast to the majestic trail marker above, the marker for the Lower Pilot Trail was a small worn sign nailed to a tree.

The Lower Pilot Trail is honored by labeling it a trail! In several areas the only way to identify the trail, was by watching for leaves that had been walked on.

A Clear But Wet Section Of Trail

I got off trail a couple times, accidentally following a game trail. A quick check on All Trails got me back on track. It is difficult to get too lost, but a good GPS app like All Trails is helpful and might save you a cold night listening to the coyotes!

My plan was to take the Coy Bald Loop before heading to the falls. After the issues on the Lower Pilot Trail, the prospects for the Coy Bald Tail did not look promising.

With limited time, I took the cutoff to allow extra time at the waterfalls – smiles verses miles!


Several years ago I hiked to the falls, I forgot how beautiful they are!

The Falls

Because no one was there, I went total hiker trash drying my gear on the rocks around the falls. I had gear everywhere!

After a Ramen Bomb for lunch, I packed and headed up the Tower Trail to the trail-head.

The Tower Trail gets the most use, so it was easy to follow. There were several small creek crossings which I rock hopped.

Several places I wished it were the heat of summer because I would have swum in the pools!

Time For A Swim!

I highly recommend Hercules Glades!

What’s your favorite overnight adventure?

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