I'm pretty sure that everyone I have talked with who has hiked Pickle Springs considers it their favorite trail in Missouri. Hidden away just off the edge of Hawn State Park, it is particularly spectacular. It really stands out for it's sandstone rock formations, towering bluffs, and amazing views. There's something beautiful around every turn.


  • A two mile loop trail that packs in many interesting features and truly unique beauty
  • Enjoy climbing around, through, under and over some spectacular sandstone rock formations.
  • Soak in spectacular scenic overlooks
  • Relax and play by the creeks and waterfalls
  • Explore unique glacial relic species of flora and fauna due to the coolness provided by the canyon.
  • Winter at Pickle Springs often provides some of the most spectacular ice falls you’ll see in the area.


  • Most of the best waterfalls only have significant flow after a recent rain.

Getting There

From the junction of Highways 32 and W in Farmington, travel east on Highway 32 for 5 miles, then turn right (east) on Highway AA. Follow Highway AA east for 1.7 miles to Dorlac Road (gravel). Turn left (north) onto Dorlac Road and drive 0.4 mile to the parking lot on the right (east) side.



Pickle Springs Natural Area is a deep, forested gorge consisting of geological formations and plants that are found in few other places. Visitors will find examples of a sandstone glade, talus, forest, savanna, as well as a number of rare species of plants and animals. The area is noted for its blooming wild azalea and wildflowers in the spring… Pickle Springs and other area creeks flow into Pickle Creek, which in turn traverses into Hawn State Park… This two-mile journey has an estimated hiking time of 1 hour and takes hikers past waterfalls, rock shelters, a double arch, towering bluffs, canyons and amazing rock outcrops.

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Trail Through Time

As you begin hiking along the Trail Through Time, you’ll hike a bit of a spur (short trail that leads to a loop) and then hit the junction. Head left here and you’ll quickly descend through a rock layer as you enter into “The Slot” and know this isn’t your typical Missouri hike. From there, you’ll find some wooden bridges constructed along the route help visitors through some of the more tricky sections.

You will wander through limestone canyons, towering bluffs and Cauliflower Rocks (aka hoodoos or rock pillars) – large mound-like formations formed from jointed or fractured sandstone carved by millions of years of exposure to water, wind, and ice.

Just like the nearby Hickory Canyons Natural Area, Pickle Springs has a variety of species of plants and animals that are considered glacial relics, meaning species that were more commonly found in this area during the glacier age when it was much cooler here and woolly mammoths roamed the area. While your eyes will certainly be drawn to the massive and unique rock formations, make sure to notice some of the smaller features that make Pickle Springs so unique. The moist soil in the canyons and along the creeks allows the growth of many ferns and rare plants, including cinnamon fern, maidenhair fern, hay-scented fern and club moss. Keep your eyes peeled for Fence lizards, five-lined skinks, box turtles and leopard frogs along with a nice variety of birds. The lichen and moss here provide vibrant colors throughout the year.

Make sure to find the namesake Pickle Springs which flows out of sand stone rocks and gushes through granite outcrops and shut-ins, as well as sandstone and a banded crystalline rock that some geologists believe is a metamorphic gneiss rock. This is one of the few places in the state where such a diversity of rocks is exposed at the surface.


The sandstone rock here is the Lamotte sandstone that was formed from sandy beaches of a shallow ocean that existed here 500 million years ago. Since then layers of limestone were buried upon this sandstone but millions of years of erosion and uplift of the Ozark plateau have exposed the sandstone we see today. Over the eons, ice, rain, wind, plant roots, and streams have worn away this sandstone to form the many unique geologic features here. Some of the interesting geologic features include a double arch that holds up a shelf of sandstone, narrow slot-like canyons, hoodoos (mound or pillar-like sandstone blocks weathered into unusual shapes), a spring flowing out of sandstone (Pickle Springs), and sandstone talus slopes.


According to local legend, the area is named after William Pickles, a settler from Illinois who owned the land until he was shot by a band of renegades during the Civil War. Pickle originally acquired the land in 1848. The area was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1974 and is maintained by the East Ozark Audubon Society in cooperation with the Missouri Department of Conservation.