Cedar Creek Trail: Southern Loop Hike

The Cedar Creek Trail is just outside of Ashland, about 20 minutes South of Columbia, Missouri. My friend Ben and I started out from the Pine Ridge Campground at 12:30 PM on Friday April 11. This was a shakedown hike for me in preparation for my hike of the Georgia Section of the AT in June. It was a beautiful day for hiking, sunny with highs in the 70s. One of these days I will need to practice hiking in the rain, but there was a zero percent chance of rain as we headed North on the 22-mile Southern Loop of the Cedar Creek trail. The trail is blazed with gray diamonds.

The blazes were really hit and miss. We lost the trail a couple of times and had to backtrack a bit to find our way. We had maps and GPS so we were able to pick up the trail again. I guess “route finding” is a part of the adventure. During one of the creek crossings we saw a blaze on one side of the creek, but could not find one on the other side. Flooding had brought a ton of debris to the banks of the creek and we could not find the trail. Luckily other hikers had built a rock cairn marking the way. There would be no way a rookie could hike this trail without a map and compass.

An hour and a half or so into our hike we came across the Nevis Farmstead, an abandoned two-story house dating back to the 1800s. We stopped there for lunch.

We continued to hike North through wooded areas, road crossings, and a creek crossing until we turned West onto the Smith Creek Loop. By 3:30 or so we made it to the Cedar Creek. There is a great campsite by the creek with a large fire ring and plenty of room for tents or hammocks. We spent about and hour at the creek wading in the water and taking pictures. I would have loved to camp here. If I go back I may start at the Pine Ridge Campground and go North like we did, but I would do the entire Smith Creek Loop at stop for the night at this campsite.


After filling up with water we headed on down the trail. One of the things I have learned in hiking lightweight is to drink a full liter of water when you stop to fill up. This way I am carrying the water weight in my stomach and not on my back.


We crossed over the Devil’s Backbone Road and talked to a guy, apparently a local, who was hiking back towards the Cedar Creek. He was telling us a little about the area and warned us that the next section would take us through a pasture, but it was indeed the trail. We followed the trail through a few connected pastures, lost the trail for a bit, before finding it again. I didn’t mind hiking through pastures/meadows or even the road walking, but I missed being in the woods. We started road walking as the sun was going down.

We debated whether or not to go on or make camp, but we decided to go forward. We found a nice clearing in the woods not far off the road and we made camp. I was able to hang my hammock and tarp before the sun went down. For supper I boiled water and cooked Spanish Rice, which I spooned out onto two tortillas and covered them with string cheese. I rolled it up like a burrito. The only thing I was missing was hot sauce. I ate my fill and after supper we enjoyed a fire. As the fire died down I made my way into my hammock.


Here is my video from Day 1:


This was my first time sleeping in my new BIAS Weight Weenie hammock. I got in the hammock at about 10:20 PM and I was asleep by 10:25 PM. I woke up off and on until about 8:00 in the morning. It was great night sleep. I have never slept so long in the woods. I am now officially a hammock camper!

After pop tarts, oatmeal, and coffee we packed up camp and headed out at out 10:30 AM. Not ten minutes down the trail we came across a blow down and an open area where we could find no blazes. With no sign of the trail we followed a logging road to the gravel road we saw on the map. After walking down this road for a whole we finally found the trail again. We ended up doing a lot of road walking on the morning on day two.

By 1 PM we made it to the bridge over the Cedar Creek. We stopped here for lunch and to fill up on water. The banks were steep and muddy, but we finally found a place to fill up our water bottles. A local guy was driving by when we were eating lunch. He stopped and we chatted for a little bit. He told us not to drink straight out of the creek and watch out for ticks. He was right about the ticks. I ended up knocking two off my legs on day 2 and I found two more ticks when I got home. After a short jog through the woods we turned North and we were back in an open meadow where we spent most of the rest of the hike.


We passed some mountain bikers heading South towards the bridge where we had lunch. One of the bikers stopped and we talked for a few minutes. We are finding lots of friendly people out here. We continue hiking from meadow to meadow, most of them connect by a gate. Ben and I guessed that this was farmland or pasture land that was bought by the forestry department. It is not the same as hiking in the woods, but it was nice scenery. I was concerned about getting sunburned, because it was another sunny day. Ben ended up getting a sunburn on his arms and the tops of his hands. We continued hiking and  stopped at a nice overlook maybe a mile South of the Pine Ridge Campground.

We made it back to the trail head, finishing our loop by about 3:30 PM.

Here is my video from Day 2:

It was a good hike. As I mentioned, this hike was a shakedown hike in preparation for my section hike in the AT this summer. All my gear worked great, I just need to decide what gear I can leave behind to lighten my load. I have a number of luxury items that I may leave behind like my inflatable pillow, FM/AM radio, and camp shoes. I don’t think I need the pillow in the hammock. I used it, but I think I can get my head comfortable without it. We listened to the radio while packing up camp in the morning. It was nice, but we could have just listened to music from my iPhone. I took off my socks when we were setting up camp and put my hiking shoes back on and that felt pretty nice. I ended up wearing my camp shoes, but I don’t think I will need them on the AT. I wore my camp shoes (which are Vivobarefoot Ultras) when I had to cross the creek. No need for them on the AT.

Here are some more pictures: