This hike meanders through a beautiful mixed hardwood and pine forest. Extensive exposures of sandstone and granite can be explored along the banks of Pickle Creek and the River Aux Vases. Mosses and ferns create a luxurious effect on the moist overhangs that occur along the two streams. A hike on the Whispering Pine Trail is especially enjoyable in the spring and winter, but a summer-day hike ending with a cool dip in Pickle Creek or a backpacking trip on a crisp, fall weekend can be equally rewarding.
It can get overgrown in the summer.
When you start the trail, you'll cross two wooden bridges. The trail is signed in a counterclockwise direction with colored arrows. You'll begin on the North Trail
(blazed in red arrows) which is 6.5 miles and if you split off halfway through to do the South Trail
(blazed in blue arrows) it will add an additional 4 miles.
You'll climb to a bluff with great views over Pickle Creek, this is your first taste of the beauty of this trail. Then continue down and around to a second view of Pickle Creek, you'll hear it rushing by below you. The trail then descends to the creek with a crossing with plenty of rocks to hop across.
The trail follows the creek through a grove of pines and then makes another crossing. It will follow the creek for for a mile or two, then you'll begin your ascent. Once the trail climbs through a rocky outcropping you'll be deep in the pine forest and begin another slow climb. Once you reach the top, there are great views from two points along the ridgeline.
The trail then drops back down and this is where you have the choice to take the addition of the South Trail
. It is not as well maintained/traveled as the North Trail
but does offer two backpacking camps. There is also a nice cliff that has been cut by the River Aux Vases at the horseshoe bend that the trail follows along.
Once the South Trail
rejoins the trail, it drops through a low lying area then climbs back up steeply. There is a nice open area at the top of climb to enjoy the view and take a rest. The trail then drops back down and follows a small feeder creek which is mostly dry in the summer, but active in the spring.
The trail rejoins Pickle Creek across from the main campgrounds and you hike up the bluff line with lots of great views over the tree tops.
Water is not available at the trailhead, but can be obtained at the park office or the campground.
Whispering Pine Trail was constructed in 1976 and 1977 with the help of the Ozark Chapter of the Sierra Club. This effort has resulted in what is generally considered to be one of the best hiking and backpacking trails in the state.