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A 2.4-mile loop of the Gans Creek Main Loop with great views (and one short side trip).

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827' 252 m


701' 214 m


207' 63 m


212' 65 m



Avg Grade (2°)


Max Grade (6°)

Dogs Leashed

Features Birding · Cave · Fall Colors · River/Creek · Spring · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife

Open to horses in some seasons.


This hike starts in area overgrown with cedars and honeysuckle, but quickly leads to open oak hickory forest. The route runs by the best bluff overlook views in in the park. A short side trip will include another scenic viewpoint that makes it hard to believe you are looking toward the city of Columbia. There is a nice flat stretch in the bottom and a long satisfying switchback along the way, making for a varied hike.

Need to Know

To complete this loop, do not cross Gans Creek. The part that goes through the group camp may be confusing, but is blazed on both sides of the opening. There are restrooms located at the group campsite. Stop by the Pierpont General Store for refreshments.


Starting by hiking counterclockwise from the Shooting Star Trailhead, this route starts in dense growth of cedars and exotic honeysuckle. Take the Gans Creek Main Loop to start. As you move different directions around the loop, the color of the blazes will change. Heading counter-clockwise the blazes will be red, and heading clockwise the blazes will be blue.

It will only be a short while before you detour to the west on the #3 Connector Trail. This trail will lead you through an oak hickory forest to great bluff views overlooking Gans Creek. The trail goes down to the creek, but this loop does NOT cross. Instead, take a left hand turn to head south on the #2 Connector Trail. Here there is a great flat stretch of singletrack that leads up the valley. Once you've enjoyed the flat, a big switchback up will climb through a small valley. If you're up for a short side trip (west) to one more great blufftop view, hang a right at an intersection with the Gans Creek Main Loop, following that trail out to a viewpoint before retracing your steps.

Return east and make your way back toward the parking lot on the Gans Creek Main Loop trail, which here has a red blaze. You'll pass through the group camping area where there are restrooms, and continue back into the thick cedars/honeysuckles to return to the trailhead.

Flora & Fauna

Heard tanagers, vireos, wood thrush, and a Louisiana waterthrush.


Shared By:

Paul P with improvements by Zac Nixon

Trail Ratings

  4.3 from 7 votes


  4.3 from 7 votes
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in Missouri


39 Views Last Month
8,191 Since May 17, 2017
Intermediate Intermediate



Leading up the the best lookout point on the loop!
Mar 6, 2020 near Columbia, MO
Looking out off of the first bluff you come to, if you take a left at the fork. It doesn’t get much better than this.
Oct 9, 2018 near Columbia, MO
The trails fork at Gans Creek. If you're doing the Shooting Star Loop, do not cross. Crossing here connects to the Wagonwheel Trailhead.
May 17, 2017 near Columbia, MO
This is the largest of the several overlooks on this stretch.
May 10, 2017 near Columbia, MO
At the second creek crossing, the rocks can be slick! - Watch for a split in the trail across the creek.
May 10, 2017 near Columbia, MO
The trail makes a sharp right and follows blazes with the number three.
May 10, 2017 near Columbia, MO



Current Trail Conditions

All Clear 67 days ago
Add Your Check-In


Jun 4, 2022
Jon B
Fell at second crossing 3.5mi — 1h 30m
Aug 21, 2020
Kim Leon
Jun 6, 2020
Ashley Pappineau
Intermediate trail, hilly, muddy and rough terrain but one of the best! 2.5mi
Oct 10, 2018
Kimmy Bodle
Jul 28, 2018
Jeff Piland
Saturday hike with Rhonda 2.5mi
Jul 25, 2018
Jeff Piland
Rhonda can do this. 2 nice views over bluffs on trail 10 2.4mi — 0h 56m
Oct 29, 2017
Kristin Nies
Nola Bean rocked this trail! She did 1.5 miles with her own two feet. Coolest 3 year old on the planet. Mommy-Bean date. 2.5mi

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