Mudlick Mountain at Sam A. Baker State Park is easily the most frustrating mountain in Missouri.
It stands high above the surrounding terrain, but doesn't offer any panoramic views. Like many Missouri summits, the top is generally flat and covered with tall trees. A fire tower sits at the highest point, providing a tantalizing opportunity to climb above the tree line. But the tower is fenced off with big signs warning against climbing it.
The only view is provided by a narrow clearing along a power line. Like looking through a straw, this right-of-way gives the faintest glimpse of other mountains in the distance. It's just a tease.
With an elevation of 1,313 feet, Mudlick Mountain is not nearly as tall as other Missouri summits, including Taum Sauk Mountain at 1,772 feet. However, Mudlick is one of the more difficult to climb, since the trailhead only has an elevation of approx. 440 feet. That means the trail requires a climb of over 870 feet, a serious ascent by Missouri standards.
To make matters worse, the trail is surrounded by a seemingly endless supply of poison ivy.
After such a challenging hike, the viewless summit is a frustrating let-down. Except for bragging rights, the climb to the top just isn't worth the trouble.
That's not to say that Sam A. Baker State Park isn't worth hiking. The park does feature a quality panoramic view, and it's located only half-way up the mountain, at the first of three hiking shelters.
These stone shelters were constructed as make-work projects during the Great Depression.
After the third shelter, the trail forks, with one branch turning left for the Mudlick Mountain summit and the right fork heading to Mudlick Hollow Shut-ins. While the trail to the shut-ins is also a strenuous gut-buster, the payoff is much better.
All along the hollow, a small creek cascades down an intricate series of rock ledges and pools.
Some of the ledges are tall enough to produce small waterfalls.
The trail crosses the creek four times, providing close-up looks at the scenery.
Unfortunately, the climb out of the hollow involves a 500 feet gain in elevation to reach the shelters again, but just think of this as a "State Park Exercise Program."
From Cape Girardeau, take Highway 34 west through Marble Hill and Silva. Drive straight through the new US 67 interchange and continue to the intersection with Highway 143. Turn right here and continue into the park. At the dining lodge, park in one of the parking areas on either side of the road, and look for the big trailhead sign on the left.
Be sure to pick up a color-coded trail map at the trailhead (a printable map is also available online, but it's not as detailed). The total distance to and from Mudlick Hollow is approx. 5 miles.