Hughes Mountain Natural Area – Irondale, MO

I drove down to Irondale, MO to check out Hughes Mountain and Devil’s Honeycomb Trail. I tried to plan it where I’d get there a bit before sunset, but a car accident had traffic backed up for a good 45 minutes when I got off 55 and onto 67, (crazy thing was when I was heading home several hours later, there was another car accident in the same spot!) so I got there about 10 minutes before sunset. It still worked out great and I was able to see everything and spend time there before it got dark. As I was just a few minutes away from the trailhead, a huge bald eagle flew out of a tree and was maybe 10-12 feet above me… might be a good place to return to this winter for some eagle watching. I read that this trail was great for other birdwatching too. A minute later, a deer darted out in front of me. I wondered if I was even going to make it!

The trail up to the glade isn’t very long, maybe a shade over a mile round trip. The trail is marked by little placards in various areas… but some are hard to follow as the posts they are on are laying on the ground, but it is pretty easy to navigate.

The views were amazing and full of color with the leaves changing.

As you get higher, you start to see some pretty cool rock formations.

Once you get to the open glade, it’s like another planet. Rock slopes, scattered patches of grass, wildflowers.

The sun was just starting to set and it was beautiful.

The pinkish rhyolite had a reddish glow to it from the evening sun.

The rhyolite formations just get thicker as you go higher until there are thousands of vertical columns covering the entire summit.

The 1.5 billion year old Precambrian rock outcrops are among the most ancient exposed rocks in the United States. The rocks were once liquefied by ancient volcanoes associated with the St. Francois Mountains. Some of the molten rock contracted and cracked as it cooled to create multi-sided columns. A rhyolite formation, known locally as the Devil’s Honeycomb, is one of Missouri’s geologic wonders, and is the highest point on Hughes Mountain.

I was the only one there for awhile, it was so peaceful and breathtaking. Was a very refreshing little hike. I’d like to check this one out again in the winter for eagles and I bet it looks amazing with snow. A rainy day could also be pretty awesome.


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