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Hiking at Devil’s Den State Park

Devil’s Den State Park quickly became one of our favorite parks we’ve ever been to, so much so that we needed to break it up into two separate posts! Our other article about the park as a whole can be found here, but one neat aspect of the park that deserved its own post is the variety of hiking trails that can be found throughout. The place truly has a trail for everyone, but before I go any further, why did nobody ever tell me that the mud in the Ozark Mountains is apparently made with ice, baby oil, and Mario Kart banana peels? Our visit came during a period of on-and-off rain so, thanks to that mud, we weren’t able to explore as much as we’d liked, but the older boys and I were able to take advantage of the quick and easy Lake Trail. The Lake Trail meanders along Lee Creek as it flows down toward the dam that was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930’s, which makes for a beautiful hike that actually crosses the dam and Lake Devil. It also conveniently passes right by the pool and shop, so it’s a wonderful family walk that allows for some time for the kids to play in the creek bed (barring any flooding) before diving in the pool and throwing down a picnic basket!

The dam built by the CCC

If you’ve been reading any of this blog, you know I’m a history buff, and Devil’s Den State Park is no stranger to history. Along the very Lake Trail that we hiked you can find fossils of coral and crinoids, which would have been the ancestors of our modern-day starfish. Though we didn’t see any (because I didn’t do my research beforehand and didn’t know to look), it’s a cool potential learning opportunity to explain some geological history. Fast forward millions of years to the Civil War and the endless sandstone caves that are littered throughout the area were great hiding places for both gang members and soldiers engaging in guerrilla tactics. A short time later in the 1930’s, a group called the Civilian Conservation Corps came through and did a ton of backbreaking work to the place. If you visit the shop and ranger station or if you walk across the dam, you can thank the young folks in the 30’s who spent a significant amount of time building all of those structures and developing some of the trails that are still in use today.

Looking at Lake Devil from one side of the dam. Lee Creek continues off to the right

The park has some plaques scattered around the dam (and other spots) that explain the contributions of the CCC, and there are some insightful photos on them that help truly explain how demanding of a task they had. The workers slept in military-style barracks and took bets on how long it would take for the lake to fill once the creek was finally dammed up (one of the bets was for cigars, which I personally think is awesome). Some of the pictures even show the workers swimming and diving in the lake after their backbreaking work was finally finished. Speaking of the lake and dam, if you do much fishing, the dam is an awesome spot to sit and throw out a line. The craggy lake bottom and the dam make for some outstanding fishing holes.

A view further down the valley

In addition to the Lake Trail, we also tried to take a quick walk along the famous Yellow Rock Trail; however, the aforementioned banana peels rain and mud quickly made it obvious that we weren’t correctly equipped to make that trek. I mention it here, though, because it has some of the best views in the park, including the CCC Overlook where our featured image on this post was taken. If you find yourself in Devil’s Den State Park and can manage to make this 3-mile (elevation not included) hike, it seems to be well worth the sore legs!

Between the cozy and well-kept camper cabins, the beautiful mountain scenery, the history, the recreation, and everything else Devil’s Den State Park offers, it’s no wonder it is definitely our favorite overnight from our Midwest Road Trip. Go check out our Youtube channel at that link to get caught up on our videos, and be sure to keep up to date on our blogs, as well! We’ll be heading to Mississippi next!

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