Hike and Float on The Ozark Trail Courtois Section

24.6 miles  - Loop Trail

Added by Ben Spaunhorst

12.6 mile hike through rolling hills, a night camping next to the beautiful Courtois River, and 12 mile float back to your vehicle.

Starting from the Onondaga trail head of the Ozark Trail, this 12.6 mile backpacking trip and 12 mile float can be completed in two full days, or stretched into three days if you want to take a more casual pace. There is plentiful water, and several good camping spots along the trail, and of course at the campground, whichever you may choose. Check out the free map of this trail on the Ozark Trail website.

Day 1:

Start at the Onondaga trail head. There is parking (across the road from the trail head) with room for 2 or 3 vehicles. If the lot is full, you can continue down the road about a 1/4 mile and park at Ozark Outdoors Resort. Make sure to check in with the staff if you do so they don't tow your vehicle!

Once you hit the trial, the first 4.5 miles is a nice meandering walk though hardwood and pine forests. The trail is well marked but does cross, and at times follow, several old forestry roads. Make sure to be on the lookout for OT signs to ensure you don't get lost.

Around the 4.5 mile mark you'll descend down to the banks of the Courtois River, and continue for about half a mile with the river on your left, and towering bluffs on your right. 

Around the 5 mile mark you'll emerge from the trail into a campground. Continue straight through the campground. At the far end of the campground you'll see OT signs guiding your way down a short wooded path, and running you straight into the Courtois River.

Time to get your feet wet and cross the river! The river is fairly shallow at this point (mid-shin high), but after a heavy rain could be much higher and in-passable. Be cautious! OT signs are visible on the far side of the river, head for them.

After crossing the river continue on along the bluffs making sure to stop and check out "The Bat Cave" just after the crossing. Around mile 8 there's a beautiful overlook of the Huzzah Valley that's a must see as well. 

Round out your 12.6 miles, and arrive at Bass River Resort for a peaceful night of camping. They even sell pizza and beer, which is a nice treat after your adventures of the day!

Day 2:

Rent a canoe or kayak from Bass, and float 12 miles back to your vehicle at the Onondaga Trail head. Expect the float to take 3-5 hours, depending on how much you pull off and stop. Your river takeout will be at Ozark Outdoors Resort, from which you can easily walk back to your vehicle. 

Tip: It's best to setup the camping and floating with Bass ahead of time to ensure you get a campsite and canoe rental. They can be very busy in the summer months. Also, let them know your plans for the hike and float back to your car. They're familiar with OT hikers, and can be helpful with your planning.

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Overall rating: 

Challenging, fun hike

The trailhead is slightly tucked away by some tree branches, across the street is a gravel parking areas that would fit two cars. Parking at Ozark Outdoors is $9/day. Very friendly and they'll direct you to the trailhead. Trail is narrow with a lot of overgrowth. Plenty of long stretches through the wooden areas, you'll take old forest roads frequently. Be aware for "OT" signs and follow them (if you come across a fork and see an "OT" sign, follow in the direction the "O" is direction). This was challenging hike, plenty of ups and downs - pack plenty of water and bug spray. With frequent water/bathroom breaks and about 30 minutes spent cooling off at the crosspoint, this took us about 6-7 hours to complete. The stream was flowing faster than usual and we kept a pace, the canoe trip back we did in under 4 hours.

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