Ozarks Leaf Peepers’ Backroad Bonanza

Pile your family and friends into the truck, along with a camera and a thermos of hot cider, to experience Pulaski County’s brilliant and fiery colors of Fall!

The Ozarks are frequently a shoo-in for best Autumn foliage destinations listicles. Pulaski County, geographically blessed, is positioned in the heart of the Salem Plateau of the timeless Ozark Mountain region.

The county is generously gifted with low hollers (valleys), and high hills decorated with woodlands. The southern half of the county is covered by Mark Twain National Forest. The variety of trees combined with green pastureland, creates a rainbow of colors. Black gum, Sweet Gum, Hickory, Sassafras, Maple, Sycamore and Oak trees are Mother Nature’s paintbrushes in the autumn palate. Missouri’s state tree, Flowering Dogwoods, color the understory in blazing reds, pinks, and oranges.

Warm days and cool nights could lead to Pulaski County’s most brilliant Insta-worthy Fall yet. Enjoy the show on our 33 miles of Route 66, secondary highways, or from our curated list of favorite gravel travel backroads below.

Pro Tip: The backroads listed below are gravel. You may encounter rough road conditions and low water crossings. Proceed accordingly and at your comfort level.

Hartford Road

1.15 miles northeast of Road Ranger, Highway 28

Hartford Road, a 3.39-mile-long loop drops into a Big Piney river valley. After only a mile you will be rewarded with dramatic river bluffs. In an especially picturesque scene, the road squeezes between the Big Piney river and the former Possum Lodge resort before climbing back to Highway 28 positioned on the ridge above.

Camp/Crown Roads

4.92 miles northeast of Road Ranger, Highway 28

Camp Road and Crown Road partner to lazily loop (5.81 miles) around the former Gasconade Hills Conservation Area. The structures and foundations that perch over the Gasconade River at the beginning of Camp Road are remnants of Brown’s Camp. At 3.05 miles turn right onto Crown Road to return to Highway 28.

Pro Tip: Continue North on Highway 28 into Dixon for fuel, food & beverage, antiquing, and restrooms before backtracking to Cardinal Road.

Cardinal/Creek/Cave Roads

7.62 miles northeast of Road Ranger, Highway 28

Cardinal, Creek, and Cave roads combine to lead you 3.65 miles to Riddle Bridge Access. At the intersection of Cardinal Road and Cemetery Lane you will find a photogenic country cemetery and church.

Approximately 1.58 miles turn left onto Creek Road. Creek Road parallels, and crosses, Jones Creek before becoming Cave Road which bends to cross the Gasconade River at Riddle Bridge Access. The current bridge, constructed circa 1987, replaced the former 70+ year old structure that was featured on a 1975 Brewer & Shipley album cover. Yellow Bluff, directly across the Gasconade River from the public access is a popular photography scene. Leaving Riddle Bridge Access turn right onto Holtsman Road which becomes Y Highway.

Laramie/Lexington Roads

4.13 miles south of Riddle Bridge, Y Highway

Laramie Road leads to (1.17 miles, turn right) Lexington Road which curls around an area known to old-timers and locals as Shockley Bottom. At 4.49 miles look right and visually follow the power line buoys that edge the field. These lines lead to the former Skaggs Bridge crossing of the Gasconade River of the old Waynesville-Crocker Road. This stretch of Lexington Road is home to two Missouri Century Farms. At the junction of Lexington Road and Highway 17 is Pike’s Peak bluff and the mouth of Roubidoux Cave at the confluence of the Roubidoux and Gasconade rivers.

Pro Tip: Roubidoux Cave is NOT open to the public. Contact Roubidoux Grotto for access permits.

Pro Tip: Continue North on Highway 17 into Crocker for fuel, food & beverage, antiquing, and restrooms before backtracking to Riverside Road.

Riverside/Redding Roads

6.38 miles north of Lexington Road, Highway 17

Riverside and Redding roads are a dynamic duo combining for 6.3 miles to connect Highway 17 with T Highway. Just over a mile into the trip you will see the Gasconade River on your left. At 2.04 miles is Schlicht Springs Access. This area is named for early mill operator and resort owner John Schlicht.

At 2.27 miles turn left to stay on Riverside road. At 4.82 miles turn right onto Redding road. At 5.10 miles you will see Bethlehem Baptist Church and Cemetery on your right. The rocked structure beckons photographers. This area was once called Flea Hollow, so named because the former church, which sat across the dirt road, was built up a bit on posts. Whether or not the design was intentional, this allowed nearby farmers’ livestock to congregate in the shade under the church. This led to hours-long bouts of itching and scratching for the parishioners during, and after, Sunday services. The cemetery tucked into the hillside below is the final resting place of Aunt Tenn, an inmate of the Pulaski County Poor Farm. Tenn’s final wish was to be buried here instead of at the cemetery across from the Poor Farm. At T Highway head north to Swedeborg.

Pro Tip: Plan on photographing Swedeborg School and abandoned buildings along the railroad tracks at Swedeborg. The community, first named Wood End, was later colonized by Swedish immigrants. Nearby Swede Cemetery, listed in a Swedish touring guide of America, has many interesting tombstones to photograph.

Rawlins Road

1.74 miles north of Redding Road, Highway T

Rawlins road joins Swedeborg to Richland on what was most likely the “old” road before the development of Highway 133. The road crosses Snake Creek at 2.47 miles. At the intersection of Highway 133 turn left for a short distance.

Richfield Road/Dublin Lane

791 feet south of Rawlins Road, Highway 133

Richfield Road and Dublin Lane is a short (1.57 miles) continuation of what was most likely the Richland-Swedeborg road at one time.

Pro Tip: Explore Richland to find fuel, food & beverage, antiquing, and restrooms before returning to Jefferson Street/Highway 7 South.

Snipe/Rio Roads

5.92 miles south of Dublin Lane, Highway 7

Snipe/Rio Road follows the Gasconade river for a short distance before breaking away into rich farmland and pastures. Several concrete silos dot the landscape awaiting the photographer to capture their bygone craftsmanship and usefulness. At 2.77 miles Berean Cemetery, and the former Berean Baptist Church sit on the right. The road crosses over Interstate 44 and continues to Historic Route 66/Highway AB.

Travel East to Waynesville via Historic Route 66/Highway AB/Highway 17 or via Interstate 44.

Pro Tip: Plan to spend time discovering Waynesville’s food scene, shopping, antiquing, and historic sites before taking the last backroad of your journey.

Spring/Superior Roads

At Roubidoux Bridge, Historic Route 66, Waynesville

Spring Road leads to Route 66’s most overlooked natural wonder- Roubidoux Spring. Park at the lot beside the wonderous roadside spring and recall the tragedy of the Trail of Tears. The National Park Service, Missouri Trail of Tears Association, City of Waynesville, and Pulaski County Tourism Bureau partnered to install seven storyboards along the one-mile-long (mostly) paved walking path. While at the spring itself dip your toes in- local legend states that those who do will return to Waynesville. Spring Road continues, turning into Superior Road at Waynesville city limits and passes underneath Interstate 44. At approximately 1.90 miles is the Pulaski County Poor Farm Cemetery. The frame house just south (.5 miles) of the cemetery, at the junction of what was once the Houston Road, once housed Pulaski County’s paupers. Aunt Tenn, from Flea Hollow, lived here. Superior Road will lead you into Saint Robert.

Pro Tip: Saint Robert, the gateway to Fort Leonard Wood, is home to heroes. Explore the community’s patriotic tributes, dining, and lodging.