Since I got a head-start on the email, it's only fair that I start the conversation with the following list:
> Best beach site – Council Bluff Lake
In land-locked Missouri you won’t find any oceans but you will find plenty of lakes. A spur off the Trace Creek section of the Ozark Trail leads over to Council Bluff Lake and a 12-mile loop trail with beautiful views—and a great sandy beach! The waters here are crystal-clear, fed by the many small springs that dot the area. The sand was trucked-in, and while it may not be a genuine Ozark artifact, it is a great place to put up a cabana and take a dip. A U.S. Forest Service campground is a short distance away.
> Best fishing hole – Greer Recreation Area - Mary Deckard Shoals
The Ozark Trail runs by a National Scenic River on the Eleven Point section. Nearby Greer Springs dumps over 200 million gallons of cold water into the Eleven Point River, and the trout love it. Pack your rod and try some fly fishing at the campground at Greer Recreation Area or pitch your tent a few miles downstream at Mary Deckard Shoals.
> Best lullaby – Cotham Pond
Frog heaven! Western chorus frogs peep the night away in March. Later in the summer you’ll hear ‘burping frogs’ and the deep ribbets of bullfrogs. If you prefer the dawn chirping of songbirds, camp here in April.
> Best swimming hole—Sutton Bluff
There are two swimming holes on either side of Sutton Bluff Campground on the Karkaghne section of the Ozark Trail, both featuring rope swings and clear-running waters. The northern swimming hole sports a sizeable gravel bar, a magnificent bluff and 12’ deep waters. The southern swimming hole is less populated and a good spot for a private swim.
> Best skinny-dipping – Courtois Creek
The northern-most portion of the Ozark Trail passes through the Huzzah Conservation Area and spends a mile besides the spring-fed Courtois Creek. The campground here is crowded during weekends, but you can have a private swim during the week at several nice pool of water at the base of 80’ dolomite bluffs.
> Best wildlife-viewing – Peck Ranch
Turkey? Check. White-tailed dear? Check. Collared Lizards? Check. Bears? Probably not, but keep a lookout for bobcat, raccoon, armadillo and other mammals. Peck Ranch is on the Current River section of the Ozark Trail and is the home to a wildlife restoration area. There is no camping inside the fenced wildlife area, but you can camp at its edge and take an early-morning stroll through this remarkable area.
> Best waterfall—Rocky Falls
It’s not Victoria Falls nor Niagara, but it’s still wonderfully inspiring. The wee Rocky Creek takes a tumble down 60’ of pink rhyolite that dates back over a billion years. Perhaps one of the older waterfalls in North America, and it has a nice swimming hole as well!
> Best sunset – Goggins Mountain
Best viewed during the hazy days of August or early September, the view from Goggins Mountain extends some thirty miles to the west over the rolling hills of the Ozarks. This is one of the more serene experiences on the Ozark Trail—pre-packaged meditation, courtesy of Mother Nature.
> Best vista – Stegall Mountain
The glades atop Stegall Mountain offer a 180-degree view of the rugged Ozark countryside. This is a favorite camping spot of many a backpacker. If you venture a mile off the trail up a gravel road you’ll reach a fire tower with a 360-degree view—you’ll see more of Missouri from here than anywhere else in the state.
> Best Perseid viewing site – Bell Mountain
The views from the Bell Mountain Wilderness qualify for best sunrise, best sunset, best vista, best billion-year old geology--- it’s in a league of its own. But our favorite time to visit is during the August Persied meteor showers. There are no lights for miles and the Milky Way just drips on your toes as you lay back and watch one shooting star after another. Wonderful.
> Best eagle viewing site – Bluff by Boom Hole
Missouri hosts one of the largest populations of bald eagles in the ‘lower-48’ during the winter months. You’ll find them all over the state, but along the Ozark Trail the best viewing spot might be the bluffs overlooking the Eleven Point River just east of Boom Hole and McCormack Lake. Every trip we’ve made on this section during the winter we’ve seen multiple eagles soaring at eye-level above the valley floor.
> Best shut-in – Klepzig Mill / Johnson’s Shut-Ins
In the Ozarks, the term “shut-ins” doesn’t refer to your Aunt Mabel at the nursing home— it’s a geologic formation caused water trying to squeeze its way through ancient igneous rock, resulting in a series of flumes and short waterfalls than can drop 25’-100’ over a short distance. Johnson’s Shut-Ins is grand-daddy of shut-ins in Missouri, but at the moment the area is closed for restoration. Our second-best shut-in camping spot along the Ozark Trail is at Klepzig Mill—rosy-red rock worn smooth at the edges as water pours over short falls and through shoots on its way past a historic an scenic mill. There is a great social campsite just a few hundred yards away.
> Best wetland – Grasshopper Hollow
Grasshopper Hollow on the Karkaghne section of the Ozark Trail is the home to North America’s largest non-glacial fen complex. This Missouri Natural Area is host to a huge variety of plant and animal life, including the endangered Hines Emerald dragonfly. Best visited during mid-spring.
> Best-kept secret – Gunstock Hollow
Dark, damp and impenetrable ! The Middle Fork section of the Ozark Trail drops several-hundred feet into this closed-in hollow that features a rock-bottom creek dotted by pines and an occasional spring. There are few other places in Missouri that feel as secluded, remote and mysterious.