Make sure and cross the bridge over the Big Muddy on map 27, or you will be hurting.
Actually, this IS a photo of the rest of the trail from the top of the bluffs at Pine Hills.
After getting to the Godwin trail trailhead on Pine Hills road you turn right and follow the gravel road that winds down the bluffs to a picnic area at the bottom.
(If you have the time & energy, a walk back to the left will take you to the best view, probably 1/2 mile out of the way)
ATTN! Pine Hills road is still closed from this Springs collapse of a section South of the Trailhead. The road is open from each end but doesn’t go through.
So now you head the winding gravel road to the bottom.
This is very long but at least it is shady and downhill. At the bottom you will see a sign saying 3 miles to Highway 3. Turn left & follow it. The walk through the swamp in the shade at the bottom of the bluffs is scenic. There is a spur going straight (south) that takes you to a picnic area. The R2R turns right and heads West straight away from the bluffs.
You will get to Highway 3. The Highway crew must have replaced the stop sign and not replaced the R2R blaze. I reblazed it, but there is construction going on there and just in case..you MUST cross the Big Muddy River here! Cross the bridge and continue West on the levee. If not you will possibly have to backtrack. There are two levees and you want the one on the North side of the Big Muddy. Likewise if you are traveling East, you have to cross the Bridge on Highway 3 and head East on the South Levee. There are no other crossings except for a Railroad trestle, and you can’t use it. Looks like they are working on a possible road crossing there at the RR trestle and it may change some time later.
Continuing West you simply follow the Levee into Grand Tower. Have a rest in the shade of the Gazebo. There is an abandoned road you can follow on to the campground but I don’t really know if there is an official place to wet your feet. You arrived!
You can actually just drive the trail from the Clear Springs Wilderness trailhead, and that’s what we did. (I’ve hiked it twice now) We got out at Grand Tower and walked the wide flat shore and then walked up to the levee and walked along the trail until we got to where it was gravel road and called it a day.
There are a series of bluffs (Devils Backbone) just at Grand tower past the gazebo with a long forgotten faint trail over them. I waded through the weeds and walked it for a great birds eye view of the town. That first part of the forgotten trail is about a 30 degree slope!
Pine Hills Bluffs view down
That last is the gravel road/ R2Rtrail at the bottom.
Here are some views of the bluffs from the bottom.
The Inspiration Point overlook is not kid friendly with a quick drop at the edge. The other view points are grassy pullovers that are. Some with picnic tables. (at least one)
The grassy levee at grand Tower and the gazebo at the end and some views of the river. The suspension bridge in the background in some photos is for a gas pipeline. Looks cool though.
Here is the wide shore and the Tower Rock (on the far side).
The River was very low them I haven’t seen a beach SINCE.
This is the view down on the levee and Grand Tower from atop the bluff you probably won’t want to climb. It is so overgrown that the south end where it drops to the levee is the only place you can actually see a view.
And some old time ovens or whatever from settlement times.
They are along the abandoned road along the river between the overgrown bluffs and the shore.
That’s about it. A GREAT day trip with friends or family, but I really don’t want to hike it for an overnight trip. Did I mention the Gravel Road that takes you to the bottom from Pine Hills is called “Snake Road” and is closed to cars in the Spring & Fall on certain weeks for the snake migrations? All the copperheads, water moccasins, rattlesnakes and other non poisonous snakes to come out or return to their dens on the bluffs? Oh boy.
Now for those who want to walk from Grand Tower, you follow the levee road south out of town and continue in the baking sun until you reach Highway 3. VERY IMPORTANT!!! At Highway 3 you cross the bridge and continue East on the South Levee! Vice Versa, if you are traveling from the Bluffs Westward, you cross at Highway 3 and continue on the Gravel road towards the bluffs then left and the next right up the bluffs.
This is a brutal hike. 11 miles of road followed by a steep long climb. It is possibly the hardest leg of the trail.
I actually did the Alto Pass to Devils backbone leg yesterday. 20 miles from the Godwin trailhead to the river.
I have finally done the whole trail and the last leg 11 mile levee walk was a once in a lifetime experience. It seemed like it took a lifetime and I won’t be doing it again. (I thought)