Loess Bluffs Auto Tour OPEN

The auto tour is now open to foot traffic, with the exception of the Eagle Overlook Trail located at the south side near Pelican Pool.. Fishing along the auto tour remains prohibited until further notice. The road is open to two-way traffic from Highway 118, along the west and south side to the main entrance at Highway 159. The north and east sides remain closed as the road construction project continues.

The visitor center remains open Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM. Contact us at 660-442-3187 during visitor center hours or leave a voicemail and a staff member will return your call. The hiking trails in the bluffs, accessible from the main headquarters parking lot, remain open for hiking. See "Events" for upcoming programs at the refuge. 

Visit Us

National wildlife refuges offer us all a chance to unplug from the stresses of daily life and reconnect with our natural surroundings. At Loess Bluffs National Wildlife Refuge there are endless opportunities for the whole family to enjoy nature and the great outdoors.

Driving Directions

The refuge is located in northwest Missouri near Mound City. The refuge is 30 miles northwest of St. Joseph, Missouri, 100 miles north of Kansas City, Missouri and 100 miles south of Omaha, Nebraska. Take Interstate 29 to Exit 79 just south of Mound City, Missouri then travel south 2.5 miles on U.S. Highway 159.

Fees

There is no charge to visit.

Restrooms

Restrooms are available:

  • Inside the refuge headquarters and visitor contact station during operation hours
  • At the comfort station in the headquarters parking lot during all hours

Points of Interest

Let our staff and volunteers at the visitor contact station help you plan your visit! This is a great starting point for visitors to become more familiar with the refuge and the wildlife that live here. Visitors can watch a 13 minute refuge orientation video, see live native snakes on display, browse nature and wildlife exhibits and obtain maps and brochures. While there, visit the Friends of Loess Bluffs Nature Shop for field guides, t-shirts and other educational items.

What To Do

If you have 15 minutes

  • Stop by the visitor contact station
  • Look for wildlife at the observation deck by the main entrance to the auto tour
  • Go birding around the visitor center
  • Obtain a brochure and read the kiosk signs, maps and regulations to plan your next visit to the refuge!

If you have one hour

  • Explore through the exhibits in the visitor contact station
  • Take the 10 mile auto tour drive around the wetlands, grasslands and forests
  • Hike the trails to the top of the loess hills, located behind the visitor contact station

If you have half a day or more

  • Take your time as you drive the 10 mile auto tour, stopping to get out and immerse yourself in nature
  • Explore the trails through the loess hills and along the auto tour
  • Practice your photography skills on landscapes, wildlife and plants
  • Go hunting or fishing

Know Before You Go

The refuge is a spectacular place to visit! It is especially important to be prepared when visiting. We recommend bringing the following:

  • Sunglasses
  • Binoculars and/or a camera
  • Plenty of water and snacks
  • Insect repellent
  • Sunscreen
  • Comfortable shoes for hiking/walking
  • Dress warmly in the winter
  • Dress in lightweight clothing in the summer

Visitor Tips

  • Morning and evening are the best time to see wildlife
  • Before you visit you can check iNaturalist and eBird for recent sightings to see what other guests have seen
  • Check for ticks when you leave
  • Spotting scopes are located at the visitor contact station, on the hiking trails and along the auto tour drive
  • Friday - Sunday are the busiest days to visit the refuge
  • June - August are good times to see wildlife with young
  • October - December are the best months to see migratory waterfowl on their way south
  • December - January are the best times to see bald eagles
  • Mid-March is when peak spring snow goose migration typically occurs

Activities

The refuge offers a variety of recreational opportunities from hunting and fishing to wildlife observation and photography. There truly is something for everyone! 

Trails

Loess Bluff Trail

Open season: Open year round to hiking
Length: 0.8 miles 
Location of trail: Trailhead is at the visitor contact station
Surface: Wood chip, stone steps, dirt
Difficulty: Moderately difficult
Information: The trail begins at the visitor contact station and ends at the Callow Trail along U.S. Highway 159. This trail meanders through forest habitat to the top of the bluffs for a panoramic view of the refuge. The trail is moderately difficult due to the ascent of 200 stone steps, which were hand laid by the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Munkres Homestead Trail

Open season: Open year round to hiking
Length: 1 mile 
Location of trail: Trailhead is at the headquarters parking lot
Surface: Dirt, grass 
Difficulty: Moderately difficult 
Information: The trail begins at the headquarters parking lot and parallels U.S. Highway 159, then meanders through the forested habitat of the loess hills, eventually meeting up with the Loess Bluff Trail.

Callow Trail

Open season: Open year round to hiking
Length: 0.6 miles 
Location of trail: Trailhead is at the headquarters parking lot
Surface: Paved, ADA Compliant 
Difficulty: Easy 
Information: The trail begins at the headquarters parking lot. It is an accessible, out and back paved trail. The trail is relatively flat, parallels U.S. Highway 159 and skirts the edge of the loess hill woodlands, extending to the foothills.

Turkey Ridge Trail 

Open season: Open year round to hiking. 
Length: 0.6 miles 
Location of trail: Access from the Loess Bluff Trail and Munkres Homestead Trail 
Surface: Dirt and grass 
Difficulty: Moderate 
Information: The trail skirts the bottom edge of the loess hills and eventually winds its way through the timber to the prairie at the top of the bluff.

Paw Paw Trail

Open season: Open year round to hiking
Length: 0.2 miles 
Location of trail: Access from the Munkres Homestead Trail and the Loess Bluff Trail 
Surface: Dirt 
Difficulty: Moderate 
Information: The trail connects the Munkres Homestead Trail and the Loess Bluff Trail. This is a short but steep 0.2 mile trail up the bluff.

Eagle Overlook Trail

Open season: Open year round to hiking
Length: 1.2 miles
Location of trail: Trailhead at the south end of the auto tour loop
Surface: Dirt and grass
Difficulty: Easy
Information: The trail begins at the south end of the auto tour drive. This trail is 1.2 miles out and back along the levee between Pelican Pool and Eagle Pool. A viewing tower is located at the end of the levee. 

Other Facilities in the Complex

The refuge is part of a complex, including three ecologically diverse wildlife refuges in Missouri: Loess Bluffs National Wildlife Refuge, Swan Lake National Wildlife Refuge and Big Muddy National Fish and Wildlife Refuge. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages these areas to maintain a vital and diverse environment for the areas inhabitants.

Rules and Policies

Know before you go. Please review refuge rules and policies. These regulations are put in place to ensure a quality and safe experience for everyone, but also to protect the wildlife and habitat.

Locations

Loess Bluffs National Wildlife Refuge
Loess Bluffs National Wildlife Refuge 25542 Highway 159 Forest City, MO 64451
Hours
Visitor Center Hours
Monday - Friday, except federal holidays
9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Select Saturdays during fall and spring migration
9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Auto Tour, Lands and Hiking Trail Hours
Daily, including federal holidays
30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset for approved activities