A photographer’s paradise with its natural rock bluffs. The Missouri Department of Conservation has opened a trail above Royal Gorge at Ketcherside Mountain Conservation Area.  This 2.5 mile trail gives beautiful views high up on the cliffs, looking both directions.  Plan to hike the area throughout the year and experience the wonder of the changing seasons.

Located next to Highway 21 south of Arcadia, Royal Gorge has long been a popular spot for pulling over and taking a quick look at the shut-ins

The Royal Gorge Natural Area (visible from Highway 21 just south of Ironton), is a portion of this 3,276 acre segment of the St. Francois Mountains Natural Area. Hike or backpack through igneous  glades and cliffs, scarlet oak-pine forest, oak-hickory forest and a headwaters stream of the Ozark Natural Division. Mostly forest, birdwatchers will find glade and forest birds. Hunt for deer, squirrel or turkey. With a special use permit, furbearer trapping is also allowed. Horseback riding is permitted on roads open to vehicles. The Taum Sauk section of the Ozark Trail passes through Ketcherside Mountain Conservation Area (Horseback riding is prohibited on this section of trail). Nuts, berries, fruits, mushrooms and wild greens can be found in abundance and may be taken for personal use.

 The St. Francois Mountains in southeast Missouri are believed to be some of the oldest mountains in the eastern United States and feature many interesting geologic sites. One of the most interesting parts of the St. Francois Mountains is contained in Iron County which boasts the highest spot in the state at Taum Sauk Mountain State Park as well as Elephant Rocks State Park.

At the point where the shut-in passes alongside Highway 21, motorists will see a beautiful wall constructed of granite stones built there by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Depression (photo left). The Highway Department maintains a scenic overlook and parking pullout for motorists to view Royal Gorge. To visit the gorge drive 4 miles south of Arcadia on Highway 21.

One often overlooked spot is Royal Gorge Natural Area south of Arcadia on Highway 21. The natural area features a canyon-like shut-in along the highway

(7 miles south on Hwy 21)