This hike is the Rush Mountain Trail from Rush Landing to the Monte Cristo area. It is a short hike, but it is probably one my favorites.
At the end of the post, I will also talk about the unmaintained trail from the Monte Cristo area back to the Morning Star area.
Rush Landing to Monte Cristo
Start off at the Rush Landing parking area, near the shelter with the picnic tables and toilet. This section of the trail starts off into the woods back behind the parking area. There is a small ruin here at the start. It is the remnants of the White Eagle Mine.
Head off into the woods. After a short stretch, there is an intersection. To the left is the section of the Rush Mountain Trail that connects to the morning star area. Stay right.
The trail runs off into the woods and eventually swings off to the left. Down below, there are some great views of the Buffalo River and Clabber Creek.
At about .4, turn left where the trail continues on an old road path.
This part of the trail is beautiful. It heads up the hill at a somewhat gentle grade. To the left are some bluff lines along Rush Mountain, and to the right is a steep drop-off to Clabber Creek with more mountains in the distance. I really do love this little stretch of trail.
At .5 miles, the trail comes to the Monte Cristo mine. (You’ll know it when you see it!) It’s the largest of the mine openings in the area. There is also some old mining equipment that sits outside – left over from the somewhat brief mine reopening in the 1960’s.
The road trace goes another .2 miles until the end of the maintained trail.
At this point, you can turn around and head back for a round-trip route of 1.4 miles. I recommend this option.
Unmaintained Connecting Trail Section
However, if you want to make this a loop hike, there is an option to do so. It’s not a maintained trail, it’s hard to follow, and it’s a bit dangerous, but if you’re into bushwacking and finding your own way, there are some great views from the top of this trail.
So if you decide to go on the loop hike, go to the sign where it says “end of maintained trail,” and instead of turning around, head off onto the tracked route to the left. This is pretty easy to spot because everyone enters at the same place.
This trail section is sort-of marked. There are blue trail markers around if you’re looking out for them. There are a lot of downed trees along the “trail,” so it is easy to lose.
The trail goes up, then to the right, and then up again.
At 1 mile from the trailhead, the trail goes straight up to the left through a little break in the bluff line. (There is a tree in the middle of this break with a blue tag on it). It is the only real break in the bluff line, so it’s important that you keep an eye out for it.
Once through this break in the bluff, we never really found a trail again. The best advice I can give you is to find the easiest way to the top and then follow the trail ridge across the top of the mountain. There really are some great views from up here when the leaves are off the trees.
Follow the mountain ridge for quite a while here. (It has a slight uphill grade. )
At some point, the trail heads back down the mountain. I confess, we never found the trail down. But it’s hard to get lost here because you’re at the top of the mountain, and you know you have to go down on your left.
However, my suggestion here is to stay on the ridge much longer than you think you need to. Just like the side of the mountain you just came up, there is a steep bluff line on this side as well, so there aren’t many options for getting down. And at that side of the ridge is a series of mines (the ones you pass by on the other section of the Rush Mountain Trail ). So there are a lot of fences, deep drop-offs, and likely some unstable ground, in that area.
If you find your way down, you will hit the beginning of the Rush Mountain Trail and eventually the Morning Star Trail and parking area.
If you make this entire loop, it’s about 3.6 total miles (depending on how close to the original trail you stay).
If you take the loop route, be careful, take a good topographical map, and do your best to stay on the trail. I hope someday they can complete this trail because right now, it is really rough bushwacking.
Date Hiked: 10-23-2011
Distance: 1.4 (roundtrip on the actual trail – 3.6 miles if you try the loop)
Difficulty: Easy for the hiking portion. Difficult for the “loop” hike version over the mountain.
Footwear: Trail Runners – although Hiking Boots are advised for the Loop hike
Guidebook: None required if you stay on the maintained trail, but if you plan to attempt the loop hike, take the Buffalo River Hiking Trails Book for guidance.