Find Caves and Waterfalls at Kress Farm Garden Preserve
Kress Farm Garden Preserve is a hidden gem in Hillsboro, Missouri. The 142 acres preserve is dedicated to maintaining native plants and wildlife habitat under a conservation easement through Ozark Land Trust. The preserve features gardens, fields, forests, wildlife habitats, streams, and scenic bluffs. Volunteers work daily to maintain this scenic place for all to enjoy.
The preserve features four different hiking trails plus a trail that combines several of the trails together. All are of easy to moderate difficulty. On our recent visit we hiked the Blue Trail and the Yellow Trail to see the most rugged features.
- Distance: 1 mile loop plus side spur to the cliff caves
- Difficulty: 3/5. Short, a few rugged sections but nothing difficult
- Scenic Value: 4/5. Not one, but three shelter caves!
The trails all start at the pavilion. You can pick up maps, sign in at the clipboard, and even borrow a wooden walking stick. From here, the blue trail heads off across a mowed path to the left of the pavilion.
All the trails are well marked with colored squares if you are on the trail, or colored arrows to point to where a trail makes a turn.
The path soon enters the trees and passes a beautiful tunnel of evergreen trees. This is a lovely start to a great trail.
After passing through the evergreen grove you soon come to a fork. A sign points to the left to the cliff caves spur trail. Take this trail! This is the best part of the park and it’s a short extra hike.
The trail travels down a few switchbacks through the woods. Wildflowers and flowering dogwoods can be seen here in spring.
Soon the first of the cliff caves comes into view. This one is very large and dramatic. Explore carefully. The caves were used by Native Americans as shelter long ago and are protected by the Missouri Cave Resources Act. Vandalism, digging, or collecting of artifacts is prohibited.
As cool as this first cave is, there are more to explore! Keep continuing to follow the blue trail to see the rest of the cliff caves. They are amazing.
Once you make it to the last cave, you will have to retrace your steps back to the main trail.
Continue to follow the main trail a short distance and it will come out near the parking area. After hiking the blue trail, we decided to try the yellow trail which features seasonal waterfalls.
- Distance: 0.75 mile loop
- Difficulty: 2/5. Short and very mild inclines
- Scenic Value: 4/5. Best after a good rain, but pretty any time.
Backtrack along the entrance road from the pavilion, following the yellow blazes to reach the trailhead. The trail will lead off to the right through a meadow.
Soon the yellow trail breaks off the right into the woods. A side spur to the first waterfall soon appears. It’s a very short side trip to see each waterfall.
We visited when the waterfalls were just a trickle, but it was still a beautiful little canyon to see.
After returning to the main path, the trail crosses a bridge and soon comes to the next waterfall spur. This canyon and waterfall is smaller and a little more difficult to get a good photo.
After returning to the main trail, it’s a short walk up a small hill to return to the trailhead. Before or after your hike, be sure to check out the store. It has free seeds, fresh picked produce and snacks for sale, and restrooms. (Masks required inside.)
Additional Things to Know:
- The preserve is typically open daily 9-3. Check their Facebook page to keep up to date on opening days/hours.
- A map of the trails can be found here.
- The preserve hosts events such as plant sales with one happening May 1st-May 2nd.
- Other hikes in the area include Valley View Glades or make a stop at Sandy Creek Covered Bridge.