Midway between the wineries of Hermann and Augusta, deep in Missouri forest filled with unique, beautiful features, Sage Mountain Recreation Area offers a new getaway for hiking, camping, rock climbing, and more.
The 50-acre property in Berger, Missouri, was purchased by Arthur Crowell and Andrea Widmark about two years ago, and the couple knew from the start they wanted to do something special with it. The history of the land and its rolling hills, cliffs, stream beds, overlooks, and natural spring almost demanded it.
“We heard stories about how they used to do bible camps on the property, and that someone’s grandpa, who was one of the last Osage natives, used to live in the cave [here],” said Widmark. “We talked with the previous owner about our idea to transform the land into a recreation area, and she was in love with it. She and her deceased husband had plans to make something enjoyable for everyone, so it was meant to be for us to carry on this dream for her.”
So far, the recreation area includes a developed, half-mile-long trail that leads to the backside of the mountain — “a nice, easy hike,” said Crowell — and a bunch of interconnecting, rough-cut trails that take visitors to remarkable natural formations with names like Troll’s Gorge, Dog Rock, and Fern Pass. There are climbable cliffs on both sides of the property, plus the previously mentioned cave. The East Missouri Climbing Association, led by Nick Richards, is helping develop bouldering routes (35+ so far, from V0 to V7), and a handful of bolted routes for top-roping and lead climbing have been created as well. More routes are constantly being added to the video climbing guide on Sage Mountain’s YouTube channel.
“The rock is mostly a pretty solid sandstone/limestone mix,” said Crowell. “Between the cave and another place we call Bandit’s Cove, there’s some nice overhanging rock, with lots of cracks and really good handholds. It’s a nice mix of difficulty.”
Night climbing is allowed with a night pass, along with backcountry camping. Day passes are available for hiking, picnicking, climbing, and exploring. Drive-up campsites (perhaps 20, says Crowell) are currently being developed. Future plans also call for development for RV parking.
“We want to preserve the experience when you’re out here, so you feel secluded. In the spring, the property explodes with wildflowers. It’s quite a show. And the wildlife — lizards, tree frogs, deer, bobcats, otters — it’s pretty cool,” said Crowell. ”We want to be good stewards of the land.”
More information and day and night passes are available at sagemountaincamping.com.