The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) will host a free hiking and backpacking basics program for people ages 12-and-up from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 14, at the Gist Ranch Conservation Area east of Houston.

“MDC provides free guided hikes and other nature programs as part of our mission to help people discover nature,” said MDC conservation educator Travis Mills. “Programs like this are designed to equip people to be able to hike on their own and with family and friends.”

Mills suggests wearing comfortable, sturdy hiking shoes, bringing a backpack with a sack lunch, snacks and drinking water. The group hike will follow a 4-mile trail, considered moderate in difficulty, with mostly flat terrain with some inclines. 

In addition to hiking, the group will learn about water filtration, backpack stove options and the area’s natural resource management techniques.

Gist Ranch CA is rich in natural communities. Its spring and fen areas are populated with wildflowers in the summer and provide habitat for salamanders, frogs and other wildlife. Dolomite glades surrounded by savanna occur frequently on the ridges and on south and west facing slopes on the area. The area has quality habitat for deer, turkey and quail.

“We’ll have a chance to talk about the habitat we see along the hike and how it’s managed,” Mills said.

All participants will meet at Gist Ranch Shooting Range, before going to the trailhead.

“Once people experience hiking, they will see what a great activity it is and how being outdoors in nature can reduce the stresses of everyday life,” Mills said.

Advance registration is required for this event at Anyone under 16 years old must be accompanied by a registered adult.

The Gist Ranch CA is approximately five miles west of Summersville and 14 miles east of Houston. More information about it can be found online at

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