The Berryman is amazing.
The Berryman is difficult.
The Berryman is slowly wasting away.
These statements are all true. They have been for 20+ years. While I do not want to write a small book on the trail I will, however, explain the benefits of having the Berryman Loop within 120 miles of your front door.
The Berryman Trail is a loop of singletrack in the Mark Twain National Forest that serves hikers, equestrians and within the last 30 years, mountain bikers. It was built by the Civilian Conservation Corp - CCC for short - which was instituted shortly after the Great Depression. The Berryman Trail is an approximately 24 mile loop that features over 2,400 feet of climbing, several creek crossings and the scaling of over 12 Ozark hillsides. The trail follows creek valleys, climbs ancient Ozark hills and descends into several rocky outcroppings.
The Berryman Trail was classified as an IMBA Epic in 2002. The trail best features the "feel" of Missouri backcountry trail riding. There are many reasons that bikers continue to ride the Berryman.
But there's one major draw… The Berryman Trail is a LOOP.
You can't say that about any other portion of the Ozark Trail network. The Berryman Trail may be the largest loop in Missouri that doesn't need other trail connectors or roads to call it a true loop.
And the best part that the original designers may or may not have grasped is that there are several legitimate bailout options. Options that allow injured or destroyed folks to limp back to their cars via the "central" firewood that pierces the trail's core. On top of that, there are two major trailheads that feature camping.
True, the Berryman is suffering every trail's worst nightmare. Continued use in the muddy season, motorized use (ATV/dirtbike) and fall-line climbs are contributing to its "erosion issues". All of these issues combined would absolutely murder an average trail. But for some reason the Berryman is losing its foothold much more slowly. Sure, the switchbacks in some areas are grossly eroded but then think, really think, of the sweet, glossy-buff sections of trail that thread through the pines or hug the edge of a precipice. In the dry season the Berryman rails but in the wet the trail leaves you for dead. But you shouldn't be riding it when it's wet, remember?
Ignoring the switchbacks that would be more accurately called slides that drop into the Brazil Creek campground and the areas that require riders to know how to loft their front end chin-high in spots, the Berryman isn't out to destroy you - it simply wants to make you a better Missouri Ozark trail rider. If you use the Berryman as your training ground then you will be almost unstoppable - except West Virginia.
Simply put, the mere FACT that you can link up the Ozark Trail (hundreds of miles!) and Council Bluff is unfathomable to other folks. Missouri has a trail network that other states would die for - and it's all about 120 miles from your kitchen sink.
Spread the word.