Hughes Mountain — An Other-Worldly Landscape

August 7, 2015

A quick glance at the featured image might leave you thinking, “Where the heck has Danny been now?” The terrain could be from another state, or even another planet, but the colorful and rugged landscape is actually part of the Missouri Department of Conservation’s, Hughes Mountain Natural Area (Washington County), only about an hour from my house.

My trek began this morning at 4:00 a.m along with a few school teacher friends, Barb and Brenda, who were looking for one last outdoor adventure before returning to the classroom. Also joining us was our dear friend Deepa who is on the tail end of her annual visit to St. Louis from Bangalore, India. All three have an unsurpassed love for nature, as demonstrated by their eagerness to leave St. Louis at 2:30 a.m. to ensure a timely departure for our destination—Hughes Mountain.

Instead of trying to summarize MDC’s description of the rugged location, I’ve pasted their narrative about the site as follows from their website:

Hughes Mountain rises 380 feet above the floodplain of the nearby Big River and is comprised of rhyolite, a type of igneous rock. The rhyolite of Hughes Mountain formed from ancient lava flows around 1.4 billion years ago. Under certain conditions as lava cools it can form columnar joints. At Hughes Mountain there is a fascinating area of columnar jointed rhyolite rocks. Columnar joints are a geologic feature of many well known sites around the world such as Devil’s Tower in Wyoming and the Giant’s Causeway in Ireland.

You can see some of the pink-colored columnar joints in the featured image. As you can see from the next image, the rock formations began to burst with color as the morning sun washed over the mountain.


During the entire morning, the top of the mountain was engulfed in low clouds, as it has been on every other morning trip I’ve taken to the site. We felt like we were in Scotland as we walked the rugged terrain in  the heavy mist. Below is an image of my traveling companions that morning, Brenda, Barb and Deepa. I told them their pose for the image reminded me of a typical “album cover configuration.” They just laughed and said, “Take the picture!”


When we finally decided to call it a morning, the mist was getting thicker and thicker. All of my gear was soaked and our clothes were wet, as well. As we descended the trail, it wasn’t long before we were below the clouds and back in typical conditions for an August morning in Missouri. As with every trip to Hughes Mountain, I thought how nice it would be to go back up to the wet and rugged landscape from which we had just descended. Clearer heads prevailed though. After all, I had an Sausage Egg McMuffin with my name on it a few miles down the road in Potosi.

Thanks for looking,


Email:  Natureframes@Rocketmail.Com

Gallery and Fine Art Prints:  Website



7 comments on “Hughes Mountain — An Other-Worldly Landscape”

  1. Now, alas, I know how few of your beautiful images actually make it to your blog…and how choosy you are! I would not have “mist” this morning for anything.Indeed, “other-worldly”…I enjoyed the change of light each minute, the incredible colors, shapes and textures. One of the best nature trails I’ve been in, in Missouri….that I might never have seen otherwise..Just two words more…thank you!

    • You are welcome, Deepa. We’ll plan on going on a trail or two every summer when you come to Missouri. It was fun having you along.

  2. Hughes Mountain is a special place! Thanks so much for showing me yet another natural wonder of Missouri! I love the “Rock Star” image. It was missing the lead singer of our group though, you! Can’t wait to go back again this fall to see all the colors and in the spring to see all the wildflowers!

  3. Very interesting landscape, n information on the terrain at Hughes Mountain. What a unique area of MO. I must go there. Thank’s for sharing Danny.


  4. Great pics! I’m headed to this alien landscape tomorrow morning.

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