When many St. Louisans refer to the Ozarks, they mistakenly associate the region exclusively with the Lake of the Ozarks. Such urban geographic ignorance helps keep the crowds down in the real Ozarks Mountains, some of which are much closer to the city than many folks realize. The Bell Mountain Wilderness Area in the Mark Twain National Forest, for example, is only about a two-hour drive south of St. Louis, but it's a world apart. There are more than 9,000 acres to get lost in here, and it's easy enough to do if you stray from the path. So bring a compass and a canteen, and dress appropriately for the season. Bell Mountain is part of the St. François range, the oldest landform on the continent. The view from the top of the 1,700-foot summit is worth the climb, and glades on the way up provide pleasant vistas of their own. To get to Bell Mountain, take Highway 21 south to Highway 32. Go west seven miles to Highway A. A trailhead is located about two miles off Highway A on Forest Road 2228. Another trailhead is on Highway A, approximately five miles south of Highway 32. For more information, call the Potosi Ranger District at 573-438-5427 in advance of your expedition.