Eleven of Missouri’s Stellar Parks

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State Parks and State Historic Sites , outdoors , Outdoor Adventure , biking / walking trails , walking , walking trails , backpacking , backpacking trail , parks
Paradise Found
Author: H&L Partners
Whatever your favorite outdoor activity may be, you’re destined to find it in Missouri. Whether you want to scramble up rock formations or quietly stargaze, our state parks offer the perfect getaway.

Explore our VisitMO Trip Idea “Arcadia Valley Serenity” to find great travel ideas in the Arcadia Valley, one of the state’s most beautiful areas. At Elephant Rocks State Park, ten minutes north of Pilot Knob, the family will be wowed by the enormous, billion-year-old granite formations – many visitors say they look like circus elephants standing nose-to-tail. Take a leisurely hike among these magical rocks and through the abandoned quarry operation. Picnic facilities are available.

Also in the Arcadia Valley, Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park , 30 minutes southwest of Elephant Rocks, is a wonderful place to enjoy a picnic lunch. If the weather allows, take a dip in the section of the Black River that flows through this popular park. Numerous canoe outfitters are located along the Black River.

Nine miles west of Ironton (about a thirty minute drive in this hilly terrain), Taum Sauk Mountain State Park treats visitors to stunning views. At 1,772 feet, Taum Sauk Mountain is the highest point in Missouri – Mina Sauk Falls, the state’s highest wet-weather waterfall, is the focal point of this gorgeous area.

Named “Best Natural Area in the Midwest” by AAA Midwest Traveler magazine, Mark Twain National Forest is an outdoor-lover’s dream come true. This 1.5-million-acre area, scattered across southern Missouri, boasts large springs, glades, streams, caves and even volcanic mountains. Some of the oldest rock formations in North America are found in this area. Explore more than 100 miles of trails via mountain bike, motorcycle, ATV and on foot.

Fall foliage shines bright in Missouri. Our largest state park – Lake of the Ozarks State Park – is a perfect place to view all of the colors of the season. In addition to 89 miles of shoreline, the park boasts hiking, mountain biking and equestrian trails. Turn your fall-foliage day-trip into a full weekend getaway by staying in one of the park’s camper cabins.

Enjoy an amazing glimpse into history at Thousand Hills State Park, two miles west of Kirksville. The budding archaeologists in your family can explore American Indian rock carvings (petroglyphs) dating back more than 1,500 years. Thousand Hills offers fishing, hiking, canoeing, mountain-biking, picnicking and camping.  

For outdoor fun within the bustling college town of Columbia, pay a visit to Flat Branch Park. After you’ve enjoyed all of the wonderful eating, shopping and sightseeing Columbia offers, visit this lovely green space in the heart of the city. The park, bordered by Flat Branch Creek, features a playground, a suspension bridge, a “sprayground” (for those warm afternoons) and public art. Cyclists are welcome to take their wheels – Flat Branch Park is the trailhead to Columbia's MKT Trail, a ten-mile tributary to the Katy Trail.

Another great city park, Phelps Grove Park, in the center of Springfield, boasts plenty of fun for the family. Grill a meal at one of the fully equipped picnic areas. Initiate some friendly competition on the basketball court and in the horseshoe area. Admire the beauty of the rose garden. Let the kids have a blast on the play equipment.

In St. Joseph, the Urban Trail System allows visitors to explore the area via bicycle and on foot. This fantastic system of trails seamlessly blends the natural beauty of St. Joseph (including breathtaking bluffs) with all of the urban amenities the city offers.

Find that all-too-elusive peace and solitude at Wallace State Park, six miles south of Cameron. With its dense woods, the park attracts countless birds, so be sure to take your binoculars.

Excellent bird-watching is a big draw at Lewis and Clark State Park, 30 minutes southwest of St. Joseph. Famed explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark observed large quantities of geese and goslings in the area in 1804; the bird populations remain strong today.


 Elephant Rocks State Park
At this park, giant, billion-year-old granite boulders stand end-to-end, like a train of red circus ...

 Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park
Carved into the rock by the flow if the Black River, the shut-ins are a great place for swimming and ...

 Taum Sauk Mountain State Park
At an elevation of 1,772 feet, this is the highest point in Missouri. The state's highest wet-weather ...

 Lake of the Ozarks State Park
Missouri's largest state park has 89 miles of shoreline, two swimming beaches, boat-launching areas, ...

 Thousand Hills State Park
Thousand Hills State Park includes American Indian rock carvings (petroglyphs) more than 1,500 years ...

 Flat Branch Park
This park, in downtown Columbia, is bordered by the Flat Branch Creek. The park features a gazebo, benches ...

 Phelps Grove Park
Park features: grills; picnic area; playground; restrooms; shelters; trails; a track; basketball; horseshoes; ...

 Wallace State Park
This heavily wooded park is a favorite of bird watchers and solitude seekers. It features individual ...

 Lewis and Clark State Park
Meriwether Lewis and William Clark noted great quantities of fish, geese and goslings here in 1804. ...