When it comes to natural beauty, Missouri puts on quite the show. Summer provides the perfect time to get outside, stretch your legs, and explore the gorgeous wonders of the Show-Me State. Don’t just take our word for it – this year, American Trails, the world’s largest online trail resource, named Missouri the “Best Trails State.” The prestigious award goes to the state that has done a phenomenal job promoting and maintaining its trails system. Our trails and other outdoor activities are first-rate.
With 52 state parks, Missouri offers amazement from east to west and north to south. Cool off at Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park, 10 miles north of Lesterville. This peaceful spot will dazzle you, thanks to natural swimming holes carved into the rock by the Black River. Pack the camera so you can capture great photos – the boardwalk and overlooks provide ideal vantage points.
Just five miles south of Columbia, the Rock Bridge Memorial State Park lives up to its name with all manner of awe-inspiring formations. Discover many geologic wonders within this 2,272-acre park. You’ll find two caves: Devil’s Icebox Cave and Connor’s Cave. While Devil’s Icebox is often closed to protect the endangered bat species within, Connor’s Cave can be toured. Remember to take sturdy shoes and a flashlight. Rock Bridge Memorial State Park offers trails for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding.
Discover a recreational wonderland at August A. Busch Conservation Area and Nature Center. Located 14 miles southwest of St. Charles, this gorgeous area treats visiting explorers to nearly 7,000 acres of outdoor fun. No matter your favorite activity, you’re likely to find it there. Fish, swim and boat in the 30 lakes. See nature’s beauty up close as you hike the trails. Practice your aim on the skeet-shooting range. Take a two-wheeled tour along a bicycle trail. Learn about the park’s many inhabitants – including fish, birds, reptiles and trees – during a naturalist-led program.
Seeking a fisherman’s paradise? Pack your rod and reel and head to Long Branch State Park. Spend a beautiful afternoon casting your line into the 2,430-acre Long Branch Lake, known for its abundant bass population. The park, two miles west of Macon, contains trails, campgrounds, picnic sites, boat slips and a swimming beach.
Van Meter State Park, twelve miles northwest of Marshall, puts on a show for nature lovers and history buffs alike. The Missouria Indians – after whom the state is named –lived there. Park visitors see the remnants of the tribe’s village, plus the hand-dug earthwork known as the Old Fort, and several burial mounds. Learn more about the Missouria Indians courtesy of the exhibits within the American Indian Cultural Center. Van Meter State Park provides great opportunities for fishing, picnicking, hiking and camping.
VisitMO blogger Tom Uhlenbrock recommends a perfect summertime float trip down the north fork of the White River. Uhlenbrock describes the trip as: “A fabulous float, but less crowded because of its location near the Arkansas border in south-central Missouri.” He goes on to say: “A good day-float begins at the Hammond Camp access, near Dora, and ends at River of Life Farm, a resort with a restaurant and cabins at the river’s edge. The River Lighthouse Cabin, the latest addition, has two bedrooms, both with jetted tubs; a gas fireplace; and a covered porch that looks down on the glistening water.”
Pack a camera to capture all the natural beauty of Lake Springfield Park, an ideal place to spend a beautiful afternoon. Kayaks (one-person and two-person) and canoes are available for rent so you can explore the lake. You can go fishing in the cool, clear waters. Be sure to keep your eyes on the sky – birdwatchers love Lake Springfield Park for all the winged creatures soaring overhead.
Stretching throughout the metro Springfield area, the trails in the Ozark Greenways network are perfect for bicycling, running and walking. The ten trails range from two miles to 35 miles in length. Need to stock up on outdoor gear before your next big adventure? Visit Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World – the Springfield location is the world headquarters of the popular recreation store. More than four million people visit each year, making it one of the top tourist attractions in Missouri. Kids love Bass Pro thanks to the waterfalls, live ducks and giant aquariums.