Ready to explore the Show-Me State on your own two feet? Missouri's many hiking trails provide the opportunity to do just that and a chance to get out of the sun by venturing into some of our 2,100+ caves.
Rockwoods Reservation, in Wildwood, boasts seven hiking trails. Located in western St. Louis County, this slice of paradise attracts hikers, rock-climbers and avid bird-watchers. In fact, Audubon Missouri lists Rockwoods as an Important Bird Area (IBA). As you hike, keep an eye out for sparrows, warblers, hummingbirds and many other birds that call this area home. The diverse, beautiful landscape includes springs, rock formations and caves.
March marks the beginning of trout season, so take your rod and reel to Bennett Spring State Park, 12 miles west of Lebanon. Bennett Spring, the state's third-largest spring, welcomes avid trout anglers (and, as the days warm up, swimmers and float-trippers). Take a hike along the park's trails, and spread out your picnic lunch at a scenic spot.
Also, trout are plentiful at one of the top trout fisheries in the nation: Roaring River State Park, south of Cassville. Even if you don't hook a prize fish, you'll take home memories of a beautiful hike along the seven trails that cut through the park’s rugged terrain.
Shaw Nature Reserve, in Gray Summit, provides 14 miles of hiking terrain. Part of the Missouri Botanical Garden system, Shaw Nature Reserve is a beautiful place for a hike, thanks to a varied terrain of tallgrass prairie, wetlands, savannas, glades and woodlands.
In Weston, Weston Bend State Park affords hikers and bicyclists gorgeous views of the Missouri River from a three-mile, paved loop trail.
Bluffwoods Conservation Center delights visitors with dense forests that make the perfect backdrop for a spring hike. Located just south of St. Joseph, Bluffwoods features many kinds of trees, including soaring northern red oaks and beautiful black walnuts. As the name suggests, Bluffwoods boasts impressive bluffs with great views. The Forest Nature Trail offers a gentle hike. Picnic areas are located at the trailheads of the Maple Falls Trail and the Lone Pine Trail.
Missouri offers even more than meets the eye above ground. Below ground, remarkable caves beckon the explorer in all of us. Jacob's Cave, near the town of Versailles, enjoys the distinction of being the first Lake of the Ozarks-area cave open to tourists. Since 1932, visitors have marveled at the cave's reflective pools, prehistoric bones (including mastodons), depth illusions and delicate formations. The mile-long tour includes great views of millions of “soda straws,” as well as the enormous stalagmites and stalactites.
For those adventures soles who relish realism, tours of Ozark Caverns are given by lantern-light only. Located in Lake of the Ozarks State Park, eight miles east of Linn Creek, Missouri’s largest state park includes 12 trails that wind through thousands of wooded acres.
Meramec Caverns, in Stanton, welcomes visitors from all over the world. It is reputed to have been used as a hideout by the Jesse James gang. Take a guided tour through this cave's seven fascinating levels. On-site facilities include canoe and raft rentals on the Meramec River; a restaurant; a candy shop; a zipline ride; the Jesse James Wax Museum; and campgrounds.