No matter the temperature, spending time outdoors is one of the best ways to conquer cabin fever. Whether the sun is shining or snowflakes are flying, Missouri offers some perfect spots for a quick and easy winter adventure.
St. Louis' Forest Park is a lush oasis in the summer, but winter offers new views – and activities. The park's Steinberg Skating Rink is one of the largest outdoor ice-skating rinks in the Midwest. If there's snow on the ground, grab a sled and head to Art Hill, considered by many to be the best sledding spot in the city.
Hike across a piece of history at the Old Chain of Rock Bridge – a span that crosses the mighty Mississippi River. Once a part of iconic Route 66, the bridge – now limited to pedestrians and cyclists – features an unusual bend in the middle of its 5,353-foot deck. The structure is a popular place to watch eagles fish for their dinner in the river.
Two easy-to-navigate trails at Ha Ha Tonka State Park at the Lake of the Ozarks will lead you to one of Missouri's beautiful natural springs and to the imposing ruins of a "castle" with an intriguing history. The absence of leaves on the trees during the winter makes the park's towering bluffs and overlooks even more impressive.
Walk, run or bike 5 miles of scenic waterfront trails in Warsaw. The trails include the Joe Dice Swinging Bridge, a 660-foot-long suspension bridge, which once carried vehicles over the Osage River. The area is a great place to watch for wildlife – deer, wild turkeys, eagles and a variety of other birds.
Find fascinating rock formations at Rock Bridge State Park near Columbia. A boardwalk and other trails travel past numerous sinkholes and caves to a natural rock bridge.
Six trails of varying lengths await at Burr Oak Woods Conservation Nature Center, located just minutes from downtown Kansas City. Travel alongside Burr Oak Creek, past massive limestone boulders and through restored woodlands and prairies. The conservation area includes a disabled-accessible trail and wildlife-viewing platform.
Follow the footsteps of Missouri's only president, Harry S. Truman, through the neighborhood where he once lived in Independence. The 2.7-mile Truman Walking Trail will take you down the favorite route of the country's 33rd president. More than 40 plaques embedded in the sidewalks tell the story of Truman and his hometown.
Catch a commanding view of the Missouri River – the longest river in the United States – at Weston Bend State Park. A handicapped-accessible overlook provides the most expansive sight of the "Big Muddy" in the state.
Lace up your skates for a spin around the rink at Summit Ice in Lee's Summit. Take a break at one of the picnic tables or fire pits nearby. The rink is open daily through the end of February.
Experience an 80-acre slice of the Ozarks in the city of Springfield at the Springfield Nature Center. Three miles of trails offer opportunities for hiking and birding.
Stroll along beautiful Lake Taneycomo on a 1.5-mile boardwalk at the Branson Landing. Don't miss the outdoor water, fire, light and music show in the town square.
Joplin is home to Missouri's largest continuously flowing natural waterfall. Grand Falls plunges 12 feet down a 163-foot wide ledge before crashing into the jagged rocks below. Nearby Wildcat Glade Park has a 3.4 mile trail that will take you through rare chert glades.
See impressive box canyons and sandstone cliffs on two scenic hikes at Hickory Canyons Natural Area, located 10 miles northeast of Farmington. Take the seven-tenths of a mile loop trail to see the area's distinctive steep-walled bluffs. A mile-long loop trail travels through a sandstone forest and crosses a scenic creek in several spots.
Explore Cape Girardeau's history and its connection to the Mississippi River at the 1,100 foot long Mississippi River Tales Mural. The mural's 24 panels, 15 feet tall, are framed by stone arches. Access an audio tour on your cell phone and hear the city's history come to life.
A mile-long boardwalk will guide you into Missouri's only cypress swamp at Big Oak Tree State Park, located near East Prairie. In addition to cypress trees with their woody "knees," towering oaks and hickories – the tallest in the state – thrive in the rich soil.
See the St. Francis River rush around the igneous rock shut-ins at the Millstream Gardens Conservation Area near Arcadia. The Tiemann Shut-Ins Trail (1.8 miles out and back) leads to an observation deck overlooking the river.
Written by Liz Coleman