Set out on a hike in Missouri, and you'll be rewarded with views of towering bluffs, rock formations, rivers, lakes and springs. With more than 1,000 miles of hiking trails, the Show-Me State offers plenty of ground to cover.
The Missouri River Trail at Weston Bend State Park near Weston provides an up-close look at the longest river in the U.S. The six-tenths of a mile out-and-back trail is an easy hike, although there are drop-offs at a few points along the path. The park also offers an accessible scenic overlook featuring one of the state's most expansive views of the "Big Muddy."
Defined by impressive box canyons and sandstone cliffs, Hickory Canyons Natural Area, located 10 miles northeast of Farmington, offers two scenic hikes. Take the seven-tenths of a mile loop trail, rated moderate, to see the area's distinctive steep-walled bluffs. A mile-long loop trail, also rated moderate, travels through a sandstone forest and crosses a scenic creek in several spots.
The 1.4 mile Spring Trail at Ha Ha Tonka State Park, located at the Lake of the Ozarks, takes you past sheer rock bluffs to a large natural spring that produces 58 million gallons of water a day. Beyond the spring, the loop trail then ascends 316 wooden steps to an upper section that provides a spectacular view overlooking the spring. You'll also be able to spot the stone ruins of a "castle" perched atop a 250 foot bluff. The first four-tenths of a mile is paved and accessible to visitors with physical limitations - the remainder of the trail is rated moderate.
The River Trail at Roaring River State Park, near Cassville, runs parallel to the river between the Civilian Conservation Corps lodge and one of the park's campgrounds. The 1.4 mile out-and-back trail is an easy hike and offers a look at the historic trail work completed by the CCC in the 1930s.
The Hughes Mountain Natural Area, near Potosi, is home to one of Missouri's geologic wonders, an unusual formation of ancient volcanic rock known locally as Devil's Honeycomb. The 1.5-billion-year-old rock is among the oldest exposed rock in the country. A 1.6 mile out-and-back hike is rated moderate and will lead you to the mountaintop and a breathtaking view.
The 7.4 mile Natural Tunnel Trail at Bennett Spring State Park near Lebanon, will guide you through a natural rock tunnel nearly 300 feet long. On the way to the tunnel, the moderate-rated loop trail traverses many different habitats including bottomland and upland forests, tall bluffs, sunny glades and streams.
The Gans Creek Wild Area Trail, located at Rock Bridge Memorial State Park, is just a short distance from Columbia. The 7.7 mile loop trail is rated moderate. Small streams dissect the hills and flow into Gans Creek, which is surrounded by tall bluffs.
Considered one of the most scenic hikes in the St. Louis area, the Lewis and Clark Trail is located at the Weldon Spring Conservation Area. The moderate-rated 8.3 mile loop trail passes by limestone cliffs and provides a scenic view of the Missouri River.
Located near Ste. Genevieve, the Whispering Pines Trail at Hawn State Park is considered one of the best backpacking trails in the state. The 9.5 mile rugged multi-loop trail features towering pine trees, sandstone cliffs and canyons.
The Current River Trail is a moderate-rated hiking route that offers scenic views of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, the first national park area to protect a river system. The 11.2 mile out-and-back trail begins in the southernmost part of Echo Bluff State Park and connects to Current River State Park.
The Taum Sauk Section of the Ozark Trail features 1.5 billion-year-old mountains, igneous glades, springs and interesting rock formations. The 12.3 mile point-to-point trail is located deep in the Ozarks near Arcadia. The trail is rated hard and is one of Missouri's most challenging hikes.
Written by Liz Coleman