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Road trips are all about the journey, but a great destination makes them even better. Need a suggestion? Let your route lead you to a Missouri State Park.
The Show-Me State is home to more than 50 state parks, so you’re never far from some of the best places to experience Missouri’s diverse landscape and natural beauty. The most popular parks are always worth a stop, but there are plenty more to explore in every region of the state.
Dramatic bluffs and hardwood forests surround one of Missouri’s largest lakes at Harry S Truman State Park. Located on a peninsula with plenty of water views, the park offers hiking, mountain biking, picnicking, fishing and boating.
Rock Bridge Memorial State Park
Discover fascinating geologic features at Rock Bridge Memorial State Park, five miles south of Columbia. Take the boardwalk to a natural rock bridge, passing numerous sinkholes and springs along the way. The park also has trails for hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders as well as picnic sites.
You’ll find secluded picnic sites and sweeping views of the Missouri River at Weston Bend State Park, a short drive from Kansas City. The park’s scenic overlook is accessible for people with disabilities. Trails include a 3-mile paved path that takes hikers and cyclists through the woody terrain.
A paved bicycle path circles a 100-acre lake at Watkins Mill State Park, near Excelsior Springs. Fishing and picnicking are popular activities here. The park is adjacent to the Watkins Woolen Mill State Historic Site, a National Historic Landmark.
One of Missouri’s largest and most rugged parks, Cuivre River State Park encompasses more than 6,000 acres. Located in the midst of a predominately agricultural landscape north of St. Louis, the park feels more like a slice of the Ozarks. Explore the terrain on more than 38 miles of hiking, backpacking and equestrian trails.
Forest Lake is the centerpiece of Thousand Hills State Park near Kirksville. Try your hand at fishing or rent a boat, canoe or kayak at the marina, open weekends during the fall. The area’s woody shores and broad savannas offer hiking and mountain biking. An interpretive shelter provides information about the park’s petroglyphs – American Indian rock carvings from more than 1,500 years ago.
Take in panoramic views of swaying grasses and an ever-changing display of wildflowers at Prairie State Park. Tallgrass prairies once covered more than a third of Missouri, but today, less than 1% remains. Much of that land is preserved at this park, located south of Lamar. You just might spot the park’s resident bison herd.
A steady breeze makes Stockton Lake a perfect place for sailing. A nationally recognized sailing school is housed at the marina where you can rent a sailboat, pontoon or fishing boat, canoe or kayak. Watch the sailboats glide across the lake and explore the park on several hiking trails.
Towering pine trees and interesting rock formations await at Hawn State Park near Ste. Genevieve. Hiking and birding are popular pastimes in the park. Trails include a short trek to a scenic overlook and a backpacking trail nearly 10 miles long.
Peer into Missouri’s “Little Grand Canyon” at Grand Gulf State Park, located west of Thayer, near the state’s southern border. The gulf – one of the most spectacular collapsed cave systems in the Ozarks – stretches about three-quarters of a mile between 130-foot-high walls. Explore the area from trails and overlooks along the top edge or venture carefully to the bottom (there is no official trail) where you can walk under a natural bridge spanning 250 feet.
Written by Liz Coleman