Missouri has repeatedly been recognized for its wonderful state park system, with 89 official Missouri State Parks and State Historic Sites, totaling more than 200,000 acres of beautiful public space.
Visitors find a place in every corner of the state to hike, camp, picnic and enjoy other activities. (Reservations for camping are recommended.) Yes, 89 is a lot of choices, so we narrowed it down to 10 (in no particular order) that make for a perfect adventure and year-round fun.
And be sure to keep up-to-date on the latest park happenings by visiting the Missouri State Parks online events calendar.
Weston Bend State Park
About 40 minutes north of the metropolis Kansas City, Weston Bend welcomes you with scenic outlooks and sweeping vistas of the Missouri River. There is a three-mile paved loop for hikers and bikers, plus a campground for overnight stays.
Big Lake State Park
Need a place to get away for a weekend? Big Lake is Missouri’s largest oxbow lake (a crescent-shaped lake formed when part of a river is cut off from the main channel). The 625-acre lake is a popular rest stop for migrating birds; paired with the beautiful park, the area is ideal for camping, picnicking, fishing and some of the best birding in the state. The park is an hour’s drive north of St. Joseph.
Elephant Rocks State Park
The name says it all – this park is full of giant, elephant-shaped red granite boulders. They are pretty great for family photos and work well as a natural jungle gym. This state park is definitely a unique spot in Missouri. Plus, Braille signage accompanies the trail winding through the park. The park is off of Route 21, four miles north of Pilot Knob.
Castlewood State Park
Located five miles south of Ballwin, this park is considered one of the best mountain-biking spots in the St. Louis area, maybe the state. Hiking and biking trails take you high on the bluff tops overlooking the Meramec River. Whether you want an adventure or a glimpse of wildlife, this is the place to go.
Ha Ha Tonka State Park
Although Ha Ha Tonka is best known for the gorgeous castle ruins high on a bluff above the Lake of the Ozarks, this state park has much more to offer. Walk the board-planked trails; hike the challenging uphill climbs that are seemingly endless; visit a natural rock bridge; watch a spring gushing from the bluff; stop at sinkholes and caves – you have an action-packed weekend ahead of you. Ha Ha Tonka is four miles southwest of Camdenton.
Graham Cave State Park
Two miles off I-70 at the Montgomery City exit, marvel at a cave where, 10,000 years ago, hunter and gatherers lived. See the proof of their existence as you walk around the opening of the shelter cave and explore the exhibits about those early residents. This state park is a fine spot for hiking and camping, with boat access to the Loutre River.
Lake Wappapello State Park
Lake Wappapello, 16 miles north of Poplar Bluff, has a little bit of everything. A dream come true for fisherman, the lake is full of crappie, catfish and bass. Plus there are miles of hiking, biking and equestrian trails, nature programs and a beach. Facilities include cabins, and beautiful campgrounds, where you can sleep under the stars.
Onondaga Cave State Park
Learn to love the cute little cave bunnies - some may call them bats. Seven miles south of I-44 at the Leasburg exit, Onondaga Cave is designated a National Natural Landmark. This is one of Missouri’s brilliant show caves that illustrate why Missouri is known as, “The Cave State.” Hang out for a guided tour (March thru October). Above ground, the park offers hiking trails with great views, Meramec River access and canoe rentals.
Prairie State Park
Here is your chance to see a section of tall-grass prairie the way the land looked before it was the United State of America. If you’re lucky, you’ll see the resident American bison (buffalo) herd and elk roaming among the grasslands and wildflowers. The visitor center, located 16 miles west of Lamar, gives you all the details.
Taum Sauk Mountain State Park
Located in the St. Francois Mountains, off Route 21, nine miles southwest of Ironton, this park allows visitors to climb to the top of Taum Sauk Mountain – at 1,772 feet, it is the highest elevation in the state. The state's tallest wet-weather waterfall, Mina Sauk Falls, is a highlight of this scenic and rugged park. This park encompasses 7,500 acres of forest, full of trails and beautiful views.
NOTE: Do Not Carry In Your Own Firewood. Many insects and diseases that kill trees and destroy forests travel in firewood. Buy or gather firewood where you camp and burn it all or leave it there.