Missouri State Parks Activities
Campsites at Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park are some of the best – not to mention most modern – in Missouri. With amenities like a dump station, a laundry area, and a campground store, this is undoubtedly the ideal park for those who can’t do away with their daily creature comforts. Plus, the natural beauty of this park is to die for!
Get away from the hustle and bustle of St. Louis at Cuivre River State Park, located just a short drive away from the sprawling city. With both primitive and modern campsites, this park is great for both families and adventurers alike.
Table Rock State Park is another great camping destination in Missouri. Immerse yourself in its lush greenery and beautiful views as you take on one of its many hiking trails. Be advised, though, that one of the camping locations in this park is only open from March to November.
If you’re a fan of recreational activities on the water, then Long Branch State Park is the camping experience for you! The well-kept and well-equipped sites found within the park are a favorite among residents and out-of-state visitors alike. Additionally, campgrounds here boast of a ton of amenities, including shower stations and electric hook-ups.
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Meramec State Park has over 14 miles of trails, ranging from beginner-friendly hiking to extremely difficult. The 1.2-mile Natural Wonders Trail is a favorite for those wishing to explore Missouri’s diverse flora and fauna. On the other hand, the 8.5-mile Wilderness Trail meanders through the most rugged and remote section of the park, ideal for those with more hiking experience.
There are also over 13 miles of hiking trails at Bennett Spring State Park; the 7.5-mile Natural Tunnel Trail is the best one, crossing through different terrains and culminating in the Bennett Spring Natural Tunnel, a 296-feet wonder of nature. Those who love history, caves, and stunning foliage shouldn’t pass up on this hike!
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Missouri has a ton of incredible destinations that are made to be explored! At Sam A. Baker State Park, backpackers love taking on the Mudlick Trail, which features some of the most rugged terrain in the St. Francois Mountains. This route climbs up to more than 1,300 feet above sea level – definitely not for the faint of heart!
For those who prefer a laidback adventure with plenty of scenic views of the Ozark woodlands, then the seven-mile Turkey Pen Hollow Trail at Ha Ha Tonka State Park is perfect for you! Here, backpackers can trudge through towering oaks that date back to more than 150 years ago.
For more adventures on the rugged Ozark landscapes, head over to the 15-mile Lake Wappapello Trail at Lake Wappapello State Park. Many backpackers love this picturesque yet challenging route so this is undoubtedly a must-try!
Pomme de Terre State Park, featuring the man-made Pomme de Terre Lake, is considered by many to be one of the best fishing holes in Missouri. The lake is home to large schools of catfish, walleye, and crappie although it’s more popular for its abundance of muskie. Anglers looking for a challenging fishing excursion will surely love this spot.
At Bennett Spring State Park, cast in America’s premier trout destination. The stream is stocked with rainbow trout every night so you don’t have to worry about running out!
Current River at Montauk State Park has a ton of both rainbow and brown trout, making it the perfect spot for anglers who can’t wait to bring home large catches of such. Keep in mind that the park’s trout season lasts only between March 1 and October 31. Otherwise, you’ll have to make do with their catch-and-release program.
Roaring River State Park is also known for its incredible trout fishing opportunities, thanks to its very own hatchery. This incredible spot is popular with anglers from all over Missouri!
Caches are hidden all over Missouri’s state parks, among them Meramec State Park and Rock Bridge Memorial State Park. Try your hand at locating caches cleverly concealed along their many nature trails!
Deer hunting is a popular activity in Missouri with many state parks opening their areas to hunters from all over the United States. Great hunting spots include Ha Ha Tonka State Park near Camdenton, Knob Noster State Park near Knob Noster, and Watkins Woolen Mill State Park and Historic Site near Lawson. Keep in mind that only hunters who have received a special permit from the Missouri Department of Conservation can participate in the state’s hunting opportunities.
Day Use Areas
Whether it’s a romantic date or an entire family reunion, Missouri has an abundance of great picnic spots! At Watkins Mill State Park, lay your spread atop one of the many picnic tables scattered all over the area. Grills are also available, taking your picnic to a whole new level.
Rock Bridge Memorial State Park also has plenty of picnic areas, as well as two official picnic shelters. Take in your meal amid the beautiful natural landscapes unique to this part of Missouri.
There are over 30 picnic sites nestled in a grove of tall pines at Hawn State Park. These spots are situated right next to Pickle Creek so you’ll undoubtedly have an incredible view to enjoy with your picnic.
Boating enthusiasts would do well to check out Lake of the Ozarks State Park, the largest of Missouri’s state parks. More than 40 marinas, as well as at least nine public boat ramps are found within, making it the top boating destination in the Show-Me State.
Harry S. Truman State Park is another incredible boating destination with three marinas and over 21 public boat ramps. At 55,600 acres, Harry S. Truman Lake is the largest lake found in Missouri. Explore the park’s expansive bluffs, rugged hills, forests, and more while on board your watercraft vehicle.
There are also around 14 marinas and 24 public boat ramps at Table Rock State Park, making it a prime spot for avid boaters. The crystal-clear water surrounded by towering trees makes it one of the Ozarks’ top destinations for boating!
The bottomland hardwood forest habitat found at Big Oak Tree State Park is home to tons of diverse bird species, including the Northern Parula, the Mississippi Kite, and the Prothonotary. Since the park is situated amid agricultural lands, plenty of spring migrants can also be observed here. If you are an avid bird watcher, this is a great spot to go.
The 2,500-acre Prairie State Park is Missouri’s largest protected prairie where the Grasshopper Sparrow and the Upland Sandpipers can be found. Bird-watching enthusiasts visiting Missouri should definitely stop by! If you are new to birding, considering getting a pair of binoculars for a better experience.
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The landlocked state may not be known for its beach scene but it still boasts of several incredible swimming holes! For instance, Lake of the Ozarks State Park is a favorite among those wishing to beat the summer heat due to its relaxing beaches, scenic views of the lake, and abundance of recreational activities.
Stockton Lake State Park is another popular summer spot; the clear blue waters of the lake are perfect for swimming! The summer sun can be pretty intense in Missouri, so don’t forget your beach umbrella when you go.
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Rock Climbing and Mountaineering
Elephant Rocks State Park is the top climbing destination in Missouri, featuring unique elephant-shaped boulders formed from granite dating back to billions of years ago. Climbing these towering formations should be on everyone’s bucket list!
The ancient beauty and geology found at Johnson Shut-Ins State Park makes it a favorite among climbers visiting the Show-Me State. Enjoy the multiple rocky trails and the challenging routes found within.
Advanced to intermediate climbers will definitely enjoy St. Francois State Park, known for its challenging boulders and short walls that range from difficult to extremely difficult – and no, that’s not a joke! Beginners looking to take their skills to the next level might also want to try exploring the routes in this park.
At St. Joe State Park, trails meander through its dense wooded portions, as well as its expanse of sand flats. This is one of the most popular off-road vehicle areas in the Midwest and even features a specialized campground near the riding area.
Drive through some of the most rugged terrain in Missouri at Finger Lakes State Park, featuring steep hills and deep ravines. This park is notorious for challenging even the most skilled of riders so take note!
Avid equestrians are welcome to take on the six-mile trail found at Dr. Edmund A. Babler Memorial State Park, which meanders through historic stables and the beautiful stonework created by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. This route is especially beautiful during the autumn season with its fiery red forests and crunching leaves.
Two equestrian trails can be found at Castlewood State Park, whose scenic views of Missouri make it a popular spot among horseback riding fans.
At Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park, the ten-mile Goggins Mountain Equestrian Trail is an extremely popular route, passing through a 5,000-acre wild area that features several rocky creek crossings.
The wonders found within Onondaga Cave State Park are unmatched! Towering stalagmites, dripping stalactites, and active flowstones have all helped make the cave a National Natural Landmark, drawing in hundreds of tourists year after year. Take the park’s guided tours to learn more about its many geological wonders, including the King’s Canopy, the Twins, the flowing river, and more. This is definitely a spot that you shouldn’t pass up!
Restaurants and Dining
At Bennett Spring State Park, enjoy a meal in the park’s rustic 1930s dining lodge, which specializes in all-American family dining that makes use of fresh local ingredients. The restaurant can even prepare your freshly-caught trout – the perfect way to end a long and exhausting day!
Special orienteering courses can be found at Rock Bridge Memorial State Park, Cuivre River State Park, and Knob Noster State Park. Be advised, though, that larger groups consisting of more than 15 people must reserve these sites beforehand.