With more than 50 state parks, and so much natural beauty, you really can’t go wrong when you are looking for outdoor fun in Missouri. These ten parks all have much to offer any visitor. For more state parks, check out the previous post about Missouri state parks
1. Thousand Hills State Park, Kirksville
This park on Forest Lake features fishing, boating, and swimming as well as hiking and mountain biking trails. They have a marina with boat rentals anad a Petroglyph shelter with Native American rock carvings. There are campsites and seven duplex cabins, if you want to make it more than a day trip. Thousand Hills also hosts the Jim Baker-John McConnell Bass and Kids Fishing Tournament each spring and the NEMO Triathlon each September.
2. Trail of Tears State Park, Cape Girardeau
Thousands of Cherokee Indians died during the Trail of Tears, a forced march relocating them to Oklahoma. 9 of the 13 groups crossed the Mississippi River near this park dedicated to the tragedy. It's a beautiful tribute, and a nice place to visit with picnic sites and shelters, horse trails, hiking trails, fishing in both the river and lakes, a swimming beach on Lake Boutin, two campgrounds and two playgrounds.
3. Grand Gulf State Park, Thayer
This park has been referred to as "The Little Grand Canyon" and features a gulf stretching more than a mile with 130 foot high walls. Take an interpretive trail explaining the gulf's formation, or a trail that takes you under the imposing natural bridge. There is no official trail leading to the bottom, so you should use caution if that is your goal, and there are no camping facilities or running water. This would be a great spot for a day trip!
4. Elephant Rocks State Park, Ironton
Giant elephant-shaped granite boulders are the main attraction and reason for the name at this park, but there is more to do and see. They have an interpretive braille trail that winds through the rocks, picnic areas, a trail that leads to Engine house ruins, and a playground. There is also rock climbing and rappelling, but it requires a permit and there is no solo climbing allowed.
5. Ha Ha Tonka State Park, Camden County
The ruins of a turn of the 20th century castle built high atop a bluff may be the main attraction, but there is so much more to do! There are more than 15 miles of trails, fishing and boating in the lake, 20 picnic areas and two shelters, a special use camping area, a playground, sandbox and horseshoe pits. Although there is no designated swimming area, a hike on one of the many trails leads you to natural wonders such as sink holes, natural bridges, and caves.
6. Knob Noster State Park, Johnson County
This park features a gorgeous mixture of prairie, woodland and forest along a creek running through it. There are basic and electric campsites, family campsites and special use areas available. Features include trails, kayak rentals, interpretive programs, mountain biking, horseback riding, fishing, picnic sites and shelters, a playground, and orienteering courses.
7. Finger Lakes State Park, Boone County
Finger Lakes is one of only two ATV parks in the Missouri state park system. In addition to ATV and off-roading, there is also a motocross track. They offer 19 basic and 16 electric campgrounds, and a swimming beach from May 22-September 13th. Other water attractions include kayak and canoe rentals, a boat ramp and water trail, fishing and scuba diving. There is a shaded picnic area and enclosed shelter. Metal detecting is also allowed, but requires a permit. Come explore this area reclaimed by nature after being strip-mined for coal years ago.
8. Prairie State Park, Mindenmines
This park features tall grass prairies where you might see elk or the resident bison herd. In the Regal Tall grass Nature Center, you will find exhibits and other interpretive programs. There are also hiking trails, picnic areas, a small number of basic campsites and a back pack camp.
9. Hawn State Park, Ste. Genevieve
Three main trails take you on an escape through nature: Pickle Creek Trail, White Oak Trail and Whispering Pine Wild Area. Discover beautiful exposed rock, clear, sand-bottomed streams, wild orchids, LaMotte Sandstone Barrens, or Botkin's Pine Woods. There are basic and electric campsites and a special use area, 30 picnic sites and a picnic shelter with a playground.
10. Robertsville State Park, Franklin County
This park features the Meramec River and Calvey Creek where you can enjoy fishing and boating (no swimming) or observe diverse water fowl. There are bluffs, hardwood forests, river bottomlands, and clearings dating back to when the area was used as a farm in the early 1900's. There are 12 basic and 15 electric campsites, and the Spice Bush Trail. Also available are two reservable picnic shelters with flush toilets and a playground.
What is your favorite state park to visit in Missouri? Feel free to share pictures, experiences or things you’d like to see featured in the future in the comments below!