Missouri has so many beautiful and interesting places to explore! We have parks and museums, mansions and castles, and of course, our beautiful state parks. Here, we look at the more natural places to explore in the wonderful Show Me State.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
1. Cuivre River State Park, Troy
Trails through forests and prairies, sinkhole ponds, a gorgeous lake as well as picnic areas and campsites, this gorgeous park has it all!
2. Taum Sauk Mountain State Park, Middlebrook
Find yourself at the top of Missouri! The highest point in the state is in this park. The scenery includes hickory forests, rocky glades and even a portion of the Ozark Trail.
3. Roaring River State Park, Cassville
Hike one of the seven trails through rugged terrain and find yourself in view of colossal hills above a deep blue spring.
4. Onondaga Cave State Park, Leasburg
Onondaga Cave is a National Natural Landmark, providing guided tours. This park also features the Vilander Bluff which provides a panoramic view of the Meramec River.
5. Shaw Nature Reserve, Gray Summit
Shaw Nature Reserve is a 2,400-acre private nature reserve that is operated as an extension of the Missouri Botanical Garden. It features several historic homes, a large prairie, and a large wetland blind from which to observe herons. They offer over 14 miles of hiking trails including wheelchair-accessible trails and scenic routes.
6. Stonewater Cove Resort, Shell Knob
Stone Water calls itself an Adventure resort, with zip lining, ATV's, horses, trails, as well as water skiing, kayaking and wake-boarding. They even have an evening cruise nightly and a restaurant. Find out more at
7. Springfield Botanical Gardens at Nathanael Greene & Close Memorial Parks, Springfield
Spending all day walking around these gorgeous gardens is sure to make for a wonderful day. They have demonstration gardens, a butterfly house, a farmstead and a playground as well as access to the South Creek Greenway trail.
8. 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 and 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.
9. Grand Gulf State Park near 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!
10. Elephant Rocks State Park, Belleview
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.
11. Ha Ha Tonka State Park, Camdenton
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.
12. Knob Noster State Park, Knob Noster
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.
13. 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.
What are some of your most favorite places to go exploring? Have you visited any of these places?