Missouri has stunning parks across the state, but St. Louis is pretty lucky to be so close to some of the best and most beautiful! These ten amazing state parks are all less than 100 miles from St. Louis, which makes them perfect for both lovely day trips and excellent destinations for a weekend getaway!
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. Castlewood State Park
This beautiful 1,818-acre park lies alongside the Meramec River and offers some excellent hiking opportunities. It also includes the World Bird Sanctuary, which is a dedicated bird preserve that works in the rescue and rehabilitation of wild birds, as well as research and education for the public about the fascinating feathered creatures who live here. Castlewood State Park offers tons of recreational activities, including hiking, biking, horseback riding, wildlife watching, fishing, and boating. There is a lovely little picnic area, so pack a lunch and come enjoy the beautiful outdoor oasis at Castlewood State Park!
Castlewood State Park is located 27 miles west of St. Louis at 1401 Kiefer Creek Rd, Ballwin, MO. The World Bird Sanctuary can be found at 125 Bald Eagle Ridge Rd, Valley Park, MO.
2. Dr. Edmund A. Babler Memorial State Park
This is one of Missouri’s most popular state parks as well as one of the oldest! Jacob and Henry Babler donated the park space in memory of their brother Edmund Babler, who was a successful St. Louis surgeon prior to his death. A bronze statue of Dr. Babler sits at the center of the park, which now offers visitors hiking and horse trails, wildlife viewing areas, and campsites to come visit this beautiful area. Old-growth forests, protected from destruction, blanket the area and provide a lovely natural oasis just 30 miles west of St Louis.
Dr. Edmund A. Babler Memorial State Park is located at 800 Guy Park Dr, Wildwood, MO.
3. Edward "Ted" and Pat Jones-Confluence Point State Park
This unique park sits right at the confluence of the Missouri River and the Mississippi River! This site has special historical significance, as it was the starting place for the famous Lewis & Clark Expedition, which ultimately led to westward expansion and the addition of western territories into pre-United States land. Today, visitors can enjoy short walking trails, great birdwatching spots, and interpretive areas that offer some fascinating information about the significance of the area and the current wildlife that calls this area home.
Edward “Ted” and Pat Jones-Confluence Point State Park is located 24 miles west of downtown St. Louis at 1000 Riverlands Way, West Alton, MO.
4. Route 66 State Park
Route 66 State Park sits on the site of the former Times Beach. In the 1980s, it was discovered that the town was contaminated with dioxin, so the land was decontaminated and destroyed. Some of the deserted streets and buildings still line the edges of the park, which is now safe to visit and home to some beautiful fields of wildflowers in the spring months. The Visitor Center at Route 66 State Park now holds a fun, funky collection of Route 66 memorabilia, including the first historic Route 66 marker. The Inner Loop Trail is an easy two-mile hiking and biking trail that is paved and wheelchair accessible to visitors. The trail follows along the old Burlington Northern Railroad tracks and offer connection points to Kircher Park and Flat Creek Trail in the town of Eureka. The Outer Loop Trail is slightly longer (3.25 miles), but is still rated easy and offers glimpses of the beautiful Meramec River.
Route 66 State Park is located 27 miles southwest of St. Louis at 97 N Outer Rd, Eureka, MO.
5. Meramec State Park
This incredible state park has some of the most diverse ecological features in the entire state! There are beautiful hardwood forests and lovely glades; however, the star of the park is certainly the caves! More than 40 caves are located throughout the park, the largest of which is Fisher Cave, located near the campgrounds. The park also offers places for visitors to canoe, fish, and go boating, and there are even rental cabins available for those who aren’t quite the camping type, but still want to be right in the center of the action.
Meramec State Park is located 67 miles southwest of St. Louis at 670 Fisher Cave Drive, Sullivan, MO.
6. Elephant Rocks State Park
Elephant Rocks is one very cool spot! This geological reserve includes stunning cliffs and rock features in the Saint Francois Mountains and the park has some amazing (and enormous) boulders made from beautiful pink granite.
There are several short trails to explore here, including the Braille Trail (which was the first of its kind to include adaptations for visitors with visual challenges), “Fat Man’s Squeeze” (through a narrow boulder gap), and “The Maze.”
Elephant Rocks State Park is located 86 miles south of St. Louis at 7406 MO-21, Belleview, MO.
7. Cuivre River State Park
This nature-lover’s paradise is one of the best spots to see the beautiful seasons in all of their vibrant glory. The landscape is unique and includes prairie land, old-growth oak and hickory forests, and sinkhole ponds. Hiking and horseback riding trails make it easy for visitors to get out and explore these beautiful areas, and there are plenty of campsites available if you wish to extend your trip into a weekend adventure. You can also fish, swim, and canoe along the waterways, which makes this an especially popular spot during the warm summer months.
Cuivre River State Park is located 58 miles northwest of St. Louis at 678 State Route 147, Troy, MO.
8. Onondaga Cave State Park
This State Park is located right on the Meramec River, but the most beautiful sights are actually underground! The Onondaga Cave is truly a hidden gem. You can take a tour into the depths to see stunning stalagmites and stalactites, as well as cool flowstone formations and drip pools. The Onondaga Caves are a U.S. National Landmark and they definitely belong on your bucket list, but if you prefer to stay above ground, there is still tons to do here, including canoeing and fishing along the lovely Meramec River, camping, and hiking along the scenic trails.
Onondaga Cave State Park is located 83 miles southwest of St. Louis at 7556 Hwy H, Leasburg, MO.
9. Taum Sauk Mountain State Park
This beautiful Missouri State Park in the Saint Francois Mountains is home to Taum Sauk Mountain - the highest point in the entire state! This wilderness area is a popular spot for hikers and backpackers, but the views from Taum Sauk are beautiful for just about anyone who visits. You will also find Mina Sauk Falls - the highest waterfall in Missouri - on Taum Sauk Mountain, so this is definitely one spot that packs a ton of natural fun into one stunning area.
Taum Sauk Mountain State Park is located 97 miles south of St. Louis on Hwy. CC, Ironton, MO. Here’s the
provided by the Missouri State Parks website.
10. Mastodon State Historic Site
Sure, it’s not a “true” State Park, but Mastodon IS a State Historic Site, and it’s definitely worth checking out. This area is a significant archeological and paleontological site that preserves the Kimmswick Bone Bed, where the fossilized bones of mastodons were discovered in the early 19th century. This is also the site where archaeologists uncovered the famous Clovis-point spears that greatly influenced the way we understand the life and spread of culture in prehistoric eras. At Mastodon State Historic Site, there is a museum that offers TONS of information about the history of this area, including stories of the culture of the oldest Native American site in the entire state! The Museum also has incredible exhibits featuring the full skeletons of mastodons and other now-extinct creatures that once called this area home.
There are also recreational activities offered here, including a lovely picnic area and three hiking trails to explore. The two-mile Limestone Hill Trail is quite rugged, with steep climbs through rough terrain, but the views of the Sekman Valley from the top of the bluff are absolutely worth the extra effort. The shorter Wildflower Trail (0.4 miles) is easier (yet still rated moderate), takes you down a wooden staircase to the Kimmswick Bone Beds where the first fossil discoveries were made. Interpretive information along the way help paint a beautiful picture of what life was like here thousands of years ago!
The Mastodon State Historic Site is located just 22 miles south of St. Louis at 1050 Charles J Becker Drive, Imperial, MO.
We really are lucky to be surrounded by such amazing places! While there are hundreds of beautiful spots around the state, these are just a handful of highlights that are especially close to St. Louis and easy to access, no matter what type of adventure you’re looking for!