20 Missouri State Parks

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The Cave State, more commonly known as Missouri is another great place to discover the U.S. state park system. The reason Missouri is called The Cave State is because there are more than 7,300 caves! There are 93 state parks in Missouri, so there’s plenty of nature to explore. We’ve picked out some of the best Missouri state parks that will help you narrow down your options and make sure you have a great time. Here they are:

Missouri State Parks

Top Tours

20 State Parks In Missouri

1- Roaring River State Park

Roaring River State Park is in southwestern Missouri just 15 miles from the Arkansas border.

The park is in the southwest Ozark hills and is one of Missouri’s most popular state parks.

If you love fishing then you will enjoy the fact that this is one of only three state parks in Missouri to stock rainbow trout.

Many anglers head to the park each year to try and catch a good haul of rainbow trout.

As well as fishing there are seven excellent hiking trails that provide you with excellent views of the deep and narrow valley.

For overnight stays there’s a campground, rustic cabins or you can stay at the Emory Melton Inn and Conference Center.

Roaring River State Park is at 12716 Farm Road 2239, Cassville, MO 65625.

2- Onondaga Cave State Park

stalactites and river in a cavern in Missouri
Mysterious caverns in Onondaga Cave State Park Missouri.

Onondaga Cave State Park is around one hour and 20 minutes’ drive south-west of St. Louis.

The caves at Onondaga are filled with stalagmites, stalactites and flow stones.

Onondaga Cave is also a National Natural Landmark and is the reason Missouri is often referred to as “The Cave State”.

Guided tours of the cave leave from the visitors’ centre and the tour is around a mile in length, lasting for around 1 hour 15 minutes.

Bring a jacket as the cave temperature is around 13C no matter what time of year you visit.

Other activities in the park include hiking, fishing on the Meramec River or Blue Heron Millpond, boating and canoeing, biking, picnicking and swimming.

Onondaga Cave State Park is at 7556 Missouri H, Leasburg, MO 65535.

3- Bennett Spring State Park

Bennett Spring State Park is around 13 miles (21 km) northwest of Lebanon.

If you are a fishing enthusiast then this is definitely one of the top Missouri state parks to visit.

Around 100 gallons of water gush from Bennett Spring daily and the waters are stocked with rainbow trout! If there’s a keen angler in the family then head to the park together, leave them to fish and you can enjoy the rest of the park’s interesting features.

There are five hiking trails, including the 7.4 mile (11.9 km) Natural Tunnel Trail which takes you through a variety of interesting habitats.

If you are feeling hungry after all that hiking and fishing stop by the dining lodge.

Bennett Spring State Park is at 26250 MO-64A, Lebanon, MO 65536.

4- Castlewood State Park

Castlewood State Park is in eastern Missouri around 30 minutes from downtown St Louis.

Believe it or not, Castlewood State Park was once the site of dance clubs and bars where folks from St Louis used to go to the area to party.

Visit Castlewood State Park today and you will find the beautiful meandering Meramec River and an abundance of nature.

If you are into mountain biking you will find this is one of the best spots close to St. Louis.

There are eight trails, with varying degrees of difficulty and many with excellent river views.

From biking to hiking, fishing and picnicking there’s plenty of fun to be had at Castlewood State Park.

Castlewood State Park is at 1401 Kiefer Creek Rd, Ballwin, MO 63021.

5- Meramec State Park

Meramec State Park Missouri
Meramec State Park Missouri.

Meramec State Park is just over an hour’s drive from St. Louis and it’s an excellent park for a day trip or even longer.

The Meramec River is at the heart of the park and is surrounded by woodland and a cave.

It’s great to visit the park year-round but especially in summer and autumn when the sun is out and the autumn leaves turn.

There are 13 miles (21 km) of hiking trails which allow you to explore the park.

Visitors enjoy swimming, fishing, rafting and boating along the river.

There’s also a park visitor centre which showcases the natural features of the park.

You must head to Fishers Cave whilst at the park.

Meramec State Park is at 115 Meramec Park Drive, Sullivan, MO 63080.

6- Montauk State Park

Montauk State Park is just 30 minutes southwest of Salem in Dent County.

This is a fantastic state park for visiting with friends and family.

Fun activities in the park include fishing, hiking, camping and picnicking.

The Current River and Pigeon Creek are the two water bodies in the park.

You will find anglers trying to catch rainbow trout on the river.

You can also enjoy tours of the gristmill which was built back in 1896 to learn more about the area.

Montauk State Park is at 345 County Rd 6670, Salem, MO 65560.

7- Cuivre River State Park

Cuivre River State Park is in eastern Missouri, just under an hour’s drive northwest of St. Louis.

One of Missouri’s Ozark parks, Cuivre River State Park is an excellent place to get back to nature.

Much of Missouri is agricultural land so this state park is a refreshing change in scenery.

The park is covered in forest and wild areas that are waiting to be explored by the hiking trails.

You can enjoy swimming at the beach area and there’s also a boat access point onto Lake Lincoln.

Cuivre River State Park is at 678 MO-147, Troy, MO 63379.

8- Lake of the Ozarks State Park

lake of the ozarks waterway
Lake of the Ozarks State Park, Missouri.

Calling all water enthusiasts! Lake of the Ozarks State Park is one of the best state parks for all things swimming, fishing and boating.

You will find the Lake of the Ozarks State Park in central Missouri.

This serpentine lake is under three hours’ drive from St. Louis and Kansas City.

Though you are on one of Missouri’s largest lakes this state park provides some undeveloped shelter from the crowds.

You can swim at the park’s two public beaches, you can fish for crappie, walleye, bluegill, and catfish on the lake and launch your boats from Grand Glaize or Pa He Tsi.

Stay overnight at the campsite or at the outpost cabins or yurts.

Lake of the Ozarks State Park is at 0170, 403 MO-134, Kaiser, MO 65047.

9- Mark Twain State Park

Famous American writer Mark Twain was born in Florida, Missouri in 1835.

Florida is around two hours from St. Louis and you will find the Mark Twain Lake, the Mark Twain State Park Beach and the Mark Twain State Park.

A series of bluffs surround the lake and there are tons of oak, maple and hickory trees that make the perfect home for turkeys and white-tailed deer.

Visitors love to go boating and there are two boat ramps at the park, one off of Route U and the other off Highway 107.

Park activities include hiking the six miles (9.6 km) of trails and swimming at the beach.

Between Memorial Day and mid-August during the summer there are naturalist exhibition programs at the park’s outdoor theatre.

Mark Twain State Park is at 37352 Shrine Rd, Florida, MO 65283.

10- Knob Noster State Park

Knob Noster State Park is just over an hour’s drive southeast of Kansas City.

This state park is perfect if you are searching for a quiet relaxing place to spend the weekend.

The park is a mix of prairie, woodland and Clearfork Creek.

There are seven walking trails at the park including the 5.7 mile (9 km) Opossum Hollow Trail which takes you through the woodland.

As well as hikers’ horses are also welcome on some of the trails, so too are mountain bikers.

Though kayaks aren’t currently available to rent until April 2024 due to campground construction, usually you can rent them or of course bring your own.

Paddle along the Creek and enjoy the surrounding landscape.

Knob Noster State Park is at 873 SE 10 Rd, Knob Noster, MO 65336.

11- Hawn State Park

Hawn State Park Missouri
Rocky river at Hawn State Park, Missouri.

Hawn State Park is in eastern Missouri just outside the small city of New Offenburg in Ste. Genevieve County.

The 4,956 acre (2005 ha) Hawn State Park is defined by its sandstone canyons.

If you are into geology, this state park is definitely worth a visit.

There are four park trails to enjoy, all varying in length.

The 9.5-mile (15.2 km) Whispering Pine Trail is frequently cited as one of the best hiking and backpacking trails in the whole of Missouri.

Stay overnight for more time to connect with nature at the campsite that sits under a canopy of pine trees.

During the day you can head to the tranquil picnic spots for a bite to eat.

Hawn State Park is at 12096 Park Dr #8121, New Offenburg, MO 63670.

12- Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park

Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park is in eastern Missouri around 1 hour and 45 minutes south of St. Louis.

This state park is a wonderful place for hiking, camping and picnicking owing to the rugged and scenic landscape.

There are six trails in the system.

The Black River Trail is an excellent 3.1-mile (4.9 km) walk exploring many different areas of the park.

The Shut-Ins Trail takes visitors to a rocky gorge that is known as the shut-in along the Black River.

This 2.3-mile trail takes you along boardwalks and to some beautiful lookout spots.

Once at the shut-in you can splash around in the water and cool off, perfect for those hot Missouri summer days.

Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park is at 148 Taum Sauk Trail, Middle Brook, MO 63656.

13- Dr. Edmund A. Babler Memorial State Park

This state park is close to the Missouri River around 40 minutes’ drive west of downtown St. Louis.

This park is a good place for families, especially those visiting St. Louis and looking for somewhere to go for the day or weekend.

There’s a campground at Dr. Edmund State Park offering basic and electric campsites.

For park activities you can go hiking along any of their seven trails.

There are also trails for horse riders and bikers too.

If you are traveling with younger kids there’s also a playground which is always appreciated.

Whether you travel there for a day or longer, be sure to pack a picnic and enjoy some quality family time at the park.

Dr. Edmund A. Babler Memorial State Park is at 800 Guy Park Dr, Wildwood, MO 63005.

14- Trail of Tears State Park

The Trail of Tears State Park is close to the border with Illinois just 20 minutes’ drive outside of Jackson.

The trail of tears refers to a haunting part of U.S. history where nine out of 13 Cherokee Indian groups were forcibly removed to Oklahoma.

They were forced from their homes during the harsh winter of 1838 to 1839.

It is believed that anywhere between 2,500 and 6,000 people died whilst walking the trail to their new “homes”.

Whilst visiting this state park you can learn more about the plight of the Cherokee people and the hardships they faced.

The park is also home to hiking trails, picnic sites and you can fish on the Mississippi River as well as Lake Boutin.

Trail of Tears State Park is at 429 Moccasin Springs Rd, Jackson, MO 63755.

15- Elephant Rocks State Park

large boulders in Elephant Rocks State Park
The impressive boulders in Elephant Rocks State Park, Missouri.

Elephant Rocks State Park is close to the Mark Twain National Forest in eastern Missouri, around 1 hour 30 minutes’ drive south of St. Louis.

The giant granite boulders aren’t exactly carved like elephants but they certainly have some resemblance to them.

Stare long enough and some of them even look like people.

This weird rock formation was formed 1.5 billion years ago.

Geologists, history buffs and nature enthusiasts are drawn to this unusual park.

Head out along the Braille Trail for the easiest way to see the rocks.

On site there is also an old railroad engine house to explore and learn about.

Elephant Rocks State Park is at 7390, 7406 MO-21, Belleview, MO 63623.

16- Ha Ha Tonka State Park

river at ha ha tonka
Ha Ha Tonka State Park is another Missouri state park to visit.

Ha Ha Tonka State Park is close to the Lake of the Ozarks and just outside of Camdenton.

This park is the perfect blend between history, nature and geology.

The park is filled with caves, sinkholes, a large natural bridge and the 12th largest spring in the state.

You can head up the ruins of an old castle that looks out over the Lake of the Ozarks as well as Ha Ha Tonka Spring.

Walk along the boardwalks to discover all of the different features of the park.

Other activities in the park include fishing, boating, picnicking, swimming and the campsite.

Ha Ha Tonka State Park is at 1491 Missouri D, Camdenton, MO 65020.

17- Rock Bridge Memorial State Park

Rock Bridge Memorial State Park is just outside of Columbia in central Missouri.

This is a wonderful spot to get back to nature and escape the hustle and bustle of the city.

There are some excellent hiking trails in the park, some of which are frequently cited as some of the best in the state.

Head out into the Gans Creek Wild Area for excellent views and interesting sites.

There are large cave systems with a natural rock bridge, sinkholes, a spring and an underwater stream.

Head to Connor’s Cave for some insight into the underworld.

Rock Bridge Memorial State Park is at 5901 South Highway 163, Columbia, MO 65203.

18- St. Joe State Park

St. Joe State Park is in eastern Missouri and around 30 minutes from the Mark Twain National Forest.

This park is one of only two off-road vehicle parks in the state.

So, don’t expect to come here for pristine quiet as you will find plenty of dirt bikes and ATV’s exploring many of the trails.

If ATVs are not your thing, then the park also has four lakes, picnic sites, and two swimming beaches.

You can also camp at St. Joe State Park.

There are specific campsites for off-road vehicle users and designated campgrounds for horse owners as well.

St. Joe State Park is at 2800 Pimville Rd, Park Hills, MO 63601.

19- Thousand Hills State Park

river, grass and trees
A peaceful view at Thousand Hills State Park, Missouri.

Thousand Hills State Park is next to Forest Lake in northern Missouri.

The park is around 1 hour 45 minutes north of Columbia via the US-63 N.

The wooded and savanna area of the park evokes memories of what Missouri used to be like before its development.

As it’s a northern park it’s much quieter than some of the other Missouri state parks which are closer to bigger cities.

You can enjoy everything from hiking to mountain biking, fishing, swimming and boating.

You can stay at the tented campsite or opt for a bit more luxury by staying in the cabins.

Thousand Hills State Park is at 20431 MO-157, Kirksville, MO 63501.

20- Prairie State Park

Prairie State Park is in western Missouri close to the border with Kansas.

More than a third of Missouri used to be covered in tallgrass prairies.

Today it’s a much more unfortunate statistic.

Less than 1% of the prairie land remains and it is preserved within the Prairie State Park.

This is a wonderful state park to connect to nature.

You can see the different wildflowers that flourish throughout the year as well as the park’s herd of bison.

To learn more about this landscape that once defined much of Missouri you can visit the Regal Tallgrass Prairie Nature Center.

There are a bunch of exhibits and interpretive programs inside for the whole family to enjoy.

Prairie State Park is at 128 NW 150th Ln, Mindenmines, MO 64769. 

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harriet comley
Harriet Comley is a travel enthusiast, freelance travel writer and a lover of safaris. Since 2017 she has been travelling the globe living in the UK, Canada, Vietnam, China and now Zambia, where she is completing her PhD in Sustainable Tourism. For 3 1/2 years she taught English in Vietnam and China. Now she has turned her attention to writing, having contributed to a number of travel blogs and websites always focusing on what she loves most…exploring!