The Best State and Nature Parks in Missouri
Collected by Anne Roderique-Jones , AFAR Local Expert
Missouri is a gold mine for nature lovers, with crystal-clear lakes for swimming and boating, lazy rivers for fishing and floating, and wooded hamlets for hiking, biking, and camping. Visitors here will even find more than 6,000 caves, many of which offer guided tours. Head to the state’s finest parks to explore these natural wonders, perhaps with a picnic—or even a tent—in tow.
Columbia, MO, USA
Located just south of Columbia, Rock Creek State Park is the perfect quick getaway from the city, with more than 2,000 acres of geological preserve and public recreation. The park is a popular spot for hiking—especially in the scenic Gans...
Columbia, MO 65203, USA
The longest developed rail-trail in the country, Katy Trail State Park snakes across Missouri for 240 miles, from the western edge of the state to the St. Louis metro area. Built on the former corridor of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad, the...
1135 Hwy W, Sullivan, MO 63080, USA
With a nickname like the “Cave State,” Missouri certainly isn’t short on impressive caverns. Of the more than 6,000 across the state, however, Meramac Caverns is the largest—and stays open year-round for tours. Said to have...
401 Fairgrounds Rd, Rolla, MO 65401, USA
Named after the great author from Hannibal, Missouri, Mark Twain National Forest sprawls for more than 1.5 million acres in the Ozark Highlands. The only national forest in Missouri, it’s a treasure trove of outdoor adventure, with 750 miles...
Camdenton, MO 65020, USA
Stretching for more than 3,000 acres across the Niangua arm of the Lake of the Ozarks, Ha Ha Tonka State Park is a geologic wonder, offering 15 miles of hiking trails amid soaring bluffs, sinkholes, caves, a natural bridge, and Missouri’s...
26142 MO-64A, Lebanon, MO 65536, USA
One of Missouri’s first state parks, Bennett Spring is revered for its trout fishing. Here, more than 100 million gallons of clear, cool water gush through the spring each day, drawing anglers eager for a big catch. Those less interested in...
Salem, MO 65560, USA
Montauk State Park sits at the head of the Current River, where seven springs converge to form a breathtakingly beautiful area. The park is popular with anglers who come to fish for rainbow trout in the cool waters, but also offers ample...
Belleview, MO 63623, USA
As fascinating for children as it is for rock hounds, this geologic reserve is named for its string of massive pink-granite boulders that resemble a train of circus elephants. Estimated to be around 1.5 billion years old, the rocks are prime for...
5685 Riverside Dr, Joplin, MO 64804, USA
Situated on Shoal Creek, just a skip downstream from Wildcat Park in Joplin, Grand Falls is the largest continuously flowing waterfall in Missouri. While it’s just 12 feet high and 163 feet wide, it’s a glorious example of...
Lampe, MO 65681, USA
Sprawling over 10,000 acres in Lampe, Missouri, Dogwood Canyon Nature Park was established by Johnny Morris—founder of Bass Pro Shops and nearby Big Cedar Lodge—as a place for families to spend time in nature. Elk, bison, Texas...
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