Updated 12 Nov 2019: 47 down out of 52. It’s hard to determine how many parks there really are. There seems to be 58, but six are closed (either not open to the public yet, inexplicably closed, or closed due to flooding). Although the MO Parks site says 56. No matter, really. So far these specific adventures have added up to about 288 miles of hiking (including backpacking and biking and swimming and kayaking and dining).
I live all the way on the eastern side of the state. It will be tough. Here’s my AllTrails. Photos to come.
Babler State Park— Hiked 4.5 miles on the Dogwood & Woodbine Trails on 9 Feb. Babler is very much a developed park, meant for youth camp groups and such. There’s no suspension of disbelief that you’re out in the wild (aside from the crazy amount of armadillos). Sam A. Baker State Park— Backpacked 13.3 miles on the Mudlick Trail, camped in the woods, then did a couple more miles on the Shut-In Trail so I could swim in the morning. Mudlick Hollow is pretty wonderful, but overall a muggy, buggy experience in the Missouri summer. Bennett Spring State Park— Hiked 8.4 miles on the Bennett Spring Natural Tunnel Trail. Honestly, it’s a so-so trail that leads to a really beautiful underground cave/tunnel. A lot of the trail to the feature is lawnmower style, which makes it easier for more people to use but sometimes just feels like a cut walkway. The trail to make your hike a loop out is more interesting and naturally trail-like. Totally worth a visit, though!
- Big Lake State Park — to hike in December
Big Oak Tree State Park— First tried to get there 16 March but flooding/closed roads foiled me. Returned on 27 September. Nice day, big trees, etc. Walked (you can’t consider it hiking) the 1.5 miles on the out-and-back industrial boardwalk of the Big Oak Tree Trail. Then hiked 1.5 miles on the Bottomland Trail loop. Honestly, not my kind of park, though.
- Big Sugar Creek State Park — to hike in December
Castlewood State Park— Hiked 6 miles on Grotpeter & Lone Wolf Trails on 19 Jan. Castlewood is extremely popular and can be nearly overwhelmed on weekends with runners, hikers, bikers, and even organized races. The trails and views are wonderful, but the sheer amount of people can throw you off. It’s especially hard to hike with a dog and constantly yield to bikes. It was extremely cold when I went so the crowds stayed away, making for a perfect silent/chilly/snowy/muddy outing. Crowder State Park— Hiked 2.2 miles on the River Fork Trail on 25 May. Cuivre River State Park— Hiked 14 miles on the South Loop Trail on 2 Feb. You definitely feel like you’re in the backcountry here. Lots of trails, connectors, water crossings. Beautiful. Current River State Park— Hiked 4.2 spiderweb-heavy miles on the Jones Hollow Trail on 28 September. The trail was pretty straightforward but the park’s hours are not! Only open weekends 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (plus Monday holidays), and completely closed from 1 Nov to 30 April. Don Robinson State Park— Hiked about 7 miles, counting the canyon exploration and the road walk to the trailhead since the park gate was closed, on 16 Feb. The Sandstone Canyon Trail (just 4 miles itself) is one of my favorites. Was especially nice to see it snow-covered. 10 foot icicles hung in the canyon. Echo Bluff State Park— Echo Bluff State Park is super developed, but you need variety… backcountry primitive doesn’t serve everyone. Plus, it’s just nice (and they serve a good catfish sandwich). Diane and I hiked 2.5 miles on the Painter Ridge Trail, and we had fun playing games with the kids during our whirlwind weekend. Elephant Rocks State Park— Walked 1.5 miles around the park on a rainy 11 May. Finger Lakes State Park— Hiked 2.2 miles with Diane on the Kelley Branch Mountain Bike Trail on 10 June. Graham Cave State Park— Hiked 2.6 miles on the Indian Glade and Graham Cave Loop on 26 May. Grand Gulf State Park— Hiked just under a mile on the Natural Bridge Trail and a quarter mile on the Interpretive Loop Trail. This is a really cool place in Missouri—but hard to capture in a photo, or even in person (especially when the stairs to the bottom are closed for repair). It’s a collapsed karst cave system that created big, tree-filled valleys where oceans once sat. Ha Ha Tonka State Park— Backpacked 7 miles on the Turkey Pen Hollow Trail. Great trail! Groups can reserve primitive camp spots located on three different spurs along the trail, but I stealth camped in a perfect spot about 2.5 miles in. Went counter-clockwise, which I recommend. Couldn’t leave without seeing some of the other great views in this wonderful park: Castle Trail, Dell Rim Trail, Colosseum Trail, which only added a couple more miles. Harry S Truman State Park— Hiked and camped here to end a weekend road trip. Did two short trails: I liked the Bluff Ridge Trail better than the Western Wallflower Trail. Was nice to have shower facilities after two days of hiking. Hawn State Park— Backpacked 11.5 miles with Diane (her first time!) on the always beautiful and varied Whispering Pines Trail, ending with the Pickle Creek Trail, on 14-15 June. Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park— Hiked 2.7 miles (in the rain) on the Shut-Ins Trail on 11 May. Katy Trail State Park— Planned to bikepack the entire Katy Trail back in May, but got flooded out. Instead, as Diane and I do every year, we rode a section and hung out afterwards. Did 15 miles (Augusta to Dutzow and back) then ate lunch and had a beer at Augusta Brewing Company. Perfect! Knob Noster State Park— Hiked 1.1 miles around the lake on the Lake Buteo Trail on 25 May. Lake of the Ozarks State Park — Hiked the Trail of the Four Winds (North Loop) and swam in the lake. I should’ve picked a trail with a view of the lake! Lake Wappapello State Park— Backpacked ~17 miles on the Lake Wappapello Trail 16-17 March. The first half is pretty much single track/bushwacking (reassurance markers can be hard to find) while the second half is a bit more dull (in comparison) doubletrack and very easily followed, when you go counter-clockwise. An old cemetery marks the approximate midpoint. Lake views are great. Saw wild boars! Long Branch State Park— Hiking / trail running for 4.2 miles on the Bee Trace Trail (north loop only, due to thunderstorms!) on 24 May. Mark Twain State Park— Hiked 2.5 miles on the Dogwood Trail on 24 May 2019. Meramec State Park— Hiked 9.3 miles on the always wonderful Wilderness Trail—on 21 April at the peak of the spring bloom. Montauk State Park— Hiked the Pine Ridge Trail, about 2 miles of rocky beauty, on 28 September. The park is a destination for trout fishing and people were loving it. Morris State Park— Hiked 3 miles on the Beech Tree Trail on 16 March. Onondaga Cave State Park— Hiked 1.4 miles on the Vilander Bluff Trail on 26 May. Pershing State Park— Walked 1.6 miles on the Locust Creek Boardwalk Trail on 25 May. Pomme de Terre State Park— Ate fish tacos and a root beer float at the marina because the park web site did not disclose that the trails were closed due to flooding. Unfortunately the roads to the beaches were closed too (which I knew), but I would’ve went anyway just so I could check it off the list. I don’t like visiting without doing any activities but I did not bring a boat in my backpack so I was out of luck. Maybe the trails will be open by the time I hit the parks in the deep southwest corner of the state in December.
- Prairie State Park — to hike in December
- Roaring River State Park — to hike in December
Robertsville State Park— Hiked 1 mile on the Spicebush Trail on 16 Feb. I had already done the other trail in the park, the Lost Hill Trail (3 miles) so I figured I’d check out this short one. Probably best for kids and those looking for a very short trek. Rock Bridge Memorial State Park— Hiked 7 miles with Diane on the Gans Creek Wild Area Trail on 10 June. Roger Pryor Pioneer Backcountry— Went through this area during my thru-hike of the Ozark Trail (backpacked ~28 miles on the Blair Creek section, 17-18 Oct 2019). Round Spring State Park— Camped there on a clear Friday night. The next morning, 28 September, I walked the short paths to the intensely blue spring (just a 1/2 mile) and the cave (about 3/4 mile), which was closed. This is a truly beautiful place. Route 66 State Park— Rode the Kircher and Flat Creek trail into the park, for a total of just under 6 miles. Can’t even count how many times I’ve driven by this place and thought: meh. But it’s kinda interesting. I am somewhat ashamed to admit that its name long misled me, and I’d also forgotten some significant STL history… and no doubt the park’s name has misled many others. Anyway, the Route 66 connection is real (and I still need to check out the visitor center), but the reason the park exists is way more dirty and diabolical. Basically: dioxin. (Spoiler: It’s cleaned up now.) Today (9 March) I took my bike there for the first time and my apocalypse radar went wild—because the place really is a ghost town, minus the ghosts. So I looked it up. St. Francois State Park— Hiked 11 miles on Pike Run Trail 3 Feb. Pike Run is the longest trail here, and one you can camp on, but all are wonderful hikes. Nice river swimming when it’s warm out. Went back with the family on 4 July and hiked 3.6 miles on the Swimming Deer Trail, then picnicked and swam in the Big River.
- St. Joe State Park — to bike or hike in November
Stockton State Park— Hiked 2 miles on the Umber Ridge Trail. Quite nice; would’ve liked to do the whole 8 mile loop that includes the Stockton Lake Lakeview Trail but I ran out of time.
- Table Rock State Park — to hike or backpack in December, if it’s not too cold
Taum Sauk Mountain State Park— Backpacked about 6 miles in and out on the Mina Sauk Falls Trail, camping on the Ozark Trail Taum Sauk section on 11 May 2019. Also walked the path to the highest point in Missouri (the plateau of Taum Sauk Mountain, in the Saint Francois Mountains, at 1,772 feet—lol) Thousand Hills State Park— Hiked 1.4 miles on the Red Bud Trail on 24 May. Trail of Tears State Park— Hiked 3 miles on the Lake Trail on 16 March. Van Meter State Park— Hiked 1.8 miles on the Earthworks Trail on 25 May. Wakonda State Park— Walked 2 miles on the Sand Prairie Trail on 24 May. Wallace State Park— Hiked 1.4 miles on the Old Quarry Trail on 25 May. Washington State Park— Hiked 3 miles on the Campground Trail on 24 Feb (Cannonball and I had done the full Rockywood Trail last year). Returned in August with Liam and did a 2.8 mile hike on the Opossum Track Trail, then kayaked about 8.5 miles on the Big River (the recording stopped for a bit when my iPhone overheated in the sun). Then returned again the following weekend because I was just driving by, and hiked 1.4 miles on the 1000 Steps Trail and swam again. Watkins Woolen Mill State Park— Hiked 1.9 miles on a portion of the Watkins Mill Equestrian Trail on 25 May. Weston Bend State Park— Hiked 1 mile on the Harpst Trail on 25 May.
These parks are either new and not yet open to the public, or are inaccessible at the moment:
- Bryant Creek State Park — New, still closed to the public.
Eleven Point State Park— This park is closed, but I backpacked the entire ~30 mile Eleven Point section of the Ozark Trail during my thru-hike (11-12 Oct 2019).
- Jay Nixon State Park — Park is not open yet, and appears to be controversial. Technically seems you could access that area via the Taum Sauk section of the Ozark Trail.
- Jones-Confluence Point State Park — To walk (went 28 April but has been closed since March due to flooding).
- Lewis and Clark State Park — Tried to get there 25 May but the park is closed due to flooding, possibly through the 2020 season—but it doesn’t really have trails, so oh well.
- Ozark Mountain State Park — New, park is not yet open.