Top Hiking Trails in Missouri
When you think of the American Midwest, your first thought might not be the incredible hiking trails these states have. This couldn’t be further from the truth, though! Missouri, known as the “Show-Me State” just so happens to be brimming with stunning landscapes and hiking trails. From rugged terrains to tranquil lakeshores, the state offers a variety of trails that cater to every kind of outdoor enthusiast. Today, we’re going to explore some of the very best hikes throughout Missouri, each one offering a beautiful glimpse into the natural wonders of this state.
The Ozark Trail is undoubtedly the pinnacle of trails in Missouri. At 390 miles in total length, the trail is broken up into sections that weave through the heart of the astonishing and rugged Ozark Mountains. One of the most renowned segments of the Ozark Trail is the Taum Sauk Mountain to Johnson's Shut-Ins portion. This is a challenging hike at 14.5 miles long, but it leads hikers through unmatched scenery comprised of dense forests and rocky bluffs. The highlight of this trail is finally making it to Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park, where hikers can marvel at the incredible rock formations and take a well-deserved swim in the cool, crystal-clear pools.
Mark Twain National Forest – Council Bluff Lake Trail
Mark Twain National Forest covers 1.5 million acres and more than 750 miles of trails, allowing for endless hiking opportunities and such an ideal way to explore this corner of the world. One of the most popular trails is the Council Bluff Lake Trail, a 12-mile loop that takes you on a journey along the shores of Council Bluff Lake. Hikers meander through lush woodlands, near serene waters, and across rolling hills on this scenic trail. The trail has well-maintained paths and provides abundant opportunities for wildlife spotting and birdwatching. Although this hike is on the longer side, it doesn’t have too much elevation gain, making it a lot more doable than other hikes in the state. A trip to Mark Twain National Forest is a must if you’re yearning for a variety of amazing hikes in a true wilderness setting.
Elephant Rocks State Park – Braille Trail
Located in the southeastern Missouri, Elephant Rocks State Park is a unique destination where you’ll find jaw-dropping geological formations that formed from 1.5-billion-year-old granite. At 1 mile in length, the Braille Trail is a short but popular hike that takes visitors through an area with granite boulders scattered all over, some of which resemble elephants. This is a great hike for all skill levels that offers incredible insight into the geological history of the region while providing an experience that is unbelievably stunning.
Castlewood State Park – River Scene Trail
The River Scene Trail at Castlewood State Park is a 3.4-mile moderately rated trail that provides a peaceful escape along the Meramec River. With a perfect balance of rugged terrain and breathtaking views of the river, hikers are bound to be captivated with every step on this trail. As you traverse this twisting path that’s shaded by towering trees, you’ll be greeted by occasional glimpses of the flowing river. Once you experience this enchanting trail for yourself, you’ll quickly understand why it’s such a favored one not only in the park, but the entire state.
Ha Ha Tonka State Park – Castle Trail
Ha Ha Tonka State Park can be found in the Lake of the Ozarks region, with mesmerizing landscapes comprised of sinkholes, caves, and natural bridges. The park's Castle Trail is a quick 1-mile out-and-back hike that leads visitors to the ruins of a once-magnificent mansion and to sweeping views of the lake. If you want to do a bit more exploring while Ha Ha Tonka State Park, it also features several cave trails that allow visitors to discover the unique formations and hidden chambers. This state park is definitely an ideal location for those who want to integrate history, adventure, and stunning views into their hiking journey.
Exploring Missouri’s Abundant Beauty
Missouri has such an underrated and diverse landscape that offers a variety of hiking opportunities that range from challenging backcountry trails to leisurely walks through serene countryside. Whether you're drawn to the rugged Ozark Mountains, intrigued by the geological formations at Elephant Rocks State Park, or want to spend as much time by the water as possible, there's a hike for everyone in Missouri. Grab your hiking boots, water, and camera and get ready to create unforgettable memories while connecting with nature in the most profound way while exploring Missouri’s endless beauty.