From winding rivers and wetlands to rugged mountains and caves to panoramic grasslands, Missouri covers the full scenic spectrum. Diverse landscapes are just the beginning — educational and recreational opportunities abound in Missouri’s parks.
Forest Park is so much more than one of the best family parks in Missouri, it’s one of the best family parks in America! In fact, Forest Park is frequently compared to New York’s Central Park — it’s actually bigger by 450 acres. Besides its breathtaking scenery, the park offers abundant recreational opportunities for the entire family, including ice skating in the winter and pedal-boating on the lake in the summer. It’s also home to some of Missouri’s most venerated cultural institutions, many of them free, including the zoo and the art museum.
Location: 5595 Grand Drive, St. Louis, MO 63112
Table Rock Lake State Park
By far one of the most popular (as well as stunningly beautiful) recreational areas in the Midwest, Table Rock Lake State Park is nestled in the oak and hickory trees that surround 43,100-acre Table Rock Lake. There is something for everyone, from laid-back nature lovers to adrenaline-fueled water sports enthusiasts. Two shaded camping areas allow easy access to the water, while marinas offer a diverse range of watercraft for rental, from pontoon boats to waverunners and beyond.
Location: 5272 State Highway 165, Branson, MO
Ha Ha Tonka State Park
Recently featured in Midwest Living‘s “Best Midwest State Parks,” Ha Ha Tonka is truly one of a kind. More than 15 miles of trails traverse the park, leading the way to natural bridges, caves, sinkholes and a spring-fed river. But the main attraction at Ha Ha Tonka is — get this — the stone ruins of a 20th-century blufftop castle. Now, that’s something you can’t find at just any old state park!
Location: 1491 State Road D, Camdenton, MO
Meramec State Park
It’s a little-known fact that Missouri is the Cave State. Once you’ve experienced Meramec Caverns, you’ll know exactly why. Visit any time of the year in any weather — the temperature inside the mountain is a steady 58 degrees. Wear comfortable shoes, as the path gets slick, and definitely bring a camera — you won’t want to miss out on recording this natural wonder.
Location: 115 Meramec Park Drive, Sullivan, MO
Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park
Cascading waterfalls tumble over huge, smooth rocks to form swirling pools and natural waterslides. The “Shut-Ins” are named for the narrow part of the Black River that, more than a billion years ago, became confined to a narrow channel of erosion-resistant rock, creating a waterpark by nature’s design. The park is a popular weekend destination, and the day-use parking area only has 100 slots, so pack up the family and arrive early!
Location: 148 Taum Sauk Trail, Middlebrook, MO
Image by Kitz000 – Matt Kitces (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons