25 Nature-Filled National Parks in Missouri You Should Visit

National Parks in Missouri

Missouri is a state rich in natural beauty, history, and culture. With its varied landscapes, from rolling hills to scenic rivers, Missouri offers a wide range of outdoor activities and opportunities for exploration. One of the best ways to experience the untamed wilderness of Missouri is by visiting its national parks.

Missouri is home to seven national parks, each offering a unique experience for visitors. From the iconic Gateway Arch National Park in St. Louis to the scenic Ozark National Scenic Riverways, these national parks showcase the state’s diverse natural and cultural heritage. Whether you’re interested in exploring historical sites, hiking through picturesque landscapes, or simply enjoying nature’s beauty, Missouri’s national parks have something for everyone.

In this blog, we will take a closer look at 25 national parks in Missouri, highlighting their key features, historical significance, and natural wonders. From the Gateway Arch National Park, which symbolizes the westward expansion of the United States, to the George Washington Carver National Monument, which celebrates the life and achievements of an influential African American scientist, these national parks offer a glimpse into Missouri’s rich history and natural beauty. So let’s embark on a journey through the untamed wilderness of Missouri and discover the hidden gems that await us in these national parks.

Exploring the Wilderness: 25 National Parks in Missouri Filled with Nature

Missouri’s national parks offer a diverse range of natural landscapes, from majestic rivers to rolling hills and lush forests. These parks provide a wildlife sanctuary, preserve important historical sites, and offer endless opportunities for outdoor recreation.

One of the most iconic national parks in Missouri is the Gateway Arch National Park. Formerly known as the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, this park is home to the famous Gateway Arch, a symbol of the westward expansion of the United States. Visitors can take a tram to the top of the arch and enjoy stunning views of the Mississippi River and the surrounding cityscape. The park also includes the Old Courthouse, where the famous Dred Scott case was heard, a pivotal event in the fight against slavery.

Another must-visit park in Missouri is the George Washington Carver National Monument. This park commemorates the life and achievements of George Washington Carver, an African American scientist who made significant contributions to agricultural research and innovation. Visitors can explore the park’s museum and visitor center, walk the trails, and learn about Carver’s important work in improving farming practices and promoting sustainable agriculture.

For those seeking outdoor adventures, the Ozark National Scenic Riverways is a must-visit destination. This park is home to the Current and Jacks Fork Rivers, offering endless opportunities for canoeing, kayaking, fishing, and hiking. Visitors can explore the park’s natural springs, caves, and historic sites, and enjoy the scenic beauty of the Ozark Mountains.

In addition to these national parks, Missouri is also home to several state parks that offer a variety of recreational activities and natural beauty. State parks like Big Oak Tree State Park, Meramec State Park, and Prairie State Park provide opportunities for camping, hiking, wildlife viewing, and more. Whether you’re looking to immerse yourself in nature, explore history, or simply enjoy the great outdoors, Missouri’s national and state parks have something for everyone.

1. Gateway Arch National Park

Gateway Arch National Park
Gateway Arch National Park

Gateway Arch National Park, formerly known as the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, is one of the most iconic national parks in Missouri. Situated in St. Louis, the park is home to the famous Gateway Arch, a symbol of the westward expansion of the United States.

Visitors to Gateway Arch National Park can take a tram to the top of the arch and enjoy breathtaking panoramic views of the Mississippi River and the surrounding city. The park also includes the Old Courthouse, where the historic Dred Scott case was heard, a pivotal event in the fight against slavery.

Designated as the first national park in Missouri, Gateway Arch National Park offers a unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty. It is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in the westward expansion of the United States and the Civil Rights movement.

2. George Washington Carver National Monument

George Washington Carver National Monument
George Washington Carver National Monument

George Washington Carver National Monument is a national park located in Diamond, Missouri. It honors the life and achievements of George Washington Carver, an African American scientist, educator, and humanitarian.

Visitors to the national monument can explore the park’s museum and visitor center, which provide insight into Carver’s groundbreaking work in agricultural research and innovation. The park also features walking trails that allow visitors to learn more about Carver’s upbringing and the natural world that inspired his work.

Carver’s contributions to agriculture, particularly his research on peanuts and sweet potatoes, revolutionized farming practices and helped improve the lives of farmers in the South. His work also had a significant impact on the economy and sustainability of the region.

George Washington Carver National Monument serves as a reminder of Carver’s remarkable legacy and the importance of diversity and inclusion in science and education.

3. Harry S Truman National Historic Site

Harry S Truman National Historic Site
Harry S Truman National Historic Site

Harry S Truman National Historic Site is located in Independence, Missouri, and preserves the home and farm of President Harry S. Truman. Truman served as the 33rd President of the United States from 1945 to 1953.

Visitors to the national historic site can take guided tours of the Truman Home, where Truman and his family lived after his presidency. The site also includes the Truman Farm Home, which provides a glimpse into the president’s early life and his connection to the land.

Truman’s presidency was marked by significant events such as the end of World War II and the establishment of NATO. The site offers a unique opportunity to learn about Truman’s life and career and his impact on American history.

The Truman Home and Farm are a testament to Truman’s humble beginnings and his dedication to public service. The national historic site provides a fascinating look into the life of one of America’s most influential presidents and is a must-visit for history enthusiasts.

4. Ozark National Scenic Riverways

Ozark National Scenic Riverways
Ozark National Scenic Riverways

Ozark National Scenic Riverways is a national park located in southern Missouri. It encompasses the Current and Jacks Fork Rivers, making it the first national park to preserve a river system.

The park offers a range of outdoor activities, including canoeing, kayaking, fishing, and horseback riding. Visitors can explore the park’s scenic waterways, which meander through the rugged Ozark landscape and offer breathtaking views of towering bluffs and lush forests.

Ozark National Scenic Riverways is also home to numerous caves, springs, and historic sites. Visitors can take guided tours of caves, hike through the park’s trails, or simply relax and enjoy the beauty of nature.

The park’s diverse ecosystem supports a wide variety of wildlife, including bald eagles, minks, and river otters. It is a haven for nature enthusiasts and outdoor adventurers seeking to immerse themselves in Missouri’s natural beauty.

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5. Ste. Genevieve National Historical Park

 Genevieve National Historical Park
Genevieve National Historical Park

Ste. Genevieve National Historical Park is located in Ste. Genevieve, Missouri, and preserves the town’s rich history and cultural heritage. Ste. Genevieve was the first permanent European settlement in Missouri and played a significant role in the region’s history.

The national historical park features several historic homes and buildings, including the Jean Baptiste Vallé House, the Bauvais-Amoureux House, and the Green Tree Tavern. Visitors can take guided tours of these beautifully preserved structures and learn about the town’s French colonial past.

Ste. Genevieve National Historical Park is also home to a historic district that showcases the unique architectural style of the area. The district includes numerous historic buildings and offers a glimpse into the daily life of early settlers in the region.

The park’s rich history, combined with its charming small-town atmosphere, makes it a popular destination for history buffs and architecture enthusiasts. It is a must-visit for anyone interested in Missouri’s early settlement and cultural heritage.

6. Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site

 Grant National Historic Site
Grant National Historic Site

Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site is located in Grantwood Village, Missouri, and preserves the former home of Ulysses S. Grant, the 18th President of the United States. The site provides a glimpse into Grant’s life and career before and after his presidency.

Visitors to the national historic site can take guided tours of White Haven, Grant’s family home, and learn about his early life, military career, and presidency. The site also includes several outbuildings and exhibits that provide further insight into Grant’s life and achievements.

Grantwood Village, where the site is located, offers a peaceful and picturesque setting that allows visitors to immerse themselves in the history of one of America’s most influential presidents. It is a must-visit destination for history enthusiasts and anyone interested in learning more about Ulysses S. Grant and his impact on American history.

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7. Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield

 Creek National Battlefield
Creek National Battlefield

Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield is located in Republic, Missouri, and preserves the site of the first major Civil War battle fought west of the Mississippi River. The battlefield is a significant historical site that played a crucial role in shaping the outcome of the American Civil War.

Visitors to the national battlefield can explore the site by taking a self-guided auto tour or participating in ranger-led programs. The park features several key landmarks, including the Ray House, where Union General Nathaniel Lyon was laid to rest after being killed in the battle.

Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield offers a unique opportunity to learn about the challenges and sacrifices made by both Union and Confederate troops during the Civil War. It is a solemn and important site that provides insight into this pivotal moment in American history.

8. California National Historic Trail

California National Historic Trail
California National Historic Trail

The California National Historic Trail is a historic route that spans over 2,000 miles from Missouri to California. The trail commemorates the journey of thousands of emigrants who traveled westward in search of gold during the California Gold Rush in the 1840s and 1850s.

In Missouri, the trail begins in either St. Joseph or Kansas City, marking the starting point of the arduous journey westward. Today, visitors can explore sections of the trail, hike through scenic landscapes, and learn about the challenges and adventures faced by the pioneers who traveled the California Trail.

The California National Historic Trail is a testament to the spirit of adventure and exploration that shaped the history of the American West. It offers a unique opportunity to step back in time and experience the awe-inspiring landscapes that captivated the hearts of those who sought their fortunes in the California Gold Rush.

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9. Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail

Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail
Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail

The Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail follows the footsteps of the famous expedition led by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark in the early 1800s. The trail spans over 4,900 miles and crosses multiple states, including Missouri.

In Missouri, the trail passes through several cities, including St. Charles and Kansas City, before continuing westward toward South Dakota. Visitors can explore the Lewis and Clark Visitor Center in St. Charles, learn about the expedition’s preparations, and embark on their journey along the trail.

The Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail provides a fascinating look into the expedition that explored the newly acquired Louisiana Purchase. It offers a chance to learn about the challenges and discoveries of the Corps of Discovery and their impact on American history.

10. Oregon National Historic Trail

Oregon National Historic Trail
Oregon National Historic Trail

The Oregon National Historic Trail follows the route taken by pioneers who traveled westward on the Oregon Trail in the 1800s. The trail spans over 2,000 miles and passes through six states, including Missouri.

In Missouri, the trail passes through several cities, including Kansas City and St. Joseph, before continuing westward toward Oregon. Visitors can explore historical sites, learn about the challenges faced by pioneers, and hike along sections of the trail.

The Oregon National Historic Trail is a testament to the resilience and determination of the pioneers who sought a better life in the West. It offers a glimpse into the hardships and triumphs of those who made the arduous journey and shaped the history of the United States.

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11. Pony Express National Historic Trail

 Pony Express National Historic Trail
Pony Express National Historic Trail

The Pony Express National Historic Trail commemorates the famous mail delivery system that operated from 1860 to 1861. The trail spans over 1,800 miles and traverses eight states, including Missouri.

In Missouri, the trail begins in St. Joseph, which served as the eastern terminus of the Pony Express. Visitors can learn about the history of the Pony Express at the Pony Express Museum in St. Joseph and explore the sites associated with the mail delivery route.

The Pony Express National Historic Trail offers a unique opportunity to step back in time and experience the challenges faced by the young riders who carried mail across the rugged American West. It is a testament to the ingenuity and courage of those who were part of this historic mail delivery system.

12. Santa Fe National Historic Trail

 Santa Fe National Historic Trail
Santa Fe National Historic Trail

The Santa Fe National Historic Trail follows the historic trade route between Missouri and New Mexico. This trail played a vital role in the westward expansion and the trade between the United States and Mexico.

In Missouri, the trail starts in Boonville and passes through several cities, including Kansas City, before heading southwest toward Sante Fe, New Mexico. Visitors can learn about the history of the trail at various sites and explore the cultural heritage of the region.

The Santa Fe National Historic Trail offers a unique opportunity to explore the rich history and cultural diversity of the American Southwest. It allows visitors to retrace the steps of traders and explorers who helped shape the region’s history.

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13. Trail of Tears National Historic Trail

Trail of Tears National Historic Trail
Trail of Tears National Historic Trail

The Trail of Tears National Historic Trail commemorates the forced removal of Native American tribes, primarily the Cherokee Nation, from their ancestral lands in the southeastern United States to present-day Oklahoma.

The trail spans several states, including Missouri, and follows the routes taken by the Native Americans during their forced migration. Today, visitors can explore sections of the trail, learn about the hardships faced by the Cherokee people, and gain a deeper understanding of the tragic events that unfolded during the Indian Removal Act.

The Trail of Tears National Historic Trail serves as a reminder of the injustice and suffering endured by Native American tribes and the importance of preserving their cultural heritage. It is a solemn and poignant site that offers an opportunity for reflection and education.

14. Mark Twain National Forest

Mark Twain National Forest
Mark Twain National Forest

Mark Twain National Forest is a vast expanse of public land covering over 1.5 million acres in southern Missouri. The forest is named after the famous American author Mark Twain, who grew up in the region and drew inspiration from its natural beauty.

The national forest offers a wide range of outdoor activities, including hiking, camping, fishing, and wildlife viewing. Visitors can explore the forest’s scenic trails, rivers, and lakes, and immerse themselves in the peacefulness of nature.

Mark Twain National Forest is home to diverse ecosystems, including oak-hickory forests, glades, and bottomland hardwoods. It provides habitat for a variety of wildlife, including white-tailed deer, wild turkey, and black bears.

Whether you’re looking for a weekend getaway or an extended outdoor adventure, Mark Twain National Forest has something for everyone. It is a hidden gem in Missouri’s wilderness, waiting to be explored.

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15. Big Oak Tree State Park

Big Oak Tree State Park
Big Oak Tree State Park

Big Oak Tree State Park is a natural oasis located in the Mississippi River floodplain in southeastern Missouri. The park is known for its massive trees, including the largest known bur oak tree in Missouri.

Visitors to Big Oak Tree State Park can explore the park’s hiking trails, which wind through the bottomland hardwood forest and provide opportunities for wildlife viewing and birdwatching. The park is also home to a variety of plant species, including ferns, wildflowers, and mosses.

Big Oak Tree State Park offers a peaceful and serene atmosphere, making it a perfect destination for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. It is a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life and immerse yourself in Missouri’s natural beauty.

16. Meramec State Park

Meramec State Park
Meramec State Park

Meramec State Park is a popular outdoor destination located along the Meramec River in eastern Missouri. The park offers a wide range of recreational activities, including camping, hiking, fishing, and cave exploration.

Visitors to Meramec State Park can explore the park’s numerous hiking trails, which wind through the park’s diverse landscapes, including forests, bluffs, and river valleys. The park is also home to several caves, including the Fisher Cave, which offers guided tours.

Meramec State Park is a haven for wildlife, with sightings of deer, turkey, and various bird species. The park also offers camping facilities, including traditional campsites and cabins, for those looking to extend their stay.

Whether you’re looking for outdoor adventures or a peaceful nature retreat, Meramec State Park has something for everyone. It is a hidden gem in Missouri’s state park system, waiting to be discovered.

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17. Mingo National Wildlife Refuge

Mingo National Wildlife Refuge
Mingo National Wildlife Refuge

Mingo National Wildlife Refuge is a protected area in southeastern Missouri that provides critical habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife. The refuge is located along the Mississippi River floodplain and is an important stopover for birds during their annual migration.

Visitors to Mingo National Wildlife Refuge can explore the refuge’s hiking trails, observation decks, and wildlife viewing areas. The refuge is home to a variety of bird species, including ducks, geese, herons, and bald eagles.

Mingo National Wildlife Refuge offers a unique opportunity to observe wildlife in their natural habitat and learn about the importance of wetland conservation. It is a peaceful and serene destination that allows for a close encounter with nature.

18. Prairie State Park

 Prairie State Park
Prairie State Park

Prairie State Park is a unique natural area located in southwestern Missouri that preserves the state’s largest remaining tallgrass prairie ecosystem. The park offers a rare glimpse into the once-vast prairies that covered much of the Midwest.

Visitors to Prairie State Park can explore the park’s hiking trails, which wind through the prairie and provide opportunities for wildlife viewing, including bison, elk, and prairie chickens. The park is also home to a variety of bird species, including grasshopper sparrows and Henslow’s sparrows.

Prairie State Park offers a peaceful and tranquil setting, perfect for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. It is a great place to learn about the importance of prairie ecosystems and the need for their conservation.

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19. Katy Trail State Park

Katy Trail State Park
Katy Trail State Park

The Katy Trail State Park is a unique national park in Missouri, as it is the longest recreational rail trail in the country. Stretching over 240 miles, the trail follows the path of the former Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad, offering scenic views of the Missouri River and the surrounding countryside. Visitors can hike, bike, or even horseback ride along the trail, enjoying the tranquility of nature and the beauty of the Missouri landscape.

20. Ha Ha Tonka State Park

Ha Ha Tonka State Park
Ha Ha Tonka State Park

Ha Ha Tonka State Park is a hidden gem in the heart of Missouri. Located in the Lake of the Ozarks region, this state park is known for its stunning natural beauty and unique geological features. One of the highlights of the park is the Ha Ha Tonka Castle, a stone mansion built in the early 1900s.

Visitors can explore the castle ruins, hike through the park’s rugged terrain, or enjoy a picnic by the lake. With its breathtaking views and diverse wildlife, Ha Ha Tonka State Park is a must-visit destination for nature enthusiasts.

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21. Bennett Spring State Park

Bennett Spring State Park
Bennett Spring State Park

Bennett Spring State Park is a popular destination for anglers and nature lovers in Missouri. The park is known for its crystal-clear spring-fed stream that is stocked with rainbow trout, making it a haven for fishing enthusiasts.

Visitors can cast their lines in the stream or explore the park’s hiking trails that wind through the scenic Ozark landscapes. Bennett Spring State Park also offers camping facilities, picnic areas, and a nature center, providing a perfect outdoor getaway for the whole family.

22. Castlewood State Park

Castlewood State Park
Castlewood State Park

Castlewood State Park is a nature lover’s paradise located just outside of St. Louis, Missouri. The park offers a variety of outdoor activities, including hiking, biking, picnicking, and wildlife watching. One of the main highlights of Castlewood State Park is its scenic overlooks, which provide stunning views of the Meramec River and the surrounding bluffs.

Visitors can explore the park’s numerous trails, including the popular River Scene Trail, which offers panoramic views of the river valley. Whether you’re looking for a peaceful hike or a thrilling mountain biking adventure, Castlewood State Park has something for everyone.

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23. Elephant Rocks State Park

 Elephant Rocks State Park
Elephant Rocks State Park

Elephant Rocks State Park is a unique natural wonder in Missouri. The park is named after its massive granite boulders, which resemble a herd of elephants. Visitors can explore the park by hiking along the one-mile-long Braille Trail, which is suitable for all skill levels. The park also offers picnic areas and a playground, making it a great destination for a family day trip. Don’t forget your camera to capture the stunning rock formations and the picturesque scenery of Elephant Rocks State Park.

24. Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park

Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park
Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park

Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park is a hidden gem in the southeastern part of Missouri. The park is known for its unique geological formations and natural swimming areas. Visitors can wade, swim, or slide down the smooth rocks in the park’s shut-ins, which are natural water slides formed by the erosive action of the Black River. The park also offers hiking trails, picnic areas, and camping facilities, providing a perfect outdoor retreat for the whole family.

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25. Montauk State Park

Montauk State Park
Montauk State Park

Montauk State Park is one of the most beautiful state parks in Missouri. Located in the Ozarks region, this park is known for its scenic beauty, clear spring-fed streams, and excellent trout fishing opportunities. The park covers an area of over 2,900 acres and offers a variety of outdoor activities for visitors to enjoy.

The main highlight of Montauk State Park is its premier trout fishing. The park is home to the Montauk Trout Hatchery, which stocks the streams with rainbow and brown trout. Anglers can cast their lines in the three-mile-long Current River or the two-mile-long Montauk Lake. Fishing permits are required, and catch-and-release fishing is encouraged to preserve the fish population.

In addition to fishing, Montauk State Park offers several hiking trails that wind through scenic landscapes. Visitors can explore the park’s natural beauty by hiking the River Trail, the Forest Trail, or the Spring Branch Trail. Wildlife enthusiasts will also enjoy the abundant birdwatching opportunities in the park.

For those looking to relax and unwind, Montauk State Park offers picnic areas, a swimming beach, and camping facilities. Whether you’re an avid angler, a nature lover, or simply seeking a peaceful retreat, Montauk State Park is a must-visit destination in Missouri.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Missouri’s National Parks offer a treasure trove of natural wonders waiting to be explored. From the historic Gateway Arch National Park to the breathtaking Ozark National Scenic Riverways, each park tells a unique story of the region’s rich heritage and diverse ecosystem.

Whether you seek scenic trails or serene wildlife refuges, Missouri has something for every nature enthusiast to enjoy. Plan your visit and immerse yourself in the untamed beauty of these national parks, creating unforgettable memories in the heart of the wilderness. Explore, discover, and reconnect with nature in these hidden gems of Missouri’s landscape.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best time to visit these National Parks in Missouri?

The best time to visit the national parks in Missouri is during the spring and fall seasons when the weather is mild and pleasant. However, each park has its unique attractions and activities, so it’s recommended to check the park’s website for specific information on the best time to visit.

What are the must-see spots in these National Parks?

Some of the must-see spots in the national parks of Missouri include the Gateway Arch in Gateway Arch National Park, the trout fishing streams in Montauk State Park, the castle ruins in Ha Ha Tonka State Park, and the scenic overlooks in Castlewood State Park.

What are some of the must-visit national parks in Missouri for nature enthusiasts?

Nature enthusiasts should not miss the opportunity to visit Ozark National Scenic Riverways, where they can explore the crystal-clear rivers and caves, or Elephant Rocks State Park, which offers unique rock formations and scenic hiking trails.

Are there any unique wildlife species that can be found in the national parks of Missouri?

Yes, the national parks in Missouri are home to a variety of unique wildlife species. Some of the notable species include the eastern box turtle, bald eagle, white-tailed deer, bobcat, and various species of fish in the rivers and streams. Here is a detailed list of some of the wildlife species that can be found in the national parks of Missouri:

Wildlife SpeciesNational Park
Eastern Box TurtleAll
Bald EagleAll
White-tailed DeerAll
BobcatAll
Rainbow TroutMontauk State Park
Brown TroutMontauk State Park
Black BearOzark National Scenic Riverways
Wild TurkeyWilson’s Creek National Battlefield
Eastern CottontailSte. Genevieve National Historic Park
American BullfrogGeorge Washington Carver National Monument

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