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My Favorite Hidden Outdoor Destinations in Missouri

The Missouri outdoors have been a big part of my life growing up. As a child I have fond memories of canoeing through the Current River, playing with crawdads and minnows in the Little Piney and trekking through the Mark Twain Forest. Although I haven’t re-visited many of my favorite childhood spots recently, they still hold a special place in my heart. For the sake of nostalgia, here is a list of my favorite hidden outdoor destinations in Missouri.


Although I would agree with many that Eminence is, for lack of a better phrase, a bit “country bumpkin,” some other words I’d use to describe it are magical and dream-like. Throughout the area, especially near Alley Springs on Jacks Fork River, you’ll find wild white horses roaming the fields and woods. More than 30 of these wild horses roam the area and it is truly a majestic sight to see them run freely through the wilderness. I remember being in awe with not only these beautiful creatures, but also the pristine, deep blue springs, sparkling quartz crystals that cover the ground around the parks and miles of Ozark mountains that surround the town. When you travel here, be sure to check out Alley Spring and Blue Spring. Alley Spring contains hiking trails that lead to an old mill powered by the spring, which was used to make flour. I have memories of touring the mill and being interested in its history. By having some of the bluest water you will ever see, Blue Spring has made history too. The water, as well as the nature around it, is sure to make you feel as if you’re wanderlusting through a fantasy world. 

Montauk State Park, Salem.

As an elementary student, my class often took field trips to Montauk State Park to go fishing and feed the fish at the hatchery. I could spend hours just looking at all the different fish and wildlife around the area. Montauk has three trails, a lodge, camping and tours of an old flour mill.

Lane Spring, Rolla.

Many have heard of Fugitive Beach in Rolla, but my personal favorite outdoor hangout is Lane Spring. My home is only a few miles from the spring, so I spent a lot of time going to birthday parties and cookouts here, as well as going canoeing and just exploring the area. Lane Spring is a campground and park, which has access to the Little Piney river. It also has miles of hiking and of course, a beautiful spring. Locals have attached ropes to the trees overlooking the river so you can swing and jump in, which I always found fun. This is a great destination just a few miles from town where you can camp, barbecue, canoe, swim and take in the breathtaking views and fresh Ozark air.

Big Spring Ozark National Scenic Riverways, Van Buren.

In the 1920s, my grandpa’s parents used to own a resort and dancehall where the Big Spring campground is located. My grandpa was actually born in the back of the dancehall, which, if you visit, was located right where the entrance sign is. Many of the cabins used for the resort are still there and are open for rent. Out of this list, Big Springs is by far the most stunning. The campground and cabins sit on a cliff, which overlooks the Current River. Trails from the cabins will lead you to the river where you can take a tube and float along the water—something Missouri is stereotypically famous for. 

If you’re looking for a lesser-known outdoor getaway, then visit one of my favorite childhood gems above. Oftentimes, the areas around the parks are destinations themselves, and you might find yourself pleasantly lost in the beautiful Ozark wilderness.

Hi my name is Eliza Jewell! I am studying dance and business at UMKC. Some of my interests include yoga, dance fitness, volleyball, and painting. In my free time, I can be found binge watching cartoons or hanging out with my friends.
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