Go Hiking in Missouri State Parks in Iron and Reynolds County in Missouri's Outdoor Recreation Capital

Missouri State Park Hiking Trails, Taum Sauk Mountain State Park,
Elephant Rocks State Park and Johnson's Shut-ins State Park
Best Hiking Trails in Missouri | Best Hiking Trails in the Midwest

For Taum Sauk Mountain, Elephant Rocks and Johnson's Shut-ins lodging, accommodations, camping, campgrounds, cabins, motels, bed & breakfast inns and hotels near these Missouri State Parks, please see our lodging and accommodations page.

These MO hiking trails in Missouri State Parks are located near St. Louis in Iron & Reynolds County MO, in the Arcadia Valley Region and Black River Recreation Area.  Come for a day hike near St. Louis or come for a weekend or week long hiking trip if you have more time.

Hiking Trails - Taum Sauk Mountain State Park

Want to hike to the top of the highest mountain in Missouri? 
An easy hike from the parking lot of Taum Sauk Mountain State Park will lead you a mere 1,000 feet on a paved path to Missouri’s highest point, the 1,772 foot summit of Taum Sauk Mountain.  But, that's not all this magnificent state park has to offer the avid Missouri trail blazer. Taum Sauk is a 7,500-acre, virtually untamed expanse of wilderness. Taum Sauk and its closest neighbors are ancient, volcanic, Precambrian uplifts many times older than the Appalachians, and may be among the few areas in the United States never to have been submerged by ancient seas.

The hike to Mina Sauk Falls will take your breath away. It’s not the hike itself, as it’s only a slightly-rugged three-mile loop (1.5 miles downhill then 1.5 miles back up), it is the awesome sight of Missouri’s tallest waterfall that is breathtaking. In wet weather, water rushes over the fall’s peak, crashing relentlessly into several volcanic rock ledges before meeting the clear, rock-bottomed pool 132 feet below.

A mile down the Taum Sauk section of the Ozark Trail waits the Devil’s Tollgate. This eight-foot wide passage of volcanic rhyolite stretches 50-feet long and 30-feet high on both sides. From here, hikers can continue on the over 10-mile hike to nearby Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park. *The trail to Johnson’s Shut-Ins is temporarily closed for restoration.

Hike through natural communities including Oak and Hickory upland forests, flatwoods, savannas and bottomland forest in this virtually untamed expanse of wilderness. These diverse communities provide habitats for a range of wildlife from the brilliant red cardinal and sly red fox, to the docile whitetail deer and frisky raccoon. Linger at the overlook which allows visitors a wide, incomparable view of the mountains to the north, and a guide to help identify and distinguish them. Nearby, a small camping area offers 12 basic campsites ($9 per night) and a picnic area. Also, a special-use area is available for organized non-profit youth groups.

Taum Sauk Mountain State Park gives visitors a glimpse of nearly unspoiled wilderness and an opportunity to imagine the world before civilization interfered.

Hiking in Elephant Rocks State Park

Go hiking in Elephant Rocks State Park among the Elephants. 
amed for a train of gigantic pink granite boulders perched atop a hill, just like circus elephants standing end to end. The curious geologic formations were created when the Ozark plateau was formed during a great uplifting of the entire area about 250 million years ago and the vertical cracks (or joints) between the rocks became more pronounced. Time and weather took its toll, clearing the weakest pieces out of the joints and laying the immense, oblong blocks of granite bare to the elements. Slowly, the corners were worn away to give the boulders their smooth rounded shape, and trees and shrubs grew in the cracks to help enlarge the joints and wear away the surface of the rock.

Hike the park’s over 131 acres.
There is no record of the actual number of “elephants” inhabiting the park. Old ones erode away and new elephants wait beneath the cracks and joints of the granite hillside. The park’s pink patriarch, Dumbo, is 27 feet tall, 35 feet long and 17 feet wide, weighing in at a colossal 680 tons! This acreage has been designated as a Missouri Natural Area and will be protected from further development.  Elephant Rocks was the first state park trail in Missouri designed for visitors with physical and visual handicaps. Known as the Braille Trail, signs written in Braille and regular text guide visitors along a paved, handicap-accessible trail which allows visitors to see the huge rocks and seven acres of the park.

Hiking Johnson's Shut-ins State Park
To contact the park, please call:  573-546-2450
Johnson's Shut-ins camping reservations click here.
Johnson's Shut-ins cabin reservations click here

Go hiking in Johnson's Shut-ins State Park.  The park consists of 8,549 acres and is an immense natural playground. One of the primary features of the park is the 180-acre Johnson’s Shut-Ins Natural Area.  Another section of the park is included in the state’s largest natural area, the 7,028-acre St. Francois Mountains Natural Area. Still another part, the Johnson’s Shut-Ins Fen Natural Area, is a 9-acre combination of seep forest and calcareous fens found in the flood plains of the East Fork Black River. This wetland community is promoted by seasonally ponded rain water and calcareous ground water seepage on the flat flood plain. Seep forests are rare in Missouri and this unique location is dominated by trees such as Red Maple, Green Ash, Honey Locust and Slippery Elm and wetland plants such as Closed Gentian and Silky Willow are found in the fen.

Johnson's Shut-ins is unique on earth. 
Nearly 1.5 billion years ago, violently explosive volcanoes hurled hot gasses and ash into the air. The ashes and gas fell and cooled, forming rhyolite rock. A billion years later, shallow inland seas swallowed the ancient, worn-down mountains, burying the igneous rock under thousands of feet of sedimentary rock such as limestone, sandstone, shale and dolomite.

About 250 million years later, the entire Ozark region lifted and the seas retreated. The wind and rain took their toll on the upraised land, sending streams of sand- and gravel-laden water to slice away the layers of soft sedimentary rock and expose the rhyolite below. In low places, the swift Black River became "shut-in" by the hard igneous rocks, swirling and churning to form huge potholes, and breaking away the weaker rock to create natural water slides and canyon-like gorges.

The park is fully open during the 2010 season.  To read much more about Johnson's Shut-ins, and the the restoration of the park after the breach at the Taum Sauk Hydroelectric Plant in December 2005 please see this link.

A series of pedestrian trails wind through the day-use area and take visitors to various features.
(2010 trail information from MO Department of Natural Resources)

  • Pets, food and disposable containers are not allowed on the trail to the shut-ins.

The Black River Trail, the main trail through the day-use area, is an interpretive trail and explains some of the features, including the fen and boulder field. Both the fen and boulder field have pavilions with interpretation and information about why these areas are important.

The Shut-Ins Trail features a new boardwalk that provides access to the namesake of the park -- the shut-ins. NOTE:  This trail currently is open to the main overlook near the shut-ins; the section past that area is closed.

The Scour Trail is a new trail that provides access to the scour channel itself. The trail, which is accessed from Route N just east of the main park entrance, is also an interpretive trail that explains the significance of the geology revealed by the scour channel. The trail includes an overlook and interpretive pavilion.

The 10-mile Goggins Mountain Equestrian Trail loops through the 5,000-acre Goggins Mountain Wild Area.  The trail, free of roads, power lines and other development, is open to hikers and horseback riders wanting to experience the extensive oak-hickory woodland.  The trail, marked in yellow, begins at the Goggins Mountain Trailhead just inside the entrance to the campground.

The 1.5 mile Horseshoe Glade Trail takes visitors into the heart of the East Fork Wild Area.  Visitors can experience a sense of wildness as they pass through woodlands dominated by oaks and hickories and dotted with scattered shortleaf pine.  Woodlands give way to a rocky clearing that provides views across the St. Francois Mountains.  The trail, marked in orange, also passes near a smaller glade overlooking the East Fork of the Black River.

Mina Sauk Falls at Johnson's Shut-ins State Park
Devil's Tollgate at Taum Sauk Mountain State ParkElephant Rocks State ParkGigantic granite boulders at Elephant Rocks State ParkJohnson's Shut-ins State Park

For other exciting recreational opportunities in the Arcadia Valley Region and Black River Recreation Area in Reynolds County and Iron County MO, please visit our Recreation Pages. Learn about Float Trips on the Black River, Missouri Birding and Birdwatching, Hunting and Fishing, Missouri Wineries in our Region and Missouri Trail Riding and Horseback Riding.
Visit missouri-vacations.com.  Or, for other businesses and services near these hiking trails, see the Chamber of Commerce websites at www.lestervillemissouri.com and www.arcadiavalley.biz. For excellent firsthand reviews of many of these trails, see Danny's Missouri Backpacking & Hiking Trails Reviews at www.motrails.com

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