The 9 Best Trails for Hiking in Missouri

Last updated on July 19th, 2023 at 02:21 am.

The Show-Me State boasts diverse landscapes, including the Ozark Mountains in the south and the rolling hills of the Missouri River Valley in the north. Hikers can explore these scenic areas through a variety of trails that offer stunning views, waterfalls, and unique rock formations.

This post shares some of the most popular hikes in Missouri as well as a few that are hidden gems and one that leads to a waterfall. Whether you are looking for great hikes for a Missouri camping trip or simply a day hike, these are our favorites in the state!

Hiking in Missouri

Best Hiking Trails in Missouri

Missouri’s fairly moderate climate makes hiking possible year-round, with spring and fall being ideal times for hiking. However, even in winter, lower elevation trails can still offer miles of scenic hikes without too much frost.

Whether you are looking for a classic Missouri hike at Johnson’s Shut-Ins or the Ozark Mountains or something more remote, we’ve got you covered!

Also to note is that Missouri state parks welcome leashed dogs on their trails, with the exception of some areas like the Ozark National Scenic Riverways.

So grab your hiking boots and hit some of the amazing Missouri hiking trails. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or just starting out, with a variety of trails to choose from, we’ve hand-picked some of the best hikes in Missouri.

Here are our favorite 9 hiking in Missouri trails to try this season!

Swope Park Trails – Wudchuk Run Trail (in Kansas City)

Wudchuk Run Trail in Kansas City

Estimated time for hike: 2.5 – 3 hours | Click here for the Google Map

If you’re looking for an exciting urban hiking experience in Kansas City, the Wudchuk Run Trail in Swope Park is an excellent choice. This trail is a combination of dirt and rocky sections, with a few shallow creeks to cross along the way.

The route is both challenging and enjoyable, with plenty of opportunities to take in the beautiful scenery of the park. While you’ll likely encounter few bikers and other hikers, it’s important to be cautious around blind corners and keep your ears open for cyclists.

You can start the Wudchuk Run Trail from the main parking lot and take it in either direction. It’s worth noting that some sources list the trail as a 2.2-mile loop, but in our experience, it turned out to be a 6.8-mile loop trail. But trust us – it’s well worth the effort.

Dogs are welcome on the trail and can even be off-leash in some areas, so feel free to bring your furry friend along for the adventure. With its combination of challenging terrain, beautiful scenery, and urban location, the Wudchuk Run Trail is a must-visit for hikers of all levels in the Kansas City area.

Know Before You Go>> 19 Most Common Snakes in Missouri

Lost Valley Trail (Near St. Louis)

Time to hike: About 1 hour | Click here for the Google Map

If you’re looking for a challenging and scenic hike near St. Louis, the Lost Valley Trail at Weldon Springs Conservation Area is a must-visit. This 10.5-mile loop trail offers a refreshing workout close to the city, with easy access from the Highway 40/94 interchange.

There are not any outstanding views via this trail, it is still a pretty trail especially in spring and fall. It is also a good workout and a bit of a hard trail, so make sure you wear proper hiking shoes. Whether you’re an experienced hiker or just starting out, the Lost Valley Trail is located in near Defiance, Missouri is a very scenic and enjoyable hiking experience.

One thing to keep in mind is that the trail is shared with bikers, so be sure to stay alert and share the path. Additionally, while the trail is mostly flat for many stretches, there are some challenging climbs and uneven terrain.

Just 35 minutes from St. Louis, it’s the perfect way to escape the city and enjoy some fresh air and exercise in nature. So lace up your hiking boots and hit the trail – the Lost Valley Trail is waiting for you!

Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park Trail

Trail at Johnson's Shut Ins

Time to hike: About 1 hour | Click here for the Google Map

Nestled in the St. Francois Mountain forest in southeastern Missouri lies Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park. With a history spanning 1.5 billion years, this geological wonder is a must-see for nature enthusiasts. One of the best ways to explore the park is by hiking the 2-mile Scour Trail loop.

While moderate in difficulty, the trail offers stunning scenery with rugged terrain. You can choose to start the loop in either direction, but the main route takes you through the forest, down to the water, and then back to the parking area.

Look out for the blue arrows marking the trail. Along the way, you can take detours to discover sandy spots leading to the river. The trail has some rocky terrain and picturesque views of the East Fork Black River.

This is one of the most beautiful Missouri hikes and the trail is also part of the 230 miles of connected Missouri thru-trail from Onondaga Cave State Park in Crawford County to Arkansas. Don’t forget to dip your toes in the river water, although it may be a bit too chilly for a full swim during certain times of the year.

Mina Sauk Falls Trail

Mina Sauk Falls Trail

Contributed by Linda of Midwest Explored

Time to hike: About 1.5 hours | Click here for the Google Map

Looking for one of the best hikes in Missouri? If so then be sure to head to the Ozark Trail in Taum Sauk Mountain State Park and the Mina Sauk Falls hike.

See, this amazing state park is nestled among the St. Francois Mountains in the Ozarks and covers an amazing 7,500 acres of terrain. 

As a result, it is home to the state’s single largest summit, Taum Sauk Mountain. However, no visit to one of the best parks in Missouri would ever be complete with doing the Mina Sauk Falls hike. 

After all, this 2.9-mile long loop trail will have you climbing to the highest point in the state. 

See, this hike begins at the top of the state’s tallest mountain, Therefore, you’ll start off hiking at 1,772 feet in the air before discovering a stunning waterfall about halfway through the hike. 

So, stand in awe of the tallest waterfall in the state, which sits at an impressive 132-feet tall. 

Just be aware that the falls sometimes dry up. Therefore, the best time to do this hike is in the spring when snowmelt creates tremendous water flow through the area. 

You’ll then continue past glades and outcroppings of red volcanic rock as you try and spot local wildlife along the way. Finally, be prepared for a few steep uphill sections as you come to the end of the trail. . 

All in all, though, this is a moderately difficult hike that will take around an hour and a half to complete since it includes 433 feet of elevation gain. But I consider it one of the most beautiful Missouri hikes.

However, if you’re looking for even more of a challenge then you can always hike 12 miles to the Johnson Shut-Ins too. 

Also, don’t expect to have the trail all to yourself since this is a popular place among birders, campers, and hikers.” 

Fun Fact: Taum Sauk Mountain is the highest natural point in the state of Missouri.

Spring Trail at Ha Ha Tonka State Park

Spring Trail at Ha Ha Tonka State Park

Contributed from Megan at Let’s Jet, Kids!

Time to hike: About 45 minutes | Click here for the Google Map

One of the most beautiful hikes in Missouri is Spring Trail located at Ha Ha Tonka State Park.  The trail is fairly easy at 1.4 miles.  The trail could take only 45 minutes to complete, but there are so many beautiful points that stopping and enjoying the trail is inevitable (so it may take longer.)

Spring Creek Trail can be accessed at the end of Spencer Creek Road where it meets Missouri D. 

Once you embark on Spring Creek Trail, you’ll encounter many different terrains.  The first part is paved and accessible to anyone.  Eventually it turns into dirt trail and descends a bit down toward the lake.  You’ll walk along the lake narrows out and eventually leads to the spring as well as through a forested area and along limestone bluffs.

Walk on the boardwalk along the Ha Ha Tonka (“laughing water”) spring and enjoy the gorgeous views.

You’ll also get a glimpse of history as you see the pump that was once used in the ‘40s to pump water from the spring.

It’s likely you’ll come across many animals, like turtles, frogs, and ducks. 

At the end of the boardwalk, you’ll come to the hardest part of the trail: 316 stairs that take you back up to the top.

Spring Trail is such a beautiful trail, filled with both water and gorgeous greenery all around.  It’s fairly easy (except the stairs, which can be avoided by turning back around) which makes it a great hike for families in Ha Ha Tonka State Park.

Bonus: As you begin to close your loop, make sure to check out the Castle Trail which is a short and easy trail that takes you by old castle ruins originally built in 1905.

Wildcat Glades Loop

Wildcat Glades Loop

Contributed by Lynli Roman of WanderBig

Time to hike: About 1 hour | Click here for the Google Map

Just outside Joplin, Missouri, Wildcat Glades exists with the cooperation between city park, state conservation land, and Audubon Society property. This collaboration creates an impressive system of trails that vary from ADA-accessible paved paths to a breathtaking intermediate-level walk high upon riverside bluffs.

This hike is a great option for hikers looking for a mix of terrain, from a boardwalk trail through a wetland to a rocky bluff overlooking Shoal Creek.

Start your hike at the Wildcat Glades Conservation Center. Open Tuesday through Saturday, this visitors center is the perfect start to your 3.4 mile, 1-hour hike.

At the visitors center, you can pick up a map, read about the unique flora and fauna in the area, and even take a peek at some local animal residents, via large aquariums and terrariums of native species. Admission is free, and the staff are always helpful.

If you choose to hike the full loop, expect to follow the river for 2 miles, cross, and return 2 miles on the opposite bank. On the way, you’ll see woods, glades, one of the best views in Missouri, and waterfalls. One intense climb will get your heart pumping, but the trail is otherwise mostly flat. 

Wildcat Glades is a must-do for any hiker visiting Joplin, MO. To add more mileage to your hike- or simply to drive to another point of interest – consider tacking on a short jaunt to Grand Falls, an impressive nearby waterfall.

Coy Bald Trail in the mark twain national forest

Mark Twain National Forest in MO

Time to hike: About 3.5-4 hours | Click here for the Google Map

There is over 122 miles of trails available ranging from ½ mile easy loop trails to several days journey on the Ozark Trail or 18 miles located in the Irish wilderness in the Mark Twain Forest.

One great option is the Coy Bald Trail in the Hercules Glades Wilderness Area of the Mark Twain National Forest. As hikers make their way along this nearly seven-mile trail, they will be greeted by the tranquil sounds of nature and scenic views of the surrounding landscape.

One of the highlights of the Coy Bald Trail is a secret waterfall that gushes down, just waiting to be discovered. This hidden gem is sure to delight hikers who venture off the beaten path to explore the area’s natural beauty.

The Coy Bald Trailhead, located on the western side of the Hercules Glade Wilderness trails, provides easy access to this stunning hiking trail. Dogs are welcome on the trail but must be on a leash to ensure the safety of all visitors.

Although the trailhead can be a bit difficult to find, hikers will be rewarded with a serene and peaceful trek once they get started. The trailhead is located off of a county road that turns into a poorly maintained gravel road. Although the trailhead is not marked as Coy Bald, hikers will easily recognize it when they arrive.

As hikers make their way along the trail, they will encounter a fork in the path a few hundred yards from the trailhead. To reach the waterfall more quickly, hikers can choose to go left at the fork. The 6.8-mile loop trail provides ample opportunities to explore the wilderness and take in the natural beauty of the area.

Lewis and Clark Trail and Lewis Trail

Lewis and Clark Trail and Lewis Trail
Photo Credit: All Trails

Time to hike: About 3 hours | Click here for the Google Map

The Lewis and Clark Trail and Lewis Trail Loop is a stunning 7.8-mile loop trail located near St. Charles, Missouri. This moderately challenging route is typically completed in around three hours, making it a perfect day hike for those looking to enjoy the beauty of the area.

Throughout the trail, hikers will be treated to spectacular views of the Missouri River, with three sections of the trail passing by towering limestone cliffs and bluff escarpments. To access these breathtaking views, hikers will need to take a short spur off of the main trail. These sections are usually located within the first two miles of the hike and are about 25 yards from the main trail.

While the trail is generally considered moderately strenuous for Missouri hiking, there is only one possible creek crossing that is easy to navigate in wet weather. When crossing the creek, be sure to take the fork that heads north, or you will end up completing the full 8.2-mile loop on the Lewis Trail.

As hikers make their way through the wooded areas of the trail, they will be surrounded by the natural beauty of the area, with an abundance of flora and fauna to discover along the way. This natural area is home to a diverse range of wildlife, including deer, foxes, and various species of birds.

Overall, the Lewis and Clark Trail and Lewis Trail Loop is a must-visit destination for hikers and nature lovers in the St. Charles area. With its breathtaking views, moderately challenging terrain, and serene wooded areas, this trail offers an unforgettable hiking experience for visitors of all skill levels.

Bell Mountain Loop Trail

Bell Mountain Loop Trail
Photo Credit: All Trails

Time to hike: About 5 hours | Click here for the Google Map

Located near Belleview, Missouri, the Bell Mountain Loop Trail is an 11.6-mile loop trail that is moderately challenging and takes around 5 hours to complete. It’s important to note that the trailhead is located across the street and down the road from the parking lot, just a short distance away.

The first two miles of the trail are actually part of the Ozark Trail and are, in my opinion, the second-most challenging part of the hike. These two miles are entirely uphill and can be rather rocky. As you continue on the trail, there are two forks in the Bell Mountain Loop Trail. The first, which is located at around 2 miles, is where the Bell Mountain Loop Trail officially begins and branches off from the Ozark Trail. This fork is well marked with a sign pointing to the left for the Bell Mountain Loop.

The second fork, which is located at around 3 miles, gives hikers the option to either go right to reach the mountain summit or left down into the valley. For those who are looking for a shorter day hike, the Bell Mountain Loop can be shortened to 8 miles by going right at the second fork, hiking to the summit, and then turning around and hiking back out the same way.

Important Items to Consider Bringing on a Hike

hiking boots

Bringing these items on any hiking in Missouri adventure, you’ll be better prepared for any unexpected situations that may arise, and you’ll increase your chances of having a safe and enjoyable hiking experience.

  • Water: Staying hydrated is crucial while hiking, so bring enough water for the duration of your hike.
  • Food: Bring enough snacks or meals to keep your energy levels up throughout the hike. My favorite snack to bring are the Rise high protein bars, plus a bag of nuts and dried fruit.
  • Navigation tools: Bring a map, compass, or GPS device to help navigate the trail.
  • First-aid kit: It’s always a good idea to have a basic first-aid kit in case of minor injuries or accidents or even blisters on your feet.
  • Sun protection: Bring sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays.
  • Warm clothing: Even on a warm day, the weather can change quickly, so bring a warm layer just in case.
  • Emergency shelter: In case of unexpected weather or an emergency, bring a lightweight emergency shelter, such as a tent or bivy sack.
  • Lighting: Bring a flashlight or headlamp, even for daytime hikes, in case your hike goes longer than expected.
  • Communication devices: Bring a fully charged cell phone or a two-way radio for emergencies.
  • Personal locator beacon: For remote hikes or more dangerous terrain, consider bringing a personal locator beacon that can send a distress signal to emergency services if needed.

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1 thought on “The 9 Best Trails for Hiking in Missouri”

  1. Even though I’m out in So Cal, you’ve inspired me to get my hiking boots out and take to the canyon trails again. Wish I were in the Missouri area to take advantage of your suggestions. So much going on from waterfalls, gorgeous ponds, and great lookouts.

    Reply

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