A Family Adventure Into Arcadia Valley, Missouri
Our family headed south with Poppy the Popup a few weeks ago for a camping adventure in Arcadia Valley, Missouri. The beautiful Arcadia Valley region is approximately 75 miles south of St. Louis, Missouri. I never knew how much beauty the state of Missouri contained until we made this little adventure from Des Moines. The Arcadia Valley is the perfect place to explore off the beaten path, hike, horseback riding, water activities, kayak, and so many more fun adventures. Arcadia Valley is known as the outdoor recreation capital of Missouri.
Here are the must-see stops!
Elephant Rocks State Park
When we had planned our trip everyone mentioned Elephant Rocks State Park. I had no idea what to expect and the pictures online do not put these natural wonders to justice. This Missouri State Park is another bucket list. The park is filled with giant granite boulders that formed from more than 1.5 billion-year-old granite. If you have history buffs in your family, they will love to learn about the amazing history of how these giant elephant rocks came to be.
Wear your climbing shoes! We easily spent a couple of hours climbing all over these giant boulders. There is also a paved trail that winds through the main part of the rocks which makes this the perfect adventure for all ages and abilities.
Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park
The Johnson shut-ins are a part of the Missouri State Parks system. This was definitely a family favorite filled with nature trails, camping, swimming, climbing, and more. When we entered the state park we first made a stop at the visitor center which offered a ton of hands-on exhibits and education about the park. It included videos, skins, history, and more about the area. The whole family enjoyed learning about the history of the area and what we could expect while exploring the area.
After we spent some time in the visitor center we jumped in the car and headed towards the entrance to the Johnson shut-ins area. This is where you can park at the head of the trail. They offer a building at the beginning if you need to change or go to the bathroom. They also offer rentals of tubes and other various items.
We headed on the paved trail down to the best part of all. The kids were shocked at all the fun rocks to climb and how the water flowed all over. It was a great place to cliff jump, but be careful! You could easily spend hours in this area playing and it does get crowded quickly.
A few tips before you go:
- Less is best! Do not bring a bunch of items with you down to the shut-ins area. There are no designated places to keep items. People just leave their towels, bags, and other items in random spots. Make sure you are wearing everything you need and be ready to jump in.
- Wear water shoes. The rocks are slippery and it can be hard to climb on some if you are barefoot.
- Pack a picnic! There are pretty picnic areas designated along the park.
- Wear bug and tick spray. Be prepared. Ticks are very prevalent in all areas of the Arcadia Valley.
Taum Sauk Mountain State Park
Who knew the state of Missouri had mountains? They may not be the mountains we think of in Colorado or the Great Smoky Mountains, but there are mountains! Taum Sauk Mountain State Park, located in the St. Francois Mountains, is the highest point in the state of Missouri. The state park includes 7,500 acres of natural beauty and hiking trails.
Battle of Pilot Knob State Historic Site + Fort Davidson State Historic Site
The Battle of Pilot Knob State Historic Site preserves the battlefield of Fort Davidson the battlefield where many Confederate and Union soldiers lost their lives. If you are interested in United States history this is a must while in the area.
If you are familiar with this area of the United States you may be thinking, “Mammoth Spring is not in Missouri!” and it is not. We were just two hours from the Arkansas border, so we decided to take a day to adventure a little more south to cross off the state of Arkansas on our 50 state checklist. If you are a fan of roller coasters, then you will love the drive that takes you through the Mark Twain National Forest and the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. It was a beautiful day to take in all the trees and nature.
We really enjoyed Mammoth Spring State Park. It was the first time the kids had ever seen or heard of a spring. We had fun with a little educational experience while walking around the beautiful aqua-colored body of water. It was definitely worth our adventure off the beaten path.
Thee Abbey Kitchen
Thee Abbey Kitchen is a must-stop while in the Arcadia Valley. So much good food and an ice cream parlor. You will leave stuffed! Everything is made from scratch and baked fresh daily. If you are looking for someplace to stay, they also offer accommodations with so much history. Another great spot for all the history buffs out there!
Where do we stay?
Typically when we travel I love to share some great hotels. The Arcadia Valley area is such a secluded area, which makes it so great to explore. If you are a camper, I highly recommend camping. We camped at Big Creek RV Park in Annapolis, Missouri which offered great amenities, a pool, activities, and was located right on the spring-fed Big Creek. If camping is not your thing there are tons of bed and breakfasts and Airbnbs available in the area too.
Other Places to Visit
I always wish we can do all the things while traveling, but sometimes we cannot fit it all in. Here are some other fun things to see and do while you visit the Arcadia Valley, Missouri area.
- Black River Recreation Area: If you love floating down the river or kayaking this is the place to do it! We saw so many people taking advantage of the water and beautiful scenery.
- Arcadia Valley Mountain Music Festival: Every May and October the biggest music festival in the area happens! If you are planning a trip keep in mind the dates so you do not miss this fun festival.
- Missouri Wineries – If you love wine, you are in luck. There are many wineries nestled in Missouri. Take a tour of southeast Missouri wine country while you are in the area.