Few states can boast the natural beauty that makes Missouri the perfect camping destination for both natives and vacationers. Whether your goal is to find a home base to explore neighboring attractions, or to enjoy the awe-inspiring vitality of Missouri’s natural areas, these sites will usher you into some of the most enjoyable, and most stunning, camping areas Missouri has to offer.
Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park is named for its most distinctive feature—the erosion-resistant rocks in the middle of the East Fork of the Black River, where the water’s flow is “shut in” between the boulders. The result is what has been called “Mother Nature’s hydraulics,” and “a natural water park.” The river pours over, around, and among the rocks, creating waterfalls and currents that are stunning to look at and exciting to play and float in. In addition to the shut-ins themselves, the park offers multiple other swimming areas, picnic areas, cabins, overlooks, and both human and horse hiking trails in the Ozark mountains.
Roaring River is just south of Cassville, Missouri, which puts it flush against the Missouri-Arkansas State line. This is part of its appeal, because in this part of the country, the Ozark Mountains get steeper, wilder, and more challenging. At Roaring River, the campgrounds are accompanied by hiking trails along stunning mountain vistas, and trout fishing that people are willing to travel hundreds of miles for. Add the amenities of playgrounds, a fish hatchery, cabins, RV hookups, a restaurant, and showers, campers who love Missouri’s wild side are thrilled to come back here year after year.
One of the best things about Table Rock State Park is its location on the shores of Table Rock Lake in Branson. A weekend camping at Table Rock is much less expensive than a weekend doing anything else in Branson, and families still have access to all the amenities that come with the lake, including a marina, a park store, and rental of Wave Runners, boats, bikes, and other equipment. There are also activities that take place on or near the lake that campers can access, such as parasailing, scuba diving, and a catamaran tour. There are three campgrounds available at Table Rock State Park, and they are open all year- round.
Bennett Spring State Park draws visitors to it for many reasons, but chief among them is the fishing. The spring itself feeds into a cold stream that is stocked with rainbow trout every night. The park store stocks everything campers might need, including fishing supplies. For those who don’t want to fish the entire time, there are several different hiking trails, a fish hatchery, and a lodge where hearty country food is the specialty. Camping is available all year-round, though only one campground remains open in the winter.
Montauk State Park is yet another highly-prized trout fishing location in Missouri, and a favorite among many kinds of anglers. Although some have complained that there’s not much else to do there, there is a lodge and multiple hiking trails for those who don’t spend all day fishing. The natural beauty of the location along the Current River is another thing that makes the Montauk experience so good. All the campsites are open year-round, and most have electrical hookups.
Pin Oak Creek RV park is one of the few camping sites in Missouri that isn’t located in a state park. It’s about 40 minutes from St. Louis and often serves as a home base for those vacationing in the city or touring the area’s other attractions. The park boasts accommodations for any kind of camping you like to do, from tents to RVs to comfortable cabins. There’s a playground and pool for kids, as well as a paintball field for those who want a little competition. Fishing and hiking are on site, and other activities are close by. There’s an onsite store that sells anything campers need to make their experience enjoyable.
As the name suggests, the Jellystone Resort uses the theme of the Yogi Bear cartoon, which makes it a fun and family friendly location. It’s just outside of St. Louis, within sight of Six Flags over St. Louis in Eureka, and offers a full calendar of activities for kids, and a few for adults as well. Guests can stay in resort cottages and camping cabins with varying degrees of luxury, and families can gather around the pool or the campfire rings in their yards. The resort lodge features games, sports, mini-golf, and walking paths, and the playground and pool can be found in the campground itself. While it can be used as a home base for forays into St. Louis, families are often quite happy to remain on location for their whole trip.
Missouri is known as the Cave State, and one of the most beautiful of these is the extensive underground network of Meramec Caverns. Camping is offered on the above-ground sites surrounding the Caverns. The campground fronts the Meramec River, and many of the nicest camping sites are right there on the river. There are also trailer hookups, showers, restrooms, a playground and a concession stand. Though the caverns and motel are open all year-round, the campgrounds, both primitive sites and sites with hookups, are only open from April 1 to Oct. 31. Canoes, kayaks, and rafts can also be rented to make floating the Meramec a part of your camping experience.
If there is anywhere someone could go just to absorb the peace of unsullied nature, Hawn State Park is it. It’s one of those “best kept secret” areas, with pleasures that appeal to amateur geologists, bird watchers, flower lovers, and others who can appreciate nature on its own terms. The hiking trails lead visitors past clear streams with fascinating rock formations, fields of wild orchids, and mountain vistas unique to the area. The campgrounds off a variety of different types of campsites, including basic, electric, and walk it, plus a special camping area for groups of up to 50.