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Summer Staycation Spots

Bev Curtis

A master of sales and negotiations, Bev assists buyers and sellers to get them the best pricing and terms for their situation...

A master of sales and negotiations, Bev assists buyers and sellers to get them the best pricing and terms for their situation...

Aug 5 6 minutes read

Summer vacation looks a bit different this year, so we're helping you embrace the STAY-cation!

We're all trying to stay closer to home this year, and while that might mean your typical summer vacation was canceled, it doesn't mean there's no way to enjoy the last bit of summer. So, we've compiled a list of staycation spots within a day's drive of Columbia, Missouri. Stay safe and enjoy! 

1. Johnson's Shut-ins State Park

This unique spot in Mark Twain National Forest is located in the southeast part of the state, about a 3-hour and 15-minute drive from Columbia. Comprised of swimming holes naturally carved into the rock, guests can swim, hike, camp, or check out the views from the boardwalk. 

Visit Johnson's Shut-ins State Park

2. Elephant Rocks State Park

After splashing at Johnson's Shut-ins, take a quick 20-minute drive to neighboring Elephant Rocks State Park. These 1.5 billion-year-old granite rock formations are some of the oldest in this region of the United States, and are named for their unusual likeness to a string of circus elephants. The Braille Trail takes visitors through the main areas of rocks, with plenty of scenic outcroppings that make a perfect picnic lunch spot.

Visit Elephant Rocks State Park

3. Bennett Spring State Park

A beloved fisherman's spot for generations, Bennett Spring can be found about 2-hours south of Columbia. Renowned for excellent rainbow trout fishing, this stocked stream gushes over 100,000,000 gallons of crisp spring water every day. You can even book a fly fishing lesson if you're not an experienced angler! Whole family not into fishing? The park offers campgrounds, cabins, and hiking trails as well, and there are plenty of destinations to canoe or float nearby! 

Visit Bennett Spring State Park

4. Echo Bluff State Park

Further south in Mark Twain National Forest, about a 3 and-a-half hour drive away, Echo Bluff State Park sits in a scenic valley that is surrounded by towering bluffs. The Sinking Creek runs through the park, providing a perfect spot for kayakers and floaters alike. You'll find miles of hiking and biking trails, great smallmouth bass fishing, and plenty of picnic spots and shelters. Make a weekend trip out of it, and stay at the park's lodge, cabins, or campground.

Visit Echo Bluffs State Park

5. Pickle Springs Natural Area

Halfway between St Louis and Cape Girardeau (3 hours from Columbia), this nature preserve is known for its unique sandstone rock formations and numerous waterfalls. The short 2-mile trail provides a great place for kids to explore, with many uncommon plant and animal species!

Visit Pickle Springs Natural Area

Staying Home Instead?

Luckily, there are lots of ways to still enjoy the summer while staying safe.

6. Meramec Caverns

Drive a little over 2 hours southeast of Columbia, and you'll find Meramec Caverns. Rich in history, this is the largest cave open to the public in our state! Take a guided tour of the 7-story caverns ending in an impressive light show. Families can enjoy ziplining, a restaurant, a candy shop, and the kids can even pan for gold. Bring a sweatshirt- the caves only reach 60 degrees year-round! Explore the surrounding Meramec State Park for hiking and camping or float, fish & swim in the Meramec River.

Visit Meramec Caverns

7. Dogwood Canyon Nature Park

South of Branson, about a 4-hour drive from Columbia, this sprawling 10,000-acre nature preserve is full of activities for the entire family. Explore the park, conservation center, and working grist mill at your own speed, or book an adventure to horseback ride, bike, take a tram ride, or fish the park's numerous trout streams and pools. Finish up with a meal at the restaurant overlooking the mill and waterfall. 

Visit Dogwood Canyon Nature Park

8. Twin Rivers Landing

Camp, float, and enjoy all of the family-friendly activities that this park has to offer! Located a little over 3 hours southeast of Columbia, and close to other great spots on our list like Elephant Rocks and Johnson's Shut-ins. The campground is nestled alongside the river, and equipped with a playground, sports fields, event space, and country store. You can even take an evening hayride after a full day of floating!

Visit Twin Rivers Landing

9. Fugitive Beach

A 2-hour drive south to Rolla will bring you to this man-made beach, tucked into the site of an old quarry. Lay and relax on the sandy beach and grab some refreshments at the bar & grill. Maybe you're more of a thrill-seeker; you'll find 5 water slides, multiple cliff jumps, inflatable jumps, volleyball, cornhole, and other games!

Visit Fugitive Beach

10. Mark Twain Landing

Located on the outskirts of Mark Twain Lake, an hour-and-a-half northeast of Columbia, you'll find a huge waterpark, complete with campground and cabins! Kids can play in the lazy river, kiddie pool, wave pool, and slides. Enjoy mini-golf, a playground, and a tiki bar, too. Park your RV or stay in one of the cottages or cabins. 

Visit Mark Twain Landing



Bonus- Our Favorite Local Spots

Here are a few of our favorite trails to hike and places to explore right in our own backyard!


MKT Trail

Rock Bridge State Park- High Ridge Trail, Devil's Icebox Trail, Sink Hole Loop

Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area

Three Creeks Conservation Area- Turkey Creek Trail

Capen Park

Gans Creek Recreation Area

Grindstone Nature Area- Grindstone Loop

Little Dixie Lake Conservation Area

Twin Lakes Recreation Area- County House Trail (the trail departs from our subdivision, Ridgemont Park!)

What do you have planned for this summer?

If you're like us, the summer also means moving. If you're planning on selling your home this summer, let's talk.

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