Summer Staycation Spots
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
Bonus- Our Favorite Local Spots
Here are a few of our favorite trails to hike and places to explore right in our own backyard!
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
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!)