St. Louis and Columbia are amazing locations for outdoor adventures with your children. With our two cities as your base camp, you have access to miles upon miles of wilderness featuring trails, rivers, springs, caves, forests, bluffs, rock formations, waterfalls and more. Set your sights within just two hours of our metro areas and we have more opportunities than we can possibly tell you here. Best of all, many of these locations are absolutely free for your family for a day visit. A camping trip may cost you as little as $10 for the night.
Each of the areas we have listed below have the potential to provide your children (and you) with experiences that will last a lifetime. We may not have the dramatic mountain silhouettes of the Rockies or the crashing waves of the ocean; but we do have the beauty of the Ozark Mountains, spring-fed rivers that run stunningly, perfectly clear and a vast system of caves that appeal to every child. Best of all, because of our Midwestern geography, most of our outdoor destinations are surprisingly kid-friendly.
So if you’re looking for some ideas for a new adventure for you and your kids, we’ve included a list of our top choices below. Some are nearby. Some are further away. But all of them offer families a chance to have fun and experience the great outdoors.
Meramec State Park, Sullivan, MO – The absolute gem for camping and outdoor adventures for kids. Trails, beaches on the river, and over 75 caves and numerous springs.
Onondaga Cave State Park, Leasburg, MO – Camping, cave tours, canoeing. Great place for a long weekend.
Silver Mines Recreation Area, Fredericktown, MO – One of Missouri’s unknown wonders. Explore an old dam. Watch whitewater kayakers make their way through the St. Francis River rapids. The Missouri Whitewater Championships are held upstream of this location each March.
Hiking & Exploring Adventures
Rockwoods Reservation, Eureka, MO – Trails for hikers of all ages and skill levels as well as wildlife exhibits. Plenty of picnic grounds and fields for group meals.
Powder Valley Nature Center, Kirkwood, MO – Easy to get to, incredible nature center, easy trails. Great local asset.
Amidon Conservation Area near Fredericktown, MO – The Castor River Shut-ins here is one of Missouri’s best play spots for kids both young and old. (Shhhh! It’s a secret!)
Pickle Springs Natural Area near Farmington, MO – Short length, incredible rock formations, fun for everybody!
Rock Bridge Memorial State Park, Columbia, MO – Diverse trail network for hiking or mountain biking, or plenty of space for a nice weather picnic as well. And for a true adventure, explore Devil’s Icebox on a park-led tour.
Simpson Lake County Park, Valley Park, MO – A local, hidden gem just off Highway 141. Bring a bird guidebook, a canoe and fishing poles.
Meramec River, Consider launching your boat near Steelville, Leasburg or Sullivan for best water quality and natural beauty. Besides the Missouri and the Mississippi, probably the most recognized river in the area – and the easiest to access.
Huzzah Creek, Leasburg, MO – (Hoo-za) More advanced young paddlers can take off on their own sit-on-top kayaks (rented through numerous outfitters) on this gorgeous clearwater gem which drains into the Meramec near Leasburg, MO
Missouri River, West and South of Columbia, MO – Experience the same river Lewis and Clark explored; offers great opportunities for experienced paddlers.
Rock Climbing Adventures
Okay, we’re cheating on some of these here. Some aren’t really outdoors. They’re climbing gyms. But, the skills learned here could very well lead to the ability to tackle the real rock walls of the area.
Center of Clayton Climbing Gym – Clatyon, MO – Geared towards kids more than any other gym in St. Louis.
Upper Limits Climbing Gym – St. Louis, MO – Best overall climbing gym in the area.
Capen Park – Columbia, MO – Close to campus and featuring some good top roping and sport routes.
University of Missouri – Columbia Climbing Wall – Columbia, MO – Open to University Students and Staff
Grant’s Trail in South County, St. Louis – Flat, easy, and even at its most crowded is still enjoyable. And now the trail starts almost in our Kirkwood store’s backyard!
Katy Trail, beginning in St. Charles, MO – One-day trips to week-long adventures on 235 miles of bike trail between St. Charles and Clinton, MO.
Lost Valley Trail in the Weldon Springs Conservation Area in St. Charles – Fabulous for both hiking and biking with clear creeks and miles of wooded, flat trails.
Forest Park, St. Louis, MO – Local, with a myriad of opportunities for other activities.
MKT Trail, Columbia, MO – Another rails to trails project, but runs right through Columbia for some easy, family-friendly riding.