Top 5 Missouri Road Trip Locations to Visit in Spring

If there’s one thing winter is good at, it’s giving you cabin fever. Sure, it can be fun sometimes, but it’s always a relief when it comes to an end. Thankfully, with the spring weather upon us, it’s a great time to plan your Missouri road trips. The state is full of places to visit, from beautiful nature areas to picturesque wineries and active small towns. No matter what you enjoy, there’s a little something for everyone. Whatever your springtime plans include, make sure your vehicle is up for the long drive and adventure, too, with up-to-date maintenance and tire services to ensure a safe trip.

1. Explore the Natural Wonders

Missouri is filled with natural wonders, offering excellent hiking trails, calming scenery, outdoor activities, and more. Springtime makes a great time to explore these locations as the flowers and trees begin to bloom and the outdoor temperatures make almost any activity enjoyable and comfortable. Some of the most popular locations to see the natural wonders around the state include:

  • Grand Gulf State Park: Also referred to as the “Little Grand Canyon,” Grand Gulf State Park is one of the most eye-catching natural wonders in the Ozark region. Comprised of a collapsed cave system, the Grand Gulf portion runs about three-quarters of a mile between 130-foot-high walls. Take the upper trails to explore from above, or walk within the gulf and even go under a 250-foot long, 75-foot high natural bridge. However, should you choose to walk within, keep in mind there is no official trail to get down, so getting there requires some extreme caution.
  • Elephant Rocks State Park: This park is unique thanks to its elephant-shaped boulders formed from 1.5-billion-year-old granite, standing end-to-end like circus elephants. The unique formations are popular with everyone, including kids, as they’re easy to climb on and around. Braille Trail in Elephant Rocks State Park offers easy accessibility for everyone, including those with visual and physical disabilities. Just off the main trail, there’s an extension that leads visitors back to the ruins of an old railroad engine house from when the area was used as a quarry.
  • Mingo National Wildlife Refuge: The Mingo National Wildlife Refuge offers a unique opportunity to see what southeast Missouri looked like before it was developed, filled with bottomland hardwood forest and cypress-tupelo swamp. Enjoy all the outdoors has to offer, from canoeing and kayaking the waterways to exploring miles of wildlife drives, hiking the various trails, taking part in fishing or seasonal hunting, and so much more. There’s plenty of opportunity to observe wildlife, especially in the active spring season when spring migratory birds return as well as the refuge’s resident eagles who begin nesting. Note that there is a small entry fee when visiting the refuge.
  • Dogwood Canyon Nature Park: Located in the Ozark Mountains, Dogwood Canyon is an excellent family-friendly location offering hiking, biking, wildlife tours, horseback riding, and trout fishing. The area boasts towering bluffs, beautiful waterfalls, serene creek beds, wildlife, and handcrafted bridges. There is an admission cost as well as tickets for specific activities, so if you plan on visiting, be sure to book online early to get the best price.

2. Picturesque Water Mills 

Another popular option for almost everyone includes visiting the various beautiful, historic water mills across the state. Much like the natural wonders, they are set in picturesque locations that allow for excellent viewing of new spring foliage with natural waterways and a nice dose of history. A few of the more popular mill locations include:

  • Alley Spring Grist Mill: The Alley Spring Grist Mill is a 100-year-old mill located on Alley Spring. The beautifully unique turquoise water still flows through this historic landmark that once served as a home, farm, and school for those who lived in the area. If you want to get a glimpse inside, you’ll need to visit after Memorial Day when the mill opens daily from 9am – 4pm.
  • Rockbridge Mill: Now an over 2,000-acre resort in the Ozark Mountains, Rockbridge Mill offers an excellent place for a family vacation. The area itself presents opportunities for activities like rainbow trout fishing and hiking. The 1800s grist mill itself is still onsite and has been repurposed as a space to relax and enjoy a drink, although many original antique pieces are still in place for history buffs to explore.
  • Hodgson Water Mill: Set atop a flowing spring, the Hodgson Water Mill has been around since the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The natural spring comes out of the ground just beneath the mill and runs out over a small wall, creating a peaceful waterfall into a pond below. The location is ideal for photographs and offers a great spot for a midday picnic lunch. There are also short paths around the mill for a closer look and different viewpoints into this historic site.

3. Beautiful, Natural Waterfalls

From water mills to waterfalls, Missouri road trips have it all! Now that the threat of ice is behind us, the water is always flowing in these gorgeous locations. These Missouri waterfalls are located in areas that also present other fun outdoor activities the whole family can enjoy. Here are some favorite waterfalls around the state:

  • Mina Sauk Falls: Located in Taum Sauk Mountain State Park in the St. Francois Mountains, the Mina Sauk Falls are set in the middle of a 2.9-mile loop trail. Along with the falls, the area is excellent for birding, camping, and hiking, and the park itself is home to the highest point in Missouri. The hike to the falls can be a bit challenging in some areas that are rocky and slippery near water, so they may not be ideal for very young children or those with physical disabilities.
  • Johnson’s Shut-Ins: Beloved by Missourians and those in surrounding states, Johnson’s Shut-Ins has become an excellent, unique location for families. The rugged area is ideal for camping, hiking, picnicking, exploring, and relaxing, but one of the biggest draws is the waterfalls known as the shut-ins. Swimming and splashing are allowed and welcomed (although spring may be a bit too chilly for a cool-down) and there is a boardwalk overlooking the spectacular views.
  • Rocky Falls in the Stegall Mountain Natural Area: Want to get a glimpse into the earth’s turbulent past? A visit to Rocky Falls will help you do just that. Formed by reddish-brown rhyolite porphyry rock that’s roughly 1.5 billion years old, the rock is quite hard, meaning the stream must remain in any cracks and crevices it can find, creating a “shut-in” much like those at Johnson’s Shut-Ins. Around the Falls you’ll find walking trails, picnic tables, and grills to enjoy a pleasant spring day.
  • Marvel Cave in Branson: If your trip also involves a visit to Silver Dollar City, you can visit one of nature’s greatest wonders at Marvel Cave. Opened in 1894 as a tourist attraction, the theme park was actually built around its entrance to mirror the genuine 1800s mining town. The waterfall is a rare underground feature located 505 feet underground at the cave’s deepest point, sourced by a stream called The Lost River. Tours are included with a Silver Dollar City admission ticket, weather permitting. Due to the many stairs and ramps along the trail, exploration can be quite strenuous and not recommended for some visitors.

4. Local Missouri Wine Trails

Whether you’re planning Missouri road trips for your friend group or as a romantic getaway, visiting one of the many local wine trails is a must for those who enjoy finding new selections for their personal collection. Many of these wineries are located in beautiful outdoor settings to enjoy a glass or two outside, and the trails make accessing several different wineries easy. These wine trails include some of the most options for different wineries in the state:

  • Hermann Wine Trail: Enjoy breathtaking vistas and wines from historic wineries along the trail that runs between Hermann and New Haven, Missouri. Along the trail, you’ll find the Adam Puchta Winery, Bias Vineyards & Winery, Curling Vine Winery, G. Husmann Wine Company, Hermannhof Winery, and Röbller Vineyard and Winery.
  • Augusta Wine Trail: If you are looking for the heart of the country’s very first designated American Viticulture Area, the Augusta Wine Trail is the place to go. You’ll find such wineries as the Augusta Winery, Balducci Vineyards, Montelle Winery, Noboleis Vineyards, and Mount Pleasant Estates.
  • The Northwest Missouri Wine Trail: For unique, welcoming wineries, visit the Northwest Missouri Wine Trail. This area boasts several wineries, including Belvoir Winery, Fence Stile Vineyards & Winery, Four Horses and a Dog Vineyard & Winery, Jowler Creek Vineyard & Winery, Pirtle Winery, Riverwood Winery, Van Till Family Farm Winery, Windy Wine Company, and Vox Vineyards.
  • The Lake of the Ozarks Wine Trail: Located around the famous Lake of the Ozarks, you’ll get lots of scenic beauty and nearby activities to enjoy. Within this wine region, you’ll find the Dale Hollow Winery, Golden Rock Winery, Seven Springs Winery, Shawnee Bluff Vineyards, and Shawnee Bluff Winery.

5. Tour of Unique, Charming Small Towns 

Small towns make for great Missouri road trips as they provide the benefits of a vacation with out-of-the-box charm. As they stay true to their roots, many of these small towns are perfect for those who enjoy antiquing or simply taking a moment to slow down and enjoy the new spring atmosphere. Some great small towns to visit include:

  • Parkville, Missouri: Historic Parkville, Missouri offers a charming location along the Missouri River that’s perfect for a getaway. When you visit, enjoy delicious local dining options, unique shops, beautiful outdoor areas, and annual events and festivals. In 2018, Downtown Parkville was named the Great Neighborhood in Missouri and also was recognized as the Most Charming Main Street in Missouri by USA Today.
  • Clarksville, Missouri: If you’re looking for a true small-town spirit, Clarksville, Missouri is just the spot. With a town motto of “Unhurried… Unspoiled… Uncommon,” Clarksville is a little river town located along the banks of the Mississippi River on America’s scenic byway, the Little Dixie Highway of the Great River Road. Check out the revitalized downtown business district featuring antique, specialty, and artisanal shops. There is also an available walking tour of Clarksville that will provide more information about the town’s historic buildings and churches.
  • Carthage, Missouri: Known as America’s Maple Leaf City, Carthage, Missouri brings together history, art, and more at the junction of Historic Route 66 and Jefferson Highway. Explore the four historic districts boasting over 550 National Registry of Historic Places buildings. For those who enjoy history, Carthage was host to the Battle of Carthage, which was the first full-scale land battle of the Civil War.

Ensure Your Next Road Trip is a Safe One with Telle Tire

Missouri road trips offer excellent opportunities to explore all of the beautiful natural and historic locations the state has to offer. Of course, before you decide to venture out, ensure your vehicle is prepared to handle the demands. Bring your car to Telle Tire for necessary maintenance or repairs, and our professional mechanics will make sure the only thing you have to worry about is where you’ll visit next. Contact us today for more information, or visit a location near you.