We’ve narrowed it down to six of the best trails to hike, all under 3 miles.
The Dogwoods are blooming and you are probably beyond sick of being stuck outdoors. It’s time to hit a local hiking trail at one of our state parks. Between the Lake of the Ozarks State Park and Ha Ha Tonka State Park there are dozens of trails to choose from — some way more challenging than others. We’ve narrowed it down to some of our favorites, from shortest to longest, but kept them fairly easy.
The Missouri State Parks has more information on each of these trails online, or stop by the visitors center’s kiosk at each park system for a map.
If you would rather bring your bike along, check the maps for longer trails and those that accommodate bike traffic. Just make sure you practice safe hiking rules: bring plenty of water, a phone (even though service may be unreliable), let someone know where you are going, a good pair of hiking shoes and a jacket. Have fun!
0.4 miles | Rugged | Ha Ha Tonka State Park
This trail features the old mill site along Spring Trail. It’s a rugged loop that takes hikers to what’s left of the abandoned water pipe that used to carry water from the mill site to the water tower. Hikers will see the confluence of Ha Ha Tonka Spring and Lake of the Ozarks, and loop to an area where a small breached dam is located. Many of the trails run into each other, so you can loop into other trails by following the signs.
0.6 miles | Rugged | Ha Ha Tonka State Park
Part of the Ha Ha Tonka Karst Natural Area, this trail winds under a natural bridge through a large sinkhole. It’s definitely one of the must-see sights at the park. Spanning 60 feet, 100 feet high and 70 feet wide, the natural bridge was used as Mr. Snyder’s route to the castle but was closed in 1980 to vehicular traffic.
Coakley Hollow Trail
0.8 miles | Rugged | Lake of the Ozarks State Park (down State Route A, Linn Creek)
There are six different types of natural communities: dolomite glades, fens, spring-fed streams and several types of woodlands, making it one of the most ecologically diverse areas in this state park. The trails may be closed during the evening hours and off season (Sept. 15-May 15) so call the visitors center at Ozark Caverns at 573-346-2500 to see if the area is open. It’s a great trail to visit when Ozark Caverns is open for visitors.
1.4 miles | Moderate | Ha Ha Tonka State Park
A very popular trail because it is paved for the first 0.4 miles, and runs along the spring where you’ll see tons of wildlife. Stop at the boardwalk, an overlook of the spring with informational panels to learn more about the area. At the end of the trail you’ll squeeze between to rocks before making your way to the bottom of the stairs that lead to the castle ruins. But you’ll have to climb the 316 wooden steps 200 vertical feet to get there.
Rocky Top Trail
2 miles | Moderate | Lake of the Ozarks State Park (in Grand Glaize Beach/Osage Beach off Hwy. 54)
This trail is two loops joined together for a total of about 2 miles. It quickly climbs to one of the largest glades in the park. You’ll pass through the glade and native Ozark woodlands, crossing a ravine to reach a cliff overlooking the Lake.
Hidden Springs Trail
2.4 miles | Moderate | Lake of the Ozarks State Park (down Hwy. 42)
This trail is well worth the expected 1 hour and 49 minutes it takes to complete. Hikers and equestrians will experience native woodlands to bluff tops above the Lake. It’s scenic, secluded and a great way to enjoy some peace and quiet.
COVID Tips while Hiking
The sights and sounds of nature are needed now more than ever. Whether exploring trails by foot or by bike, physical activity is beneficial for both physical and mental health. Outdoor spaces are well-suited to increase social distance, and fresh air is a great way to calm your mind. While it is a great time to get outdoors, we need your help and commitment in making your visit as safe and enjoyable as possible. 1. Maintain a distance of 6 feet or more from others when using the trail. 2. Cover your sneeze or cough with a tissue or your elbow. 3. Avoid groups and travel with only those from your household. 4. Bring hand sanitizer, soap, wipes and water. 5. Share the trail and warn other users of your presence when you pass. 6. Be prepared for limited access to public restrooms and water fountains. 7. Stay home if you are sick or have been exposed to others who are sick. 8. Be kind and considerate to those around you.
As always, before you head out to a park, please visit www.mostateparks.com for current advisories and closure information. For the latest actions taken in response to COVID-19, visit www.mostateparks.com/response.