Day Trippin’: A relaxing day at Graham Cave State Park
Traveling down I-70 to St. Louis can be pretty boring. About the time one reaches the Kingdom City junction of US Hwy 54 and I-70, we are all wanting a break. But travel a little further, and there is a wonderful place to stretch your legs right off of the interstate corridor.
At the Danville/Montgomery City exit is a hidden gem just a short drive down an outer road, two miles to the Graham Cave State Park.
The ancient history of the park shows people inhabited the cave 8000 to 10,000 years ago in archaeological digs conducted in the 1940s and 50s on the site showing a group of hunter-gatherers.
Today, the many hiking trails of the park lead to natural wonders, some just atop a hill reached by climbing the well-kept paths. Spring is a perfect time to visit. The dogwood flower buds were just opening, and redbud trees flourished throughout. Trickling waters of craggy overhangs provided a soundtrack through the dense forest to a glade high above on the .3 mile hike of the Graham Cave Trail. As one ascends the trail, a beautifully manicured lawn gives entrance to the cave, yawning its mouth to visitor’s surprise when cresting the last steps of the climb.
Graham’s Cave has an outcropping from the rock welcoming guest to a shaded view inside, which is currently fenced off from further exploration. A paved road leads up to the cave glade which can be used for handicapped individuals to drive up.
The state park contains a campground for tents and RV’s with a shower house and pavilion picnic tables and fire rings. Although the campground is open year round, water and shower house availability is only April-October.
The Loutre River bottoms portion of the park has a primitive boat launch, rather small, but with careful backing can be used. The bottoms are home to several Missouri native species of plants and animals including the prickly pear and columbines, as well as deer, beaver, and coyote.
Five hiking trails wind through Graham Cave State Park, with the Loutre River trail traversing greatest distance, connecting to the four other hiking paths, and snaking through most of the park.
The only drawback to Graham Cave State Park is when one descends from the cave or the dense forest to the parking lot, the-70 traffic noise is back, pulling one out of the serenity of the park much too soon.
Graham Cave State Park is open from dawn to dusk daily at Danville, the 170 Exit from I-70 follow the outer road for 2 miles from MO-161. Online at https://mostateparks.com/park/graham-cave-state-park