Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri

Missouri Road Trip — Explore the Ozarks

The Missouri Ozarks offer more than just a history lesson— bubbling springs, lush forests, high cliffs, caves, and rivers traverse the St. Francois Mountains.

Want to plan a weekend trip? The Ozarks are a great getaway from either St. Louis or Kansas City. The only real difference is the starting point. One would begin at Lake of the Ozarks (closer to Kansas City) while the other would begin at the Onondaga Cave State Park. You could theoretically do the itinerary in one day, but it would 16 hours round trip. I would recommend either camping out under the stars or finding a hotel/motel room in one of the small towns nearby.

Ready for an adventure? Let’s start this trip from St. Louis, Missouri for the fastest route down into Missouri’s Ozark region. Here is the Google My Maps for your convenience.

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Ozark Road Trip Destinations

Onondaga Cave State Park

9136, 7556 Hwy H, Leasburg, MO 65535
+1 573-245-6576

A vast honeycomb of caves and underground streams can be found at this large park. You can go underground or visit the park’s Vilander Bluff Natural Area, which provides a panoramic view of the Meramec River. There is a fee for cave tours so check the website for the most current information. The Onondaga Cave Tours currently have an admission fee of $15 for adults. The Cathedral Tour is $10, so bring along $25 for admission.

Maramec Springs Park

21880 Maramec Spring Dr, St James, MO 65559
+1 573-265-7387

Swim, hike, or picnic along the shores of the Maramec River that flows through the 1,860 acres of Onondaga State Park. An average of 100 million gallons of water flows from the Spring daily, making it the fifth largest spring in the state.

Mark Twain National Forest

401 Fairgrounds Road, Rolla, MO 65401

The rocky slopes and deep hollows line the 1.5-million-acre forest. You can find wilderness trails, resort lakes, grazing lands, and much more. The forest also has over 750 miles of hiking trails, horseback riding, and other activities.

Dillard Mill State Historic Site

142 Dillard Mill Rd, Davisville, MO 65456
+1 573-244-3120

The state historic site was completed in 1908 and is situated on grassy, pine-topped bluffs overlooking Huzzah Creek. If you want to have a tour of the gristmill, check the dates during November through April.

Indian Trail Conservation Area

Salem, MO 65560
+1 573-729-3182

The wooded paths were once traveled by two different tribes. The Osage Indians left an ancient trail called the White River Trace while the Cherokees created the second footpath in 1838 during the Trail of Tears. Mill View Trail also runs up a steep grade and goes through the forest for a scenic view of the Dillard Mill.

Montauk State Park

9025, 345 County Rd 6670, Salem, MO 65560
+1 573-548-2201

The cold and fast waters of the Current River are great for visiting a 19th-century mill and fishing for rainbow trout.

Alley Spring & Mill

Eminence, MO 65466
+1 573-323-4236

Alley Spring and its historic red Mill are one of the most photographed sites in the Ozarks. The 80-acre site was purchased in 1902 and includes a well-stocked store and blacksmith shop.

Big Spring

Van Buren, MO 63965
+1 573-323-4236

Loop the forests on Routes 106, 21, and 60 to Skyline Drive (Route 103). From there, a massive limestone bluff forms the backdrop for Big Spring, which flows about 277 million gallons a day on average.

Eleven Point National Scenic River

Birch Tree, MO 65438

One of the lushest areas in Mark Twain National Forest, the rapid river carves past soaring bluffs, low-lying pastures, and wooded valleys.

Greer Spring

Greer Spring, Woodside Township, MO 65606

Greer Spring is the second largest spring in Missouri. It both gushes and roils, with an average of 220 gallons of water per day into the Eleven Point River.

Grand Gulf State Park

Hwy W, Thayer, MO 65692
+1 417-264-7600

Just north of the Arkansas border, this park has a narrow, mile-long gulf or chasm with vertical walls some 13 stories high. It is often called the Little Grand Canyon. It was once a series of caves that collapsed.

That’s it!  You could potentially do it one day if you drive straight through. It’s about a 9-hour drive down to Grand Gulf State Park, so that would be 18 hours round-trip. Play it safe, camp or book a room.

Have a fun and safe adventure.

Coming from Kansas City? If you are coming down from Kansas City instead of St. Louis, Missouri, stop by Lake of the Ozarks on your way south.

Recommended Items

Reusable Water Bottle

High-Protein Snack Food

Hiking Shoes

Atlas & Compass

A sense of humor ?


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