MISSOURI’S HIDDEN GEMS:
6 Day Road Trip Through The “Show-Me State”
Best Things To Do In Missouri
Kansas Citians don’t have to venture far to embark on an epic road trip. Missouri is full of hidden gems, that many locals don’t even know about- from pink granite shut-ins and emerald spring pools, to architectural marvels and little towns filled with robust culture. Don’t bypass the Midwest without taking this unique, action-packed loop through Missouri.
DAY 1: Lake of the Ozarks
Starting from Kansas City, get a podcast or audio book ready for a 3 hour drive down to Osage Beach. Settle in to the start of your vacation with lunch and a cocktail at Dog Days Bar and Grill right on the lake- try one of the burgers! Their patio also makes a good place to relax for sunset. You can book a boat rental here through Bombay Boat Rentals for this afternoon, tomorrow morning, or both. All boats rentals here are dog-friendly. For anyone born after 1984, you’ll need to get a Missouri Boat Certificate- click here for information.
Spend the afternoon enjoying the lake on boat, paddleboard, or relaxing on shore with friends. To finish the day, head to Lake of the Ozarks Campground and set up camp for the night. They have 50 amp electric RV/camper sites, as well as 2 Yurts. A modern central restroom and shower houses are available during the camping on-season (April 1 to Oct. 31). Cook dinner and s’mores on the fire.
Don’t feel like cooking? Shorty Pants Lounge is another great food option in this area- try the Shrimp N’ Grits.
Not into camping? Lake House Hotel gets excellent reviews and is dog-friendly ($25 per pet).
DAY 1 TIMELINE:
0830-1200: Drive to Dog Days
1200-1300: Lunch at Dog Days; pick up boat if applicable
1300-sunset: Enjoy the lake
1900-1930: Head to Lake of the Ozarks Campground
DAY 2: Ha Ha Tonka State Park, Uranus, & Maramec Spring Park
Spend the morning relaxing and enjoying the lakeside sunrise. When you’re ready to hit road, head to Ha Ha Tonka State Park and take the Castle Trail for a serene and easy hike to the ruins of a burnt down mansion on the lake. Drive around the lake to the Shelter parking lot for easy access to both Spring Trail and Island Trail. You can also rent a kayak from this location. Grab coffee and lunch at The Funky Buffalo Coffee House.
Continue on to St James, Missouri for the evening. Along the way- hit up Uranus! The town, that is. The Uranus Fudge Factory is a perfect pitstop with tasty treats and souvenirs. If you find the bar of ‘soap for dog people’ that smells like drool, you’re in the right place. Be sure to tag us in a photo on Instagram and let us know how it smells! Hop back on the open road to tonight’s destination- Maramec Spring Park – the fifth largest spring in Missouri. This park has a stunning emerald spring pool, trout hatchery, and tons of wildlife. Book your campsite at Maramec here.
For dinner, head into town and watch the sunset with a beer in hand on the patio at Public House Brewing Company: Saint James.
Prefer to stay at a hotel? The Baymont by Wyndham in Rolla, Missouri is only 13 minutes from Saint James, and allows 3 dogs and cats up to 50 pounds for only $15 per pet. The Days Inn by Wyndham is another good option, allowing dogs up to 80 lbs but charges $40 per pet.
DAY 2 TIMELINE
1000-1200: Ha Ha Tonka
1330-1500: Drive to Uranus
1545-1630: Drive to Maramec Spring Park
DAY 3: Elephant Rocks State Park & Castor River Shut-Ins
Maramec Spring Park serves breakfast at the Pick & Shovel Cafe. If you like to fish, Maramec has some of the best trout fishing in the state. Mid-morning, continue on to Elephant Rocks State Park. Climb over and around billion-year-old granite boulders- don’t miss the quarry pond view from the top. Pack a sack lunch to enjoy at the top or at one of the picnic tables near the parking lot.
For your next stop- don’t forget your swimsuit and some water shoes to enjoy the state’s only-known pink granite rocks, which frame a clearwater river peppered with swimming holes at Castor River Shut-Ins. There is a short stretch of gravel road to get to the parking area, and some GPS apps don’t take you to the correct place. Switch your GPS view to satellite to confirm it’s taking you to a parking lot- the trailhead is located in the northeast corner of the parking lot. As you walk along the shaded trail, you’ll begin to hear the river and eventually will come to a clearing on your left where you can see the pink granite shut-ins. For an easier access point, keep going- there will be a sign on your right that says “Amidon Conservation Area” and the trail forks to the right, slightly uphill. Take this trail a short stretch until you see a clearing to your left and a tree with pink flowers across the river. You can easily get down to a small bank of the river and a swimming hole at this spot. You can also continue along that trail and find a more secluded area down river. Pro tip: bring a floaty and a backpack cooler with beverages and snacks to live your best life! We also brought a thick towel for the dogs to lay on- the river bank here is covered in gravel rocks.
If you’re ahead of schedule, or skipping Castor River Shut-Ins, another cool stop along this route is Cave Vineyard. Sip Missouri wine surrounded by views that feel like Napa. You can also walk down to hang out in the cave- however, dogs are not allowed to go inside. They close between 4pm-6pm depending on the season- check their hours beforehand.
For the evening, head to Hawn State Park. Grab takeout along the way in Farmington, Missouri. We recommend Pad Thai Kitchen or 12 West. NOTE: Hawn State Park gates close at 9pm- do not be late or you aren’t getting inside. Campsite reservations can be made here. A popular trail in the park is Pickle Creek Trail (1.6 miles out and back). This dog-friendly trail runs along a rocky creek so be sure to wear good hiking shoes.
Rather stay at a hotel? The Hampton Inn in Farmington is dog-friendly but charges $50 per dog. The Quality Inn is cheaper per night and only charges $15 per pet, but has slightly less than 4 out of 5 stars on reviews (a Find Your Blue recommendation standard). You can also drive a bit further to Saint Genevieve and stay at the Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham. This hotel has good reviews and only charges $10 per pet, up to 2 per room, with no weight restrictions.
DAY 3 TIMELINE
1000-1130: Drive to Elephant Rocks State Park (sack lunch)
1300-1400: Drive to Castor River Shut-ins
1700-1800: Drive to Hawn State Park (takeout for dinner on the way) or Saint Genevieve
DAY 4: Crystal City Underground and Gateway Arch National Park
Today you’ll head north to St. Louis. Along the way, grab lunch in Crystal City at Gordon’s Stoplight Drive-In for the “best hamburgers in the world since 1958.” Order lunch at their walk-up window and eat it on the patio tables with your pup.
Now for some fun! The next stop is NOT dog-friendly, but is too unique not to include on this tour through Missouri. If your dog is with you, head straight to Saint Louis after lunch. If you’re sadly without a dog, head to Crystal City Underground for a kayak tour of a 150-acre submerged lake, which was part of an abandoned Pittsburgh Plate Glass silica mine, and has been reborn into a subterranean sports complex. To book a tour, call Don of Marson Kayak and Canoe at 636-208-5026. NOTE: GPS sometimes is wrong. In Crystal City, go to 61/67 and Bailey Road- head East. At the 3rd stop sing, turn right onto Mississippi Ave and follow the signs to the city dump. (I said it was fun- not sexy) Right before the dump, turn left onto a gravel road which will take you directly to Crystal City Underground. Bring cash to pay, wear warm socks and layers- with long sleeves and pants- as the cave is only about 55 degrees inside. They’ll provide you with a kayak or canoe, paddles, life jackets, head lamps, and a pair of gloves. If you’re claustrophobic, this tour might not be for you. There is a small section of the tour called the “Squeeze Box” where you have to lay flat to get through, with only about a foot of clearance. The tour lasts about 2.5 hours.
Next stop: Gateway Arch National Park in St. Louis. Dogs are welcome on-leash to explore the grounds of the park, including the Riverfront trail. Well-behaved dogs are also welcomed on-leash aboard the St. Louis Riverfront Cruise, a 1-hour tour with some of the best arch views, running March through November. Call 877-982-1410 to book. If you didn’t get to kayak underground in Crystal City- get your fix at Boathouse at Forest Park. The Boathouse offers food and drinks, as well as dog-friendly watersport rentals, including kayaks, paddleboards, and canoes.
Tonight, set up camp at St Louis West/Historic Route 66 KOA. They have cabins in addition to RV and tent sites. If you’re ready for a hotel, try Holiday Inn St Louis West Six Flags. They charge $30 per accommodation, up to 4 pets with no breed restrictions.
DAY 4 TIMELINE:
1000-1045: Drive to Crystal City
1200-1430: Crystal City Underground tour
1500-1545: Drive to St Louis
1600-1900: Gateway Arch NP grounds (& sunset Riverboat tour or Boathouse Forest Park if applicable)
1930-2000: To campsite/hotel
DAY 5: Hermann Wine Country
After breakfast, drive to Hermann for a day of wine tasting and pampering. The town was settled by Germans in the 1930s, who saw potential in the rocky hillside terrain, and began planting vineyards.
Dog-friendly patio recommendations for food, beer, or wine: Adam Puchta Winery, Stonehill Winery, Hermannhof Winery, Blackshire Distillery, Tin Mill Brewery, and Doxie Slush. We also recommend 4th Street Pizza– although you’ll need to do carryout if you have dogs. The town of Hermann does have a wine trolley which commutes visitors between the various wineries for a fee- it is not dog-friendly.
For the evening, head to the outdoor patio at Hermann 1837 Cellar Bar for live music and drinks. If you’re able to leave your dog behind, another option for dinner and a night cap is Alpenhorn Gasthaus (not dog-friendly). They serve superb European fare in an intimate dining room, and have a wine cellar cave where you can finish the evening with a glass of port and chocolate for dessert.
For sleeping accommodations tonight, we recommend treating yourself by booking a suite at Hermann Hill. They have comfortable dog-friendly cottage suites with great amenities, a stunning hillside sunrise view, and TONS of complimentary snacks and beverages, including a full breakfast. Depending on the day of the week and season, there may be a 2-night minimum stay. Another less-expensive option, is Hermann Crown Suites. They have 26 uniquely-themed, pet-friendly suites, and are conveniently located in the middle of town. Finally, for an even more budget-conscious option, Hermann City Park has a 51-site RV campground with full or electric-only hook ups. Book by calling 573-486-5400. They also have tent camping on a first-come, first-serve basis.
DAY 5 TIMELINE:
1000-1100: Drive to Hermann
1100-1600: Explore Hermann
1630: Check into Hermann Hill, or Hermann Crown Suites
DAY 6: Back to Kansas City
After a leisurely breakfast, it’s time to head back to Kansas City. If you’re from out of town, or just ready for some hometown barbeque, grab a Z Man from Joe’s KC at their iconic gas station location. PRO TIP: Call in the order ahead of time so you don’t have to wait in line. There are days it wraps around outside.
DAY 5 TIMELINE:
1000-1300: Drive to KC
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