Missouri’s natural landscapes are as entertaining as its fun-loving cities.
Whether road-tripping along part of the historic Route 66, vacationing at the Lake of the Ozarks, or following in the footsteps of homegrown hero Mark Twain—Missouri is made for traveling. From Kansas City to St Louis, you’re never far from a state park—there are 38 to choose from—while the vast Mark Twain National Forest encompasses 1.5-million acres spread across seven different wilderness areas. Plan your camping trip from May through October to make the most of the forests, lakes, and wilderness areas, or cozy up in an RV through the snowy winter months.
Kansas City, Missouri’s largest city, is best known for its jazz scene and BBQ restaurants, but there are also plenty of natural attractions to explore in the north. Head to nearby Weston Bend State Park to camp along the Missouri River, or go biking and horseback riding along the multi-use trails of Crowder State Park. Over on the eastern state border, Wakonda State Park has six lakes to choose from, while the Mark Twain State Park has family campgrounds in the Salt River Hills.
State capital Jefferson City lies at the heart of Missouri, and just to the north, Rock Bridge Memorial State Park provides tranquil camping amid a backdrop of natural caves, streams, and woodlands. Summer campers flock to the Lake of the Ozarks region, where the huge reservoir is fringed with sandy beaches, golf courses, and restaurants. If you tire of the Ozarks camping resorts, Bennett Spring State Park makes a worthy alternative, renowned for its trout fishing.
At the meeting point of the Mississippi and the Missouri Rivers, St Louis is home to one of Missouri’s most visited attractions, the Gateway Arch National Park. Nearby, hikers can enjoy full-amenity camping at Meramec River State Park, while Castlewood State Park is renowned for its mountain biking trails, and Sam A Baker State Park is one of the region’s most visited. Alternatively, escape to the wilderness of the Mark Twain National Forest, where you can choose between tent/RV sites, cabins, or dispersed camping in the woods.
Bordered by Kansas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas, the southwest is Missouri’s wild frontier. Venture into the Mark Twain National Forest to enjoy backcountry camping in the wilderness, rev up your OHV and tackle the off-road trails of St Joe State Park, or fish for rainbow trout in the stocked waters of Roaring River State Park. Finally, don’t miss the hike to Grand Falls. The 163-foot wide waterfall is Missouri’s largest, and lies just outside of Joplin.
The best months for camping in Missouri are in late spring and fall thanks to moderate temperatures. The summer months get progressively hotter and more humid between June and August, with September ushering in cooler temperatures. Fall brings a colorful explosion for leaf peeping, while winter season is less hospitable for camping, with freezing temperatures and occasional snow in December, January, and February.
Yes, Missouri is an excellent destination for camping. The state offers a diverse range of landscapes, including forests, lakes, rivers, and rolling hills. With numerous state parks, the Mark Twain National Forest, and private campgrounds available, Missouri caters to various camping preferences, including tent camping, RV camping, and primitive camping. Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy activities such as hiking, fishing, and wildlife watching while camping in Missouri. Check out Missouri State Parks on Hipcamp to explore camping options.
Boondocking, or dispersed camping, is legal in Missouri, particularly in the Mark Twain National Forest. However, it's essential to follow the rules and regulations of the specific area where you plan to camp. Make sure to camp at least 100 feet away from any established administrative sites and respect the environment by practicing Leave No Trace principles.
No, it is not legal to camp anywhere in Missouri. Camping is allowed only in designated campgrounds, national forests, state parks, and on private lands with the owner's permission. When camping in public lands like the Mark Twain National Forest, you must follow the rules and regulations set by the managing agencies. Always check for specific regulations and restrictions before setting up camp.
Missouri laws on camping vary depending on the location and type of land. Here are some general guidelines to follow:
Always check local regulations and guidelines for the specific area where you plan to camp, and be aware that some areas may require permits or reservations.