Breathtaking natural landscapes and geological phenomena are not necessarily words you would associate with the state of Missouri. However, when you hear the name Elephant Rocks State Park, surely this has to be a really awesome experience? Don’t worry, this state park in the heart of Missouri doesn’t disappoint in a number of ways.
From awesome hiking trails to the amazing sight of huge boulders that create this extraordinary landscape, Elephant Rocks State Park is certainly a location you should consider visiting if you are planning a trip to Missouri. Perhaps the location is a factor that will prevent huge volumes of visitors to this state park but at the same time, I think this is a benefit given that it will help preserve the gorgeous natural phenomenon that can be found here.
Where is Elephant Rocks State Park?
Having spent much of our recent travels heading far and wide away from Arkansas as we embark on visiting all 50 US states, we decided to visit our neighboring state of Missouri to see what Elephant Rocks State Park was all about. Located in the Arcadia Valley area of Missouri, this state park offers a number of attractive reasons that will likely inspire return visitors given the beauty throughout the area.
For those of you unfamiliar with the state of Missouri and the geography surrounding here, Elephant Rocks State Park is a little over an hour south of St. Louis along US Highway 67. Visiting from Arkansas, it was approximately 3 hours from our hometown of Jonesboro.
Whether you intend on spending a full day exploring this state park or perhaps some of the nearby natural attractions, there are plenty of options in this region. We opted to spend a couple of hours early in the morning hiking around Elephant Rocks State Park before taking the short drive north to spend time “exploring off the beaten path St. Louis.”
It’s all about hiking and exploring when you visit Elephant Rocks State Park. If you are visiting for the first time, we strongly encourage you to take the interpretative “Braille Trail”. This self-guided walking tour allows you to follow a trail specifically designed for everyone to enjoy this amazing landscape.
At various points around the trail, there is interpretive signage providing more information on the landscape and also some history of this state park.
Designed especially for people with visual or physical disabilities in 1981, Braille Trail is the first of its kind in Missouri state parks and is designated as a National Recreation Trail.
Although the estimated hiking time suggests you can complete this 1-mile trail in 30 minutes, realistically you should probably plan on spending more than an hour around here with all the viewpoints available and other off-road experiences you may want to explore.
Engine House Ruins Trail
There is also an opportunity to head off the beaten path and take a more challenging adventure through the natural terrain that makes up this state park.
Known as the Engine House Ruins Trail, this 0.4-mile trail is still relatively easy but offers a different experience to the traditional route that the majority of visitors will stick to.
We opted to explore both trails and although we anything but expert hikers, this was a comfortable yet enjoyable hike with very few other hikers taking the time to head along this route.
Simply follow the blue arrows sporadically affixed to trees and feel free to take your own route to really appreciate the views beyond the bluffs and drop-offs beside the trail.
Depending on the direction you start this trail, the ancient ruins (ok, so it only dates back to the 1890’s) of the Engine House offers visitors the opportunity to view the location where train engines from the Iron Mountain and Southern Railroad were repaired.
Explore the Elephant Rocks
You can hike to your heart’s desire but for most visitors, the highlight has to be the amazing granite rocks that you can clamber over and admire. As you wander out into the open space where all of these giant boulders are located, it’s pretty easy to understand where the name “Elephant Rocks” was derived.
These rocks date back over 1.5 billion years and although this is understandably a popular attraction for children to enjoy, I think we can all find our inner childhood for a few moments to enjoy these awesome natural features.
giant boulders that stand end-to-end like a train of circus elephants
The Missouri State Park’s website elaborately describes these boulders as an “end-to-end train of circus elephants”. I’m not sure that’s exactly how I would explain their appearance but who am I to argue, given that it’s pretty awesome way to vividly describe these geologic formations.
It’s a location that inspires you to take a number of selfies and why not! These rocks provide the perfect backdrop for an amazing family photo or perhaps creating a memory exploring this state park with your hiking buddies.
Missouri Fall Foliage
The beauty of these rocks goes well beyond the historic granite formations. Their location in the heart of gorgeous surroundings creates a myriad of amazing landscape viewpoints.
On a number of occasions as we wandered around the rocks, we just stopped to admire the beauty highlighting the Missouri fall foliage. I’m sure this is pretty spectacular all year round but we felt pretty fortunate to visit while the vibrant colors were in full show.
Having recently spent time exploring the breathtaking fall foliage in Minnesota, we could be forgiven for thinking that Missouri was going to fail at living up to our high expectations. Don’t worry, in the heart of the Arcadia Valley, it’s pretty easy to stumble across a myriad of scenic views across the foliage.
Elephant Rocks State Park lived up to the high expectations created by its name. We actually visited with pretty low expectations given the remote location in Missouri but we left satisfied that this was a great location to stumble across and one that we look forward to visiting in the future.
For those of you visiting the St. Louis region of Missouri and want a day trip away from the hustle and bustle of city life, consider a short drive south into the rural valley to explore Elephant Rocks State Park. We think that you will be happy with your decision!
What’s the quirkiest/strangest location name that you have visited around the world? Did it live up to expectations? Have you spent much time exploring Missouri?