The Top Ten Places To Explore Around Columbia MO
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Politics and Activism

The Top Ten Places To Explore Around Columbia MO

They say not all who wander are lost...

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The Top Ten Places To Explore Around Columbia MO
Klarissa McAuley

I grew up in Kansas City, Missouri but knew I wanted to move away for college. I chose Columbia College in Columbia, Missouri and I couldn’t be happier with my decision. Even though I love my small school, the hardest transition for me as a young and confused college student was the differences between the two cities. To me, Columbia is a decent sized town but definitely smaller than I was used to and I will admit that I have labeled Columbia as ‘boring’ at times. After spending three years in this town, I have grown an appreciation and love for the nature Columbia has to offer. I’ve spent days and nights cruising the gravel roads that surround the college town itself and continue to stumble upon places where I can reflect and enjoy the beauty nature has to offer us.

1. Anywhere on the MKT Trail


MKT stands for Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad. Basically, it is a super long (240 miles) and beautiful trail that runs close along the Missouri River. Most of the places on this list are extensions of the MKT. The trail has several access points throughout Columbia and each part of the trail I have been on is unique in it’s own way. The trail is always busy with bicyclists, joggers and strollers like myself. Plus, most of the trail is shaded, an added bonus on these 90+ degree summer days.

2. Diana Bend Conservation Area


The Diana Bend Conservation Area is located in Rocheport, about a twenty-minute drive from the heart of Columbia. This area is just off the MKT trail with plenty of spots to pause and enjoy the view of the Missouri river. One of the most popular aspects about this area is the tunnel pictured above. There are also extensions of the trail that lead to an overlook over the Missouri river.


3. Rock Bridge State Park


Rock Bridge State Park is most known for the natural land bridge and a cave nicknamed Devil’s Icebox. The park is right outside of Columbia on the South side of town. I have visited this park multiple times and each time I discover something new.

4. The Pinnacles

For anyone who likes climbing and isn’t afraid of heights, the pinnacles are an awesome place to hike above the tree line. The geological rock formations provide hikers with natural trails high above the river. This is one of my favorite places in Columbia to go with friends or even alone, especially when the leaves start to change.

5. Finger Lakes Park

Finger Lakes Park is just a few miles before the pinnacles, and was a former coal mining area. This park is unique because of the mountain bike trails, water trail and two ATV parks. It’s also the perfect spot for a picnic with your family, friends or significant other.

6. Capen Park

Capen Park is just South of the Mizzou campus off of Rock Quarry Road. This is another perfect spot if you are into heights, and is a lot less strenuous of a hike than the pinnacles. A lot of rock climbers come to repel down the side of the cliff. There is also trails that are on the ground for those who are not so excited about being above the trees.

7. Grindstone Nature Area

The Grindstone Nature Area is conveniently connected by bridge to Capen Park. Like the other parks, the area contains nature trails and scenic overlooks. What is unique to this park is the leash-free dog area, the perfect place for dog-lovers to unite.

8. Coopers Landing

Coopers Landing is a marina and campground right next to the Missouri River. It is right off of the MKT trail. The landing houses a small convenient shop and a delicious Thai kitchen called Chims (and no they didn’t pay me to talk them up, it really is delicious). Another interesting aspect of this area is a mysterious boat graveyard that is not too far off the trail. I will leave the exact location up to you to find.

9. Eagle Bluffs

The Eagle Bluffs is a wildlife conservation area that is, of course, right next to the river. There are wetlands and grasslands preserved so cranes, deer, frogs and other wildlife is not uncommon even from the road. The ultimate goal of this area is to preserve Missouri’s historical wetlands, so there are not as many trails as some other spots but it is a perfect spot to observe the wildlife.

10. The McBaine Tree

In my own humble opinion, this is the number one spot in Columbia if not the whole state of Missouri. In the middle of the McBaine river flats, the state’s largest tree sits three feet away from the road. The tree is estimated to be over 350 years old and has survived flooding, multiple lightning strikes and unfortunately vandalism. College students, tourists, environmentalists, researchers and many more come from all over to hang out, take pictures, and stand in awe beneath this tree’s thick branches. If you ever find yourself in the Columbia area, this is one spot you definitely don’t want to miss.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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