Floating the Black River is another fun outdoor activity when spending a weekend near Johnson’s Shut-Ins and Elephant Rocks state parks. (Photo by Sony Hocklander)

Need a change of scenery? Take a weekend road trip. Springfield makes the perfect basecamp for outdoor adventures less than half a day’s drive from home. We’re here to help with a getaway guide.

A weekend trip to Elephant Rocks and Johnson’s Shut-Ins will obviously include lots of time admiring the boulders and best-known watering holes. So we wrote about must-see spots in these two guides, Elephant Rocks and Johnson’s Shut-Ins.

But if you plan a longer weekend, there are plenty of ways to expand your fun.

Arrange to float the Black River on one of several stretches. Area outfitters are plenty and some, like Twin Rivers Landing, operate floats from campgrounds or resorts. 

Or visit the 7,500-acre Taum Sauk Mountain State Park known for Missouri’s highest peak. The Mina Sauk Falls Trail, which is partially wheelchair accessible, leads to the mountaintop at 1,772 feet above sea level. Beyond that, the 2.9-mile loop trail (sometimes becoming strenuous) continues to the top of Mina Sauk Falls, Missouri’s tallest waterfall. The state park also offers tent-only reserved camping.

For old-timey fun, visit a couple of historic general stores. First Dawn General Store, 514 E. Main St. in Lesterville, was established by its original owners in 1885.

First Dawn General Store in Lesterville was established by original owners in 1885. The quaint shop sells ice cream, treats, nostalgic candy, gifts, flowers and more. (Photo courtesy of First Dawn General Store)

The shop sells nostalgic candy, hand-dipped ice cream, jams and jellies, locally made products, gifts and more (they are also the Lesterville Florist). The Old Village Mercantile, The Old Village Mercantile, 219 S. State Highway 21, is in the Historic Village of Caledonia about 10 minutes from Elephant Rocks. Established in 1909, the shop sells hand-dipped ice cream, coffee, fudge and nostalgic candy, and has two stories of general and vintage wares. In a building next door, they offer a lunch menu at the Old Village Hot Dog Shoppe. While the Mercantile is open seven days a week, more Caledonia boutiques and antique shops are open primarily Friday-Sundays.

Also, try Ironton, Pilot Knob and Arcadia — considered sister communities — for more dining and shopping, plus a big dose of history including a Civil War battle with the same Confederate General Sterling Price from the Battle of Wilson’s Creek near Springfield. Learn more at the Battle of Pilot Knob State Historic Site in Pilot Knob, less than 10 minutes from Elephant Rocks State Park.

Explore more outdoor recreation areas in the Black River and Arcadia Valley areas. Among them, mountain biking enthusiasts will like the Shepherd Mountain Bike Park in Pilot Knob, and anglers may enjoy fishing at DiSalvo Lake in the Bismarck Conservation Area.

Where to stay when visiting Elephant Rocks or Johnson’s Shut-ins

Twin Rivers Landing is one of several private cabin and campground complexes near the Black River that also serves as a river float outfitter. (Photo by Sony Hocklander)

There are plenty of lodging options while visiting the Black River and Arcadia Valley areas, ranging from tent or RV campsites to camper cabins, rustic houses, glamping cabins and bed & breakfasts. For a rental on airbnb.com or vrbo.com, look for options near the Black River, or around the towns of Lesterville, Arcadia, Ironton and Pilot Knob (one, the Dobbins House in Lesterville, is part of the First Dawn General Store business).

In addition, we highlight a few places to consider below. For more ideas, browse campground, cabin and lodging suggestions at missouri-vacations.com.

Johnson’s Shut-ins State Park has a five-loop campground (recently voted No. 1 in a national 10-best ranking). Options range from tent to camper sites with some that meet equestrian needs. The park also has six camper cabins with electricity, mini-kitchens, beds, heat and air-conditioning but no plumbing — guests use community bathrooms. It also has a Campground Store — you can even rent bikes!

Tip: The campground is about one mile and four minutes away from the day-use shut-ins. From the entrance to the shut-ins, head southeast on State Highway N to State Highway MM and turn right. The campground will be on your left.

There are several private campground/cabin complexes around the Black River. Some, like Twin Rivers Landing in Lesterville, double as float trip outfitters. Twin Rivers Landing (twinriversmo.com) is a large, family-friendly campground on the Black River with sites for tents, RVs and campers. They also have small rustic camping cabins (with electricity, heating and air-conditioning but no plumbing). The Twin Rivers Lodge, a quaint old two-level house with a grill and firepit near a pretty creek tributary, has bed space for up to 16 — perfect for families or friend groups. The campground includes a camp store, three shower houses with bathrooms (and more bathroom-only facilities), a playground, sand volleyball and other outdoor amenities.

The Wilderness Lodge on the Black River in Lesterville (wildernesslodgeresortltd.com) offers 26 comfortable cabins and suites with one to three bedrooms for up to eight guests. Each stay comes with breakfast and dinner. The property, open spring through fall, also features a pool, mini-golf, disc golf, trails and more.

For couple getaways, try glamping! Open spring through December, Wilderland Glamping Cabins (glampinginmissouri.com) on 70 private wooded acres in the Arcadia Valley, features charming private cabins for up to two adults for a luxury camping experience. Each studio cabin has heat and air-conditioning, a full bathroom, kitchenette, plus firepit with provided wood, Adirondack chairs, picnic table, and propane grill.

Or basecamp in the Historic Village of Caledonia. The Old Caledonian Bed & Breakfast and Natural Farm (oldcaledonian.com) features four private rooms with private bathrooms, including one that’s accessible. Stays in the 1800s house include full breakfast, free Wi-Fi, TV with cable and wellness amenities including a sauna, hot tub and yoga studio.

Sony Hocklander

Sony Hocklander is a freelance journalist, video storyteller and photographer who produces creative content through her small solo business, Sony Hocklander Creative LLC. When she’s not telling community stories, she loves wandering the Ozarks outdoors with a camera in hand. You can follow her on Twitter @SonyHocklander and on Instagram @shocklander or email her at: sonyhocklander@gmail.com More by Sony Hocklander