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.
Elephant Rocks State Park, about three-and-a-half hours from central Springfield, is a sprawling 131 acres. But its main attraction is the seven-acre natural area with majestic sights and gigantic pink-tinged granite boulders.
The park has bathrooms, a playground and picnic tables. You could spend a couple of hours or easily half a day here if you like to explore. The primary one-mile asphalt trail is easy and accessible as it winds through the park along boulder fields. Called the Braille Trail, it includes interpretive signs that are written also in Braille. Adventurous explorers can leave the trail to climb rocks or walk off-shoot spur paths.
The Braille Trail also goes by an old quarry pond and a quarry overlook. The state’s oldest recorded commercial granite quarry, which opened in 1869, is just outside the park and integral to its history.
The park was named for a line of massive end-to-end boulders on top of a granite dome that, together, look like a train of circus elephants. The largest, named Dumbo, is 27 feet tall, 34 feet long, 17 feet wide and weighs an estimated 680 tons. The formation of this geologic wonder began 1.5 billion years ago with molten rock, followed by a long slow erosion process that eventually left the boulders. (Read more history here). While exploring, look for names and dates that 19th-century miners carved into the granite.
Don’t miss the Engine House Ruins Trail, a spur that leads to the ruins of an old rock-walled building where train engines were stored and repaired. You can still see remnants of the old track inside building walls and leading into the woods.