Massive ancient boulders on a granite domed hill with a vista view are the hallmarks of Elephant Rocks State Park in Missouri’s Arcadia Valley. (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.

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, which includes interpretive signs in braille, meanders through boulder fields at Elephant Rocks State Park. (Photo by Sony Hocklander)

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.

An overlook along the Braille Trail at Elephant Rocks State Park provides a view to an old quarry pond. (Photo by Sony Hocklander)

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.

Massive elephant-like boulders on a granite dome hill dwarf visitors at Elephant Rocks State Park. The “patriarch” is Dumbo, 27 feet tall and weighing 680 tons. (Photo by Sony Hocklander)

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.  

The Engine House Ruins Trail at Elephant Rocks State Park is a spur that takes visitors to the remnants of an old building that once housed train engines for repair and storage. (Photo by Sony Hocklander)

Location: Search “7405 MO-21, Ironton, MO” for the turn-off

Distance: The park is 20 minutes from Johnson’s Shut-Ins and 3.5 hours from Springfield.

Online: mostateparks.com/park/elephant-rocks-state-park

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