There are many national parks in Missouri, and many of them are located in or near Columbia! The parks in Columbia are each unique with a variety of features, from camping and hiking to sledding and sightseeing. We’ve put together a list of which parks are the best in Columbia with details on their locations and amenities so you can plan a visit. There are parks for athletes, hikers, hunters, dog owners, and more. Read on to find out which park is the best for you!
Flat Branch Park
300 S. Providence Road, Columbia, MO 65203
Flat Branch Park is a green heaven in the midst of the bustling streets of downtown Columbia. This beautiful park is a great place to go for a walk, take your dog out to exercise, or enjoy a lunch break. The park amenities include a gazebo, benches, a picnic area, bike racks, paved walkways, a playground, a rain garden, an amphitheater, a playground, an art sculpture, and Wi-Fi. A creek running through the park adds tranquility to this very peaceful spot. The park also contains an entry point onto the MKT Trail, a nine-mile trail that can be biked or walked.
Rock Bridge Memorial State Park
5901 S. Highway 163, Columbia, MO 65203
Rock Bridge Memorial State Park is known for two major landmarks: Rock Bridge and the Devil’s Icebox. Rock Bridge stands 63 feet high and was formed when a portion of a rock tunnel collapsed and left behind a natural bridge. Devil’s Icebox is a seven-mile cave passage, which can only be toured with a guide. Visitors can hike or bike through forest trails, sightsee from boardwalks and overlooks, go fishing in the creek, or have a picnic in one of the covered shelters. The park also offers campgrounds, which can be reserved for special interest and educational groups here.
Stephens Lake Park
2001 E. Broadway, Columbia, MO 65201
Stephens Lake Park is one of our favorite parks in Columbia, especially during the winter. When Stephens Lake freezes over thick enough, it’s opened for ice skating. Cosmo-Bethel Lake also opens for ice fishing. There’s a hill for sledding during snowy conditions. Park visitors can warm themselves at the fire pit at the Collins Shelter. Other unique attractions of the park are two waterfalls, the Hindman Discovery Garden, and the Look Out Point Art Sculpture. During the summer, the lake and beach are open for swimming. This park is great at any time of the year and is full of entertainment you can’t find at any of the other parks in Columbia.
Columbia Cosmopolitan Recreation Area
1615 Business Loop 70 W., Columbia, MO 65202
The largest park in Columbia is the Columbia Cosmopolitan Recreation Area, also known as Cosmo Park. The park is filled with amenities spanning over 533 acres. There’s a sports complex with six lighted fields, two T-ball fields, four football fields, two lacrosse fields, horseshoe pits, soccer fields, tennis courts, volleyball courts, a golf course, a playground, and a roller hockey rink. In addition to sports facilities, the park is also filled with nature areas, hiking trails, and fishing lakes. This full-fledged recreational area is a high-quality facility that puts “great” in “the great outdoors.”
2900 E. Nifong Blvd., Columbia, MO 65201
Nifong Park is best known for being the site of the Maplewood House and Grounds. This 19th century home was built in 1877 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The original owners were members of Boone County pioneer families. Another area of the park rich in history is Boone Junction. Tours of the village are $5 per person, and sites include the Gordon-Collins Log Cabin, the Easley Country Store, the McQuitty House, the River-Horse Pavilion, and the Ryland Farm House. In addition to viewing the historic sites, park visitors can enjoy a playground, covered shelters, nature areas, and fishing ponds.
Grindstone Nature Area
2011 Old Highway 63 S., Columbia, MO 65201
The Grindstone Nature Area is a scenic area with open fields, forests, bridges, creeks, and nature trails. It’s a great location to go hiking in Columbia. There’s also a leash-free area for dogs if you’d like to bring your furry friend along for the hike. The two main trails are the Hinkson Creek Trail (4.25 miles) and the Grindstone Creek Trail (1.7 miles). The Grindstone Creek Trail is paved and ideal for biking. The Grindstone Nature Area also allows qualified bow hunters to hunt during the dates specified by the Department of Conservation with an appropriate hunting license.
Rock Quarry Park
2002 Grindstone Parkway, Columbia, MO 65201
Rock Quarry Park is a sports and fitness park with a baseball field, a soccer field, a basketball court, tennis courts, and a reservable shelter. There’s also a gravel trail that spans a little over a half-mile. The Rock Quarry Shelter is a great location to host an event because it has electrical outlets and nearby restrooms. This park is smaller than the others but offers all the necessary basics for a great day of outdoor fun.
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