Outside Elephant Rocks State Park
Despite the remoteness of Elephant Rocks State Park, there are many other area attractions that guests can take in while they are in this popular Missouri destination. From restaurants to shopping to other outdoor activities, many options are available to complete your vacation. The area around Elephant Rocks State Park expands through many nearby cities, each offering its own unique experiences.
What Is Elephant Rocks State Park
Oftentimes, we visit state parks for the campgrounds and then enjoy the other activities available. Elephant Rocks State Park is a bit different: its a relatively small state park , and there is no campground rather, its a place to visit for a day trip. Giant boulders, nicknamed elephant rocks, provide the primary attraction. I like to think of Elephant Rocks State Park as an adult-sized playground, where you can climb, run, jump, and otherwise have a great time with these giant rocks.
Bouldering At Elephant Rocks
Bouldering is a type of rock climbing without ropes and harnesses. Usually, its done at heights of no more than 16 feet.
Essentially, its playing on rocks, right? My kids were bouldering without me even realizing it.
You do not need a rock climbing permit to practice bouldering at Elephant Rocks State Park.
Also Check: Tent Camping Near Redding Ca
Frequently Asked Questions About Elephant Rocks State Park
What is the best time of year to visit Elephant Rocks State Park?
The best time to visit Elephant Rocks State Park to stand on the ginormous granite boulders is hands-down during the fall when the surrounding area is bursting with fall foliage. Plan a weekday visit to avoid big crowds.
What is the climate of Elephant Rocks State Park?
Visitors will experience a typical Midwest climate that includes four seasons. However, expect the heat and humidity to last well into October and occasional wintery weather to stick around until mid-April.
What kind of wildlife can be found in Elephant Rocks State Park?
You won’t find any elephants at this southeast Missouri state park. Still, you’ll find deer, squirrels, birds, and maybe even the occasional black bear. The black bear population has risen in recent years, but they’re not common.
Are there designated RV camping spots in Elephant Rocks State Park?
Elephant Rocks State Park doesn’t allow motor homes, campers, or any other RV. If you want to bring your RV, consider visiting the nearby Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park, which does offer full hook-up RV sites.
Are pets allowed at Elephant Rocks State Park?
Pets are allowed at the state park and on the park trails. Know that Missouri State Parks always require dogs to be on leashes. Only service dogs are allowed inside any state park buildings.
Natures Playground In Missouri Elephant Rocks State Park 7/6/2013
If there is one place in Missouri that you need to see at least once, it is Elephant Rocks State Park. Located off of highway 21, just down the road from Graniteville, MO, it is home to some of the coolest geological formations in the state. Sitting atop an exposed red granite hill, are giant weather-rounded boulders that look somewhat like huge stone elephants standing in a line. However, at 162 pounds per cubic foot, they are much heavier and dense, and they dont seem to mind when little kids and adults are climbing all over them.
The process that caused these formations started over a billion years ago! Erosion, water, wind, the sun and the seasons have all contributed to the exposure of these rocks, along with a bit of human influence. Back in the late 1800s, this area was quarried to pull the rich Missouri Red Granite from the ground and send it off to be used in buildings and roadways. Many of the streets in downtown St. Louis are filled with paving blocks from this very area. Some of the red granite still exists today as part of the Eads bridge that spans the Mississippi, built back in the 1870s. Established as a state park in 1967, this is one of the coolest places to spend the day, exploring all the crevices and rock piles in this awesome, natural playground.
How to get there:
What I like about this park:
There are a good amount of picnic areas out near the parking lot, so pack a lunch and something to drink, and make a day out of it.
What you need to know:
Read Also: Cheyenne Camping Center Davenport Iowa
Activities: Hiking Picnicking Bird
When the Ozark plateau was formed during a great uplifting of the entire area about 250 million years ago, the vertical cracks between the rocks became more pronounced. Time and weather took its toll, clearing the weakest pieces out of the joints and laying the immense, oblong blocks of granite bare to the elements. Slowly, the corners were worn away to give the boulders their smooth rounded shape, and trees and shrubs grew in the cracks to help enlarge the joints and wear away the surface of the rock. Physical and chemical weathering has also created circular depressions called tinajitas which hold temporary pools of water and often house tadpoles.
There is no record of the actual number of elephants inhabiting the park. Old ones erode away and new elephants wait beneath the cracks and joints of the granite hillside. The parks pink patriarch, Dumbo, is 27 feet tall, 35 feet long and 17 feet wide, weighing in at a colossal 680 tons!
The parks one mile circular interpretive trail was the first state park trail in Missouri designed for visitors with physical and visual handicaps. Known as the Braille Trail, signs written in Braille and regular text, guide visitors along a paved, handicap-accessible trail which allows visitors to see the huge rocks and seven acres of the parks over 131 acres. This acreage has been designated as a Missouri Natural Area and will be protected from further development.
Inside Elephant Rocks State Park
Unlike other destinations that solely offer walking trails, Elephant Rocks State Park is so much more than a hiking destination. While visitors can enjoy two different hiking trails the Braille Trail and the Engine House Ruins Trail this state park also offers quarry views, exploration of a local engine house, bird-watching, virtual tours, and a food truck. Designed for visitors of all physical ability levels, including those with physical disabilities, Elephant Rocks State Park welcomes everyone. Hiking through the main rock area, exploring the old engine house of a historic railroad, and photographing geological formations throughout the park are some of the most popular activities.
Recommended Reading: Garden Of The Gods Illinois Camping
Wheres A Good Place To Stay Near Elephant Rocks
I highly recommend staying at the nearby state park, Echo Bluffs State Park. There are cabins available, camping spots, as well as a large lodge. We booked a two-room suite that provided plenty of space for our family of four .
Echo Bluffs is pretty on its own, but what makes it an ideal home base for exploring is its proximity to not only Elephant Rocks, but Johnsons Shut-Ins State Park and launching points for the Current River.
If camping is more of your style, here are a few options:
- Black River Wine House & RV Retreat Located in Annapolis, Black River often has live music, alcohol available, and access to kayaking. Tent and full hookup.
- Four Creeks Ranch Campground Located in Ellington, Four Creeks offers fishing and a beach. Tent and water RV hookup.
- Otahki Lake Cabins & Campground Located in Patterson, amenities include a beach, boat launch and dog park. Mostly cabins, pull-through sites, and back-in sites.
If hotels or vacation rentals are more along your accommodations preference, here are a few nearby options:
Missouri History At The Elephant Rocks State Park
The Braille Trail passes near a quarry pond, where red granite was once quarried from the 1860s to the early 1900s. As you walk along the Braille Trail, youll encounter some remains.
The area is significant in that the states oldest recorded commercial granite quarry is just outside the park. Millions of granite blocks from the quarry were used to pave downtown St. Louis streets.
Fun fact: Red granite blocks the size of a shoebox sold for 8 cents back in the height the areas quarrying days. A good block maker could produce about 50 blocks a day, earning a pretty good wage of $4 a day.
You can see a fine example of the red granite today in the columns in front of the Governors mansion in Jefferson City.
Don’t Miss: Best Camping Spots In South Carolina
Howd Elephant Rocks Get Their Name
Elephant Rocks are some of the oldest rocks in south-central and eastern United States. Where you touch one of the boulders, youre touch something that began forming about 1.5 billion years ago!
The curious red granite boulders were formed from cooling magma. Through erosion, the granite cracked into huge blocks, and the angles were rounded over time by water. The huge blocks were still underground when the rounded masses, called core stones, were formed.
Eventually, the boulders were exposed at the earths surface. And what they looked like was a train of circus elephants, standing end-to-end. The rocks lie within a 7-acre space called Elephant Rocks Natural Area.
The stack of spheroidally weathered residual granite rock boulder is called tor.
No one knows how many boulders are in the park. The largest elephant boulder, though, is aptly named Dumbo. The 680-ton rock is 27 feet tall, 24 feet long and 17 feet wide.
To this day, their shapes change. There is lichens growing on the rocks surfaces that dissolve the rocks with their weak organic acid.
Another interesting feature on the rocks are the bird baths, or the solution pans, that formed on the surface. The circular depressions were formed by physical and chemical weathering.
Entering Elephant Rocks State Park
The park is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. during the summer season and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the winter season .
Elephant Rocks State Park Per Person: $0.0
We are excited that you chose Elephant Rocks State Park for your exploration and RVing destination. This park has amazing opportunities for guests both inside and outside of its legendary gates. If you are interested in sightseeing as part of an RV trip, please visit RVshare to look at reservation options. Be sure to share your photos, stories, and fun adventures at !
Recommended Reading: Dispersed Camping Near Arches National Park
Best Hiking Trails In Elephant Rocks State Park
Set across 7.5 acres, Elephant Rocks State Park offers a stunning location for marveling at these prehistoric giants. One trail in particular delights those interested in Americas historic past. And staying in Elephant Rocks State Park hotels puts you close to it all.
- Braille Trail
One of the first trails to cater to the visually and physically impaired, this walk gained formal recognition as a National Recreation Trail. Weaving its way through the granite rocks, the walk also features an old red granite quarry site.
- Engine House Ruins Trail
The Engine House Ruins Trail holds exactly what it promises: ruins! Constructed in the 1890s, the building assisted in the areas mining activities. At the back of the house, the trail leads around the old quarry, providing access to the Braille Trail.
- Big Sugar Creek Trail
Set in an area of outstanding natural beauty, this trail runs through a small forest and a series of hollows alongside a creek. At 6.6 miles long, it forms a natural loop, ideal if you like to finish where you started.
Elephant Rocks State Park
A train of circus elephants dance trunk-to-tail to form an awe-inspiring sight to the young and to the young at heart. This is the appeal of Elephant Rocks State Park, named for a train of gigantic pink granite boulders perched atop a hill, just like circus elephants! This curious geologic formation at the heart of the park is called a tor, or a high, isolated rocky peak which is usually formed of disjointed and weathered granite. This tor was created nearly 1.5 billion years ago by molten magma being pushed to the surface. For millions of years, the magma slowly cooled, forming coarse, crystalline reddish-pink granite.
For inquiries about the park you may call 573-546-3454
Read Also: Lake Perris Camping Phone Number
Local Attractions & Recreational Areas
Fun awaiting right around the corner!
The giant elephant-shaped granite boulders are the star at Elephant Rocks State Park. The coarsely crystalline red granite forms are popular with history buffs , children and parents . The park has a trail that winds through the rocks, which is an interpretative Braille trail. Abundant picnic areas and vibrant fall colors add to the parks appeal.
Play in the shallows of the East Fork of the Black River. Shoot through Mother Natures hydraulics in the shut-ins. Hike a trail that will show you 1.4 billion years of geologic history. Take your horse on a pretty mountain trail. Johnsons Shut-Ins State Park is a jewel of the system, a place with something for everyone: pretty picnic areas, Ozark landscapes, natural places to swim, great campsites.
Before prohibition, Missouri was the country’s second leading wine producer, behind only New York. Today, a new generation of well-educated winemakers, healthier lifestyles, and the increasing consumer demand for locally brewed spirits has once again catapulted Missouri’s wine industry into the international spotlight. Growing 70 percent since 2001, Missouri now ranks 11th in the nation. Missouri wines are once again winning national and international acclaim.
Take a tour of Southeast Missouri Wine Country while you’re here. A “must” for visitors to the Show Me State!
Rv Parking Is Limited
While the parking lot at Elephant Rocks State Park is rather spacious for the size of the park, the RV parking area is NOT so spacious. By our estimates, as few as 5 RVs could fit in the available space at any give time, and the parking lot in this area is crumblingnot great. Fortunately, there appears to be little competition for these spots, as we saw no RVs during our visit.
Read Also: Rv Camping Near Lake Charles La
The Story Behind Elephant Rocks State Park
Ive been intrigued by Missouris Elephant Rocks State Park for years . All it took was a single photo of a hiker standing next to the behemoth boulder, Dumbo. I didnt understand the significance of the rocks, nor of the history of the area, but I knew I wanted to explore that other-worldly terrain.
Disclosure: This post may containaffiliate links. At no extra cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.
Frequently Asked Questions And Answers
What are people saying about parks near 7406 MO-21, Belleview, MO?
This is a review for parks near 7406 MO-21, Belleview, MO:
“About 90 minutes from St Louis near other State Park areas. This is a several hour stop based upon only doing the 1mile paved loop or added in some of the trails off the Braille Trail. Also you can bounded as well. Several beautiful Quarles to sit and enjoy the view. Plenty of partying but open mainly sunset to sunrise”
You May Like: Best Camping In Northern Virginia
Camping At Elephant Rocks State Park
Although there is no state park RV camping allowed directly in the park, there are plenty of options in the nearby area. Big Creek RV Park is a popular choice for many thanks to the full hookups provided at every site, cable TV, and WiFi and the fact that it is big rig friendly. There are 65 sites overall, 21 of which are pull-thru, and to cater for these there are a number of clean, private restroom and shower suites, plus a number of planned events that are held throughout the year, so it is worth checking the calendar before booking a stay in your RV rental.
Arcadia Valley RV Park is another good choice for those with a rental motorhome at Elephant Rocks State Park due to its warm and friendly atmosphere from the moment you arrive. Sites come with water, sewer, and electric hookups, with both 30 and 50 amp service available. Other amenities include internet and garbage disposal, plus ice and a vending machine. Sites are large and grassy, with many of them shaded by the large trees that dot the park, making it a very nice place to spend the night.
Things To Know About Hiking At Elephant Rocks
The great thing about this park is that you dont have to hike far to see these natural wonders. The Braille Trail is .9 miles long loop. It leads to the op of the granite outcrop, so you can wander among the giant boulders.
Ive never seen a trail like it. Green turf squares marked the spots on the trail with braille signage.
The Braille Trail is the first of its kind in Missouri state parks. Its designed for people with visual or physical disabilities and is now a National Recreation Trail.
There are a few short trails branching off from the main Braille Trail. The Engine House Ruins Trail is an out-and-back .4-mile trail .
My kids and dad were already tired by the time we reached that trail, so they didnt join me to check it out. The trail name sounded interesting enough.
However, they didnt miss much.
The engine house once repaired the train engines and cars from the Iron Mountain and Southern Railroad. Red granite from the Sheehan Quarry, located inside the park, was transported by rail around the country.
The remaining ruins have that pretty red granite to admire, but other than that, theres isnt much else to see.
Recommended Reading: Rv Camping Red River Nm
When Is The Best Time To Visit Elephant Rocks State Park
Missouri State Parks recently issued an alert about unprecedented attendance, especially on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. The parking lot is not very big so that causes a lot of trouble.
Its recommended to visit the park on weekdays, Monday through Thursday. For up-to-date information on the best time to visit the park, call 573-546-3454 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., seven days a week.
There are two special events held at the park each year: Haunted Hike and the Geminids Meteor Shower Event.
In 2022, there will also be the Blood Moon Total Eclipse Viewing Event on May 15.