Road tripping with the 100 Missouri Miles challenge

Wandering Alongside the Woods column by Jacki Wood

Summer + The Great Outdoors + Road Trips = Missouri.

Missouri?

Yes, our beautiful backyard that is the Show-Me State.

I’ve brought back my road trip column with a challenge for you to kick off the summer fun. Or, rather, Gov. Nixon has. And I think it’s a really great idea.

Earlier this year, Missouri was honored by being named the Best Trails State in the country, which led the governor to launch the “100 Missouri Miles” initiative recently. It challenges Missourians to complete 100 miles of outdoor physical activity by the end of the year.

“Whether you run, walk, bike, paddle or roll, everyone can participate,” Nixon said. “This initiative is a great opportunity to promote Missouri’s proud outdoor heritage, improve your health and — best of all — have fun with family and friends.”

While the idea is to get active and see more of outdoor Missouri, I think it’s also a good excuse to road trip. Our family has taken the challenge and I’m excited to explore the many places and events in the state that we have yet to discover.

In addition to getting your 100 miles in, I suggest doing and seeing a little more. Visit a museum or historical site, eat local food, go shopping and attend special events.

One place I’m looking forward to returning to and seeing more of is Hannibal, boyhood home of Mark Twain. We took our kids there for the first time six years ago.

There’s tons to see and do — museums, the riverboat on the Mississippi River, a cave and Mark Twain State Park, which includes hiking trails and a lake.

Make sure you stop at the Mark Twain Family Restaurant, Hannibal’s hometown restaurant since 1942, where we enjoyed the famous frosty mugs of homemade root beer, onion rings served by the foot and Mississippi mud malts.

The historic community also boasts a ton of events, music and festivals throughout the summertime. Visit visithannibal.com for more information.

Other places on my list of 100 Missouri Miles road trips this year include:

Bothwell Lodge State Historic Site near Sedalia. Built atop a bluff and two natural caves, the 20th Century lodge has 31 rooms and original furnishings as well as hiking and biking trails. In addition, the historic site is hosting “Cameras at the Castle Photo Contest” which is free and open to the public and runs through October 1.

Ha Ha Tonka State Park near Lake of the Ozarks. Highlights of the park include the stone ruins of a turn-of-the-20th-century castle, a lake, caves, natural bridges and trails.

Cuivre River State Park in northeast Missouri. Miles of hiking trails curving through tall prairie grasses, woodlands and Big Sugar Creek are featured in this park as well as fishing and camping.

Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park in southeastern Missouri. The park has a little something for everyone — camping, fishing, swimming, rock climbing, mountain biking and hiking through 1.4 billion years of geologic history.

Iliniwek Village State Historical Site in northeast Missouri. This area was once home to an Illinois Indian village when Louis Jolliet and Jacques Marquette came through in 1673. The trails provide information about the village’s inhabitants.

Elephant Rocks State Park in southeast Missouri. Named after the giant elephant-shaped granite boulders, the park includes a trail that winds through the rocks and picnic areas.

There are also some great shorter road trip or day trip destinations closer to home like Crowder State Park near Trenton or Watkins Mill State Park and Historic Site near Lawson, both of which are beautiful.

And if you’re just trying to get your 100 Missouri Miles in, Nodaway County’s own Mozingo Lake has great trails and the Missouri Department of Conservation has several natural areas throughout the state which are also great for hiking and exploring.

To sign up for the 100 Missouri Miles initiative, visit 100MissouriMiles.com. You can also check out other places to explore at mostateparks.com or mdc.mo.gov.

Happy road tripping.

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