Iron County, Missouri, is one of my family’s favorite vacation spots for a weekend getaway. There are several reasons to travel to Iron County, including the many natural components of the area. If you want to get away from it all and make a day trip from St. Louis or Memphis, Iron County, Missouri has everything you need to get back to nature.
Mark Twain National Forest
A large portion of the Mark Twain National Forest exists in Iron County if you want to hike through some rustic old growth forests. Wildlife abounds amongst the preserved forest land that you can explore at any time of year.
The beauty of Iron County is found in its lack of full-time human residents. According to City-Data.com, Iron County has a 2009 population of only 9,943 people.
Elephant Rocks State Park
My favorite park in Missouri is Elephant Rocks State Park. A unique geologic formation caused huge boulders to rise to the surface and site on top of rocky land. The boulders are as big as elephants, hence the name of the state park.
There are two short trails to hike and you can also climb on top of the boulders for a special photo opportunity. The nearby pond and quarry are also beautiful reminders of the human activity that once happened in Iron County. My favorite thing to do at Elephant Rocks State Park is to stand on the highest boulder and simply look out over the landscape and see everything.
Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park
In the East Fork of the Black River another unique aspect of geology exists at Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park. New facilities recently opened include a center and campground which will only make this park even better.
The most fun you can have at Johnson’s Shut-Ins would be going in the river and getting wet amongst the rock formations during the summer. Water flowing through tall boulders sticking out of the river bed make an interesting way for the water to navigate through the rocks and flow downstream.
The rocks are placed perfectly for you to cross the river without getting wet if the water is low enough. The rising hillside next to the river provides a secluded spot to enjoy nature. Out in this wilderness you hear only the sounds of the river instead of vehicles or city life.
Taum Sauk Mountain
The highest point in Missouri also exists in Iron County. Taum Sauk Mountain State Park is some of the most pristine Missouri mountain wilderness you can find. Walk to the top of Taum Sauk mountain and you will be 1,772 feet above sea level and also the highest point in the Show-Me State.
Make sure to hike three miles to the Mina Sauk Falls for a view of the 132-foot tall waterfall. If you wish to use a campsite as your home base there is basic camping available with 12 sites. For die-hard hikers there is the Ozark Trail nearby for walking through some of the most gorgeous scenery in this part of the United States.
Directions to Iron County
Finding Iron County is easy once you get on the correct route. From I-44 take the Bourbon exit south on State Highway N until you get to Highway 185. Turn right and travel on 185 until you reach Potosi and get on Highway 21. Highway 21 goes south into Elephant Rocks State Park. Catch State Highway N going west just outside of Pilot Knob to find Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park.
From I-55 take the exit for State Highway 51 southwest of Perryville and then head south. Go west on State Highway J which winds through some very scenic territory until you find Highway 72 going west into Fredericktown. Highway 72 goes directly into Ironton.
Fall foliage in this rural part of Missouri is absolutely beautiful. Yellow, red, and brown combine to paint a canvas only Mother Nature can produce. The drive to this area is well worth it when you need to escape the daily deluge of a modern life.
StateParks.com, “Mark Twain National Forest”.
City-Data.com, “Iron County, Missouri”
Missouri State Parks, Deptartment of Natural Resources, “Elephant Rocks State Park”
Missouri DNR, “Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park”
Missouri DNR, “Taum Sauk Mountain State Park”