Elephant Rocks State Park outside Graniteville, Missouri for some hiking and exploring. Elephant Rocks is a park comprised of giant granite boulders that stand end-to-end like a chain of circus elephants (according to the website). There are paved trails that go around the biggest formation (which make it really easy for kids), but plenty of off-the-beaten path trails, as well as tons of rocks to climb on, up, over and through.
The park is about 90 minutes away from St. Louis, so it's a bit of a drive, but the kids did great in the car (for once) and Ryan and I had a chance to write down our massive pre-vacation to do list on the drive. We packed a lunch and our raincoats and planned to spend a few hours in the woods, hiking, climbing and exploring. We made it about halfway around the one-mile Braille trail when it started to pour on us. We high-tailed it back to the car, completely drenched, but laughing. We stripped off our wet clothes and ate our PB&Js in the car while we dried out. Once the rain let up, we changed into some dry clothes and headed back out to explore.
The rocks in the park were really cool - there were so many neat formations with little tunnels, crevices, caves and gaps. There were overlooks at the top of the rocks and little ponds and boulder mazes off the main trails. Mac loved climbing on the rocks, jumping off everything and blazing the trail as fast as he could. Mim, on the other hand, picked flowers and took her sweet time exploring every little thing. These two seriously couldn't be more different. Occasionally, we'd make Mac stop and come back to see something particularly cool, like different types of moss growing on the rocks, snails and slugs we found, mushrooms and even some cacti! I've never seen a wild cactus in Missouri, so that was pretty exciting for me too.
The rocks were mostly covered in moss this time of year and the rain made them slick in places. While it didn't stop Mac (or even slow him down), I'd love to come back over the summer when the rocks are dry, warm and pink. There's plenty to explore in this park - we didn't make it to the old railroad engine house or the abandoned quarry on the property, which would be fun to do next time. The park's located in the heart of the Missouri iron and granite mining area and we passed tons of mines, quarries and excavation sites on the drive down.
Even though it was a bit of a drive just for a hike, we had a lot of fun at Elephant Rocks. Our cell phones didn't get any service in the area, so we weren't able to look for treasure, but we hiked and explored for about three hours before heading back home and they did great. Mim got a bit tired and crabby towards the end and immediately fell asleep in the car, which made for a very quiet ride back to the city. There are plenty of picnic tables and even a playground, so next time we know there's lot to do. Mac talked about how much fun he had on the giant rocks all night, so I'm sure we'll be back soon.
What did you do this weekend?