Just an hour from Kansas City, between Warrensburg and Sedalia in Missouri off Highway 50, you can find Knob Noster State Park. They call this park “where the forest and prairies meet” because the amazing prairies of western Missouri are broken up by the clumps of trees that make up much of Missouri’s natural areas. The 3,934-acre gem got its name from an Indian legend that claims the two hills or “knobs” in the park are monuments to slain warriors and the settlers added the Latin word, noster, which means “our” to make it “our hill.”
Clearfork Creek meanders through the park, separating the landscape of hackberry, redbud, pawpaw, hickory, and oak trees and making the Pin Oak Slough Natural Area. This is an oxbow slough of about four acres that is home to an endangered flower, the pale green orchid among other flora and fauna. With almost 20 miles of trails, two lakes, the creek, RV campground, picnic areas, and playgrounds, there is something fun for everyone to enjoy here. The park also has an amphitheater which hosts programs throughout the season and a visitor center with a plethora of historical information and artifacts. Knob Noster State Park is a terrific place to have a family vacation, friendly get-together, or a romantic getaway for two.
Only an hour from Kansas City or three hours from St. Louis, Knob Noster State Park is a nice scenic drive down Interstate 70 and 44 right outside Warrensburg in midwestern Missouri. After leaving the interstate, you will be traveling on some crooked and winding roads along County Road 23. In fact, some of these can be quite narrow and treacherous so if you are driving a large rig or pulling a big camper, you will need to take it slow and easy. You should also watch carefully for deer and other critters that sometimes wander onto the roads.
Be sure to fill up the RV in Warrensburg before heading into the park so you don’t have to worry about filling up when you leave after your stay. While in town, you can pick up some snacks and other necessities from the stores there because there is no camp store at Knob Noster State Park. When you get into the park, it is best to leave the motorhome at the campsite and walk or ride a bike around wherever you want to go because the gravel roads are bumpy and narrow. However, the visitor center and lakes do have parking that can accommodate most RVs and campers.
There are 62 basic and electric campsites at Knob Noster State Park with driveways ranging from 43 to 71 feet long so you should be able to find one large enough for your motorhome or camper. All sites have a picnic table, fire ring, and tent pad. The campground is open year-round, but they only take reservations from April to November and the showers and water are not available from November through March. You can find several vault toilets in places throughout the park though. There is also a playground nearby for the kids and you can bring your dogs as long as they are on a leash. Extra parking is available by the showers, check station, and playground and there is an RV dump site near the entrance. The amphitheater is in the middle of the campground by campsites 22-30 where they have scheduled programs throughout the season.
Some of the campsites are available for first-come, first-served users. You can also occupy any available campsite on a day-to-day basis if it is not already reserved. However, you should check with the camp host or park staff or follow the instructions on the campsite vacancy card.
Whether you want to take a long backpacking hike through the woods or a short walk along a scenic trail, you can find it here. Leave the RV at the campsite and take a hike. The one-mile Discovery Trail is a short meandering path along the creek by the campground. You’ll cross bridges and water-bars where you can see deer, rabbits, squirrels, and other critters on this well-groomed trail. The five-mile McAdoo Trail System is open to hikers as well as equestrian riders. Passing through Christopher Woods, crossing creeks, over slippery rocks, and up and down steep grades, you need to be prepared for this trail.
The Indian Cultural Center and Visitor Center is an amazing and unique place to learn about the Otoe-Missouria Indian tribe that inhabited the area hundreds of years ago. You can experience some of the beautiful native American artwork, Indian artifacts, and a video with a lot of interesting information about the tribe. The center also has a park naturalist or ranger who is available all year long to conduct interpretive programs and ecological stewardships. Park the RV in the spacious lot and take an hour or two to learn about some of Missouri’s history.
Pack everyone in the motorhome and take a trip to Knob Noster State Park for a family reunion or friendly get-together. You can use some of the picnic tables in one of the picnic areas in the park or rent one of the three picnic shelters if you have a larger group in mind. The Lake Buteo Shelter accommodates up to 35 people while the WPA Shelter and Clearfork Shelter can both hold up to 100 people. During the on-season, you will have water available but from November through March, the water is shut off so you will need to bring your own.
There is no boat launch at Knob Noster State Park, but you are allowed to use your boat there. You can carry your kayak or canoe from the RV to the creek with no problem and you are allowed to use a trolling motor if you like. If you do not have a boat or forgot to bring yours, you can rent a kayak or canoe from the campground check station. The Clearfork Creek is a beautiful place to spend the day before heading back to the campsite for an evening of BBQ and campfire stories.
With a choice of two lakes, the Clearfork and the Buteo, or the Clearfork Creek, you have plenty of opportunity to catch something for dinner. Be sure to pack your poles and tackle as well as a net in your rig so you can pull in that lunker catfish or bass. There is also a plethora of crappie, bluegill, and sunfish as well as carp, crawfish, and turtles. Make sure you have a valid Missouri fishing license so you don’t get a fine and bring a camera if you want to catch and release.
Have you ever thought about what would happen if you got lost in the woods? While some people have an instinctual sense of direction, many more are those who need GPS to get them anywhere, even in the RV. With orienteering, you can learn how to find your way through different kinds of terrain using a map and compass. Knob Noster State Park has two courses to help you learn this invaluable skill; a two-mile course and a seven-mile course. Take one of these courses while visiting the park so you never have to worry about getting lost in the woods.