With more than 1.5 million acres of forest, 750 miles of trails, and 350 miles of rivers and streams, there are a plethora of things to do in the Mark Twain National Forest. Spread out over 29 Missouri counties in central Missouri, this Ozark oasis is a favorite place for the locals as well as those from all over the country.
Where else can you camp in the primitive woods with the deer and bears but still only be an hour’s drive from the Branson strip where you can see a show, eat a nice meal, or go shopping? You are also close to St. Louis where you can catch a Cardinals ball game or see the famous Gateway Arch. But when you are in the forest you cannot even hear the traffic or noise from nearby towns so you can relax and enjoy the beauty of nature.
Swimming in one of the many streams, rivers, or lakes is very popular as is fishing for just about any type of freshwater fish you can imagine. And even some you can’t. This is RV camping at its best where you can choose from a secluded and rustic place in the woods or a nice campground with showers and restrooms. There are 21 RV campgrounds in the Mark Twain National Forest, and we have provided you with the details on several of the top ones. Whatever kind of vacation you wish for, you can find it in the Mark Twain National Forest.
No matter where you are coming from, Mark Twain National Forest in central Missouri is pretty close to the center of everything. Just 80 miles from St. Louis, 150 miles from Springfield, and 250 miles from Kansas City, your drive to the forest will be easy and scenic. Just off Interstate 44, you can find the 1.5 million acres spread out over 29 counties.
The Missouri backroads through the forest can be extremely tricky when driving a large RV or pulling a camper or trailer. Most of the smaller roads wind up and around the Ozark mountains and hills where you can see a plethora of meadows, fields, and pastures that are picture-worthy. You should keep your eyes on the road since there are many wild critters that can sometimes get in your way. You may even see some wildlife you don’t normally see like the brown bear, armadillo, and the roadrunner, which are found down in the southern section of the forest.
The roads into the campgrounds are typically rural and rustic, and some are primitive and rough. Maneuvering your rig through some of the places can be tricky. Most people who camp out in the Mark Twain National Forest tend to just park their RV in their campsite and walk or ride bikes wherever they want to go.
If you are more into ATVs and motorcycle riding than swimming and fishing, the Cobb Ridge Recreation Area Campground is perfect for you. Open year-round, this campground is in the middle of the Chadwick ATV and Motorcycle Area that boasts numerous trails with almost 80 miles of hills and loops in the Mark Twain National Forest for you to enjoy.
They have 45 spacious campsites that are reservable. Twenty-five of these sites offer electric hookups with space for up to 34-foot RVs or trailers. All of the sites include fire rings and picnic tables, and you can find drinking water and restrooms near each loop and a shower house by campsite 19. Dogs and cats are welcome as long as they are kept restrained during your visit.
The North Fork Recreation Area Campground has fishing, boating, and picnicking, as well as hiking and camping along the North Fork River. This crystal-clear river is produced by a combination of nine different natural springs that flow into it, making it the perfect place to swim and fish. The camping area has 20 campsites that can accommodate up to a 34-foot RV or trailer. Each site has a fire ring and table, as well as a cleared spot for your tent or RV.
Although there are no water or sewer hookups, two of the sites have 30-amp electricity, and there are vault toilets and drinking water available in the center of the campground. There are also two trails here, which include the Blue Spring Trail and the Ridge Runner National Recreation Trail. These sites are first-come, first-served, so get here early if you want a spot, especially during holidays or weekends. Dogs and cats are welcome as long as they are kept restrained during your visit. No matter whether you are interested in water sports, hiking, biking, or just relaxing, you can do it all at North Fork Recreation Area just south of Dora, Missouri.
This campground offers 19 campsites that can accommodate up to 34-foot RVs and trailers. Three of these are double sites that are great for large groups or big families. They each come with picnic tables, lantern posts, fire pits, trash bins, and plenty of space to relax. You can also find drinking water spigots and vault toilets in several areas around the park. However, drinking water is only available from May until October.
These sites are on a first-come, first-served basis, so you should get here early if you want a spot, especially during holidays or weekends. Dogs and cats are welcome as long as they are kept restrained during your visit. The Greer Crossing Recreation Area also offers fishing, swimming, and boating access on the Eleven Point National Scenic River with a nice beach and a boat launch. The river has bass, catfish, crappie, and even trout. A large picnic area is also available near the boat launch and there is a four-mile trail that meanders along the river and into the Ozark Hills to McCormack Lake.
Dry Fork Recreation Area Campground is suited for those who enjoy horseback riding as it is located at the trailhead of the 36-mile Cedar Creek Trail, which is an equestrian trail. Open from April to December, this campground has eight campsites that can accommodate up to 30-foot long RVs and trailers. Each site also has a lantern post, picnic table, fire ring, and a hitching post for your horses.
Although the sites do not have utilities, you can find drinking water access and restrooms in the middle of the campground. There is also a large picnic area with BBQ grills and several tables where small groups can hang out for the day. Dogs and cats are welcome as long as they are kept restrained during your visit. Because these sites are on a first-come, first-served basis, you need to get here early if you want a spot, especially during holidays or weekends.
Gather the whole family and all your friends together in the RV and head to Mark Twain National Forest because they have a 13 parks and campgrounds in six different districts that have numerous picnic areas. This includes reservable picnic shelters that accommodate groups of 20 to 200 people. Many of these have electric and water available and most have restrooms nearby and playgrounds for the kids. All of the shelters have at least one BBQ grill and several tables.
If you want to enjoy some floating while you are here, make sure you pack your innertubes or rafts in the camper. If you don’t have one or forget yours, there are many places you can rent some in the area. There are two major districts to float including the Eleven Point Ranger District and the Houston/Rolla/Cedar Creek Ranger District. The Eleven Point floating area takes you down Eleven Point River through seven campsites and dozens of parks and picnic areas. The other floating district include 207,000 acres of rivers including the Little Piney River, Gasconade River, and Big Piney River.
The Mark Twain National Forest boasts 35 individual trails for bikers within over 800,000 acres of land. In fact, there are over 80 miles of loop trails just at the Cobb Ridge Recreation Area by Chadwick. From rocky bluffs to steep climbs, you can find both easy and difficult trails to explore while you are here. Some of the trails are downright treacherous but if you like thrills and extreme fun, mountain biking in the Mark Twain National Forest is the perfect place for you.
You do not have to sit inside your camper the whole time you are visiting the woods. Get out and take a hike. There are hundreds of miles of trails in the Mark Twain National Forest where you can explore and enjoy Missouri nature. The Blue Spring Trail is less than a mile and takes you from North Fork Campground to Blue Spring meandering along the North Fork of the White River. The McCormack Greer Trail is a 3.8-mile trail that starts at the Greer Crossing Recreation Area and follows the river through the gorgeous Ozark hills to McCormack Lake then circles back to Greer Crossing Recreation Area.
Whether you are looking for big game like deer, bobcats, and elk, or small game such as squirrels and rabbits, or waterfowl like ducks and geese, you can find it in the Mark Twain National Forest. There is 1.4 million acres of land that is open to public hunting. Be sure to pack your Missouri hunting license and tags and other hunting necessities in the rig before heading out. And brush up on your rules, regulations, and safety protocol for hunting in Missouri as well.
If you have a horse, bring them along to the Mark Twain National Forest because there are over 100 miles of equestrian trails here. There is also a campground especially for horse lovers at the Dry Fork Recreation Area. From there you can find the trailhead to the Cedar Creek Trail, which is 36 miles of wooded wonderland with bluffs and a variety of landscapes for you and your horse to explore. So don’t forget to hook up the horse trailer to the RV before heading to the forest.