Gateway Arch National Park

7 National Parks in Missouri

Missouri has seven National Park sites to explore. The state played a massive role in westward expansion and is historically significant in many facets. Discover the natural beauty within the cave state of Missouri.

In 2018, the state became home to the 60th National Park, when the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial became Gateway Arch National Park.

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How Many National Parks are in Missouri?

Missouri has seven National Park sites, including one National Park, one National Monument, three National Historic Sites, one National Scenic Riverway, and one National Battlefield. In addition, there are six National Historic trails in Missouri that you can visit.

So what is a National Park?

This can be very confusing; just as the National Parks vary greatly, so do their designations. They also don’t always follow their own patterns, and designations can be political. Typically, National Parks cover a large area and have various resources, land, or water to protect. National Monuments are typically smaller and don’t cover such a diverse amount of resources. In addition to those designations, there are also national preserves, national memorials, national historic sites, national seashores, and national battlefield parks to keep it confusing.

National Parks in Missouri

1) Gateway Arch NP

Gateway Arch National Park is the Nation’s 60th and smallest park to be designated a National Park. The site was formerly known as the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial.

The arch stands at 630 feet in the heart of St. Louis near the Mississippi River. Gateway Arch celebrates America’s expansion westward, pioneering spirit and Thomas Jefferson’s role in the Louisiana Purchase.

While at the arch, take a tram ride to the top for 30-mile views of the surrounding area. Be sure to also check out the museum at the arch.

In addition to the Gateway Arch itself, the park contains the Old Courthouse, the location of the historic Dred Scott case that played a critical role in the US history of slavery.

Hours: The Gateway Arch is open year-round but closed only on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Summer Hours (9am-8pm) run from the Saturday before Memorial Day through Labor Day weekend, and during regular hours (the day after Labor Day through Friday before Memorial Day), they are open from 9am to 6pm.

Entrance Fee: The museum and Visitor Center are free. Tram rides do cost money and vary depending on the day you visit. Advanced reservations are highly recommended.

Gateway Arch National Park
Gateway Arch National Park at Night

2) George Washington Carver National Monument

George Washington Carver National Monument is a tribute to the man, scientist, humanitarian, and educator George Washington Carver. He was an African American man born into slavery during the Civil War who overcame many obstacles to become a scientist.

The National Monument is located in Diamond, about 12 miles from Joplin, Missouri. This is the first National Monument established that is dedicated to the recognition of an African American.

The park preserves the site of the farm where George was born.

Hours: George Washington Carver National Monument is open 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM daily, except Thanksgiving Day, December 25, and January 1. 

Entrance Fee: Free

George Washington Carver National Monument Bust
George Washington Carver National Monument | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

3) Harry S Truman National Historic Site

Harry S Truman National Historic Site was established to preserve and honor the 33rd president of the United States. Harry was thrust into the presidency after Franklin D. Roosevelt died during WWII.

The National Historic Site encompasses the Truman home and Farmhouse. The National Park site is located in Independence, near Kansas City.

Discover Truman’s simple lifestyle and many contributions here. Tickets for the home must be obtained at the visitor center,  rather than the house itself.

Hours: The Truman Farm is open to tour the grounds daily from Sunrise to Sunset. Tours of the Farm home are available on Fridays and Saturdays, starting Friday, May 5, 2023, and concluding October 21.

The Truman Home, Visitor Center, and Noland Home are open Wednesday-Sunday, 9AM-5PM. Always be sure to check the NPS website for updated hours.

Entrance Fee: Free

Harry S Truman National Historic Site
Harry S. Truman National Historic Site | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

4) Ozark National Scenic Riverways

Ozark National Scenic Riverways is the first national park area to protect a river system.  It is located in southern Missouri. Here, you will find The Current and Jacks Fork Rivers, caves, freshwater springs, trails, and historic sites within the 134 miles of protected land.

The park’s dense forests and abundant wildlife make it a popular destination for hiking and wildlife watching. Other popular activities within the park include canoeing, swimming, fishing, hiking, and camping.

Ozark National Scenic Riverways Park contains 48 miles of foot trails. Within the park is 8.5 miles of the Ozarks trail, which will eventually go from St. Louis to Arkansas. The best hiking is in spring and fall.

Visitor centers are located at the Big Spring Entrance Station (3 miles south of Van Buren on MO Route 103) and Alley Spring (6 miles west of Eminence on MO Route 106).

Hours: The park is open 24 hours a day throughout the year

Entrance Fee: Free

Ozark National Scenic Riverways

5) Ste. Geneviève National Historical Park

Ste. Geneviève National Historical Park was established to protect colonial architecture and be a marker to the first European settlement in Missouri. The park is an important site for understanding French colonialism and its impact on North America.

The park is located in eastern Missouri, south of St. Louis. The area served as a hub for French Louisiana before the USA acquired it.

While at the park, you can take ranger-led tours of the historic homes. Tickets are free but must be obtained from the Welcome Center and are first come, first serve. Self-guided tours of the area are also available.

Hours: Ste. Genevieve National Historical Park and the Ste. Genevieve Welcome Center is open from 9 AM to 5 PM daily, except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. The interiors of Green Tree Tavern, the Jean Baptiste Vallé, and the Bauvais-Amoureux Houses are only available during set tour times.

Entrance Fee: Free

Ste. Geneviève National Historical Park
Gree Tree Tavern, Ste. Geneviève National Historical Park | Courtesy of NPS

6) Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site

Ulysses S Grant National Historic Site is located very near St. Louis. The site is the home of the 18th President of the United States and victorious Civil War general Ulysses S Grant.

At the park, there is a museum dedicated to his life, a movie showing, and the opportunity to tour his home, White Haven. Tours of the house must be done with a ranger.

The history of this house divided on slavery is worth seeing. The grounds show glimpses into life during Grant’s time there.

Hours: Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site’s hours of operation are 9AM – 5PM, with the last tour of the historic house at 4 pm.

Entrance Fee: Free

Ulysses S Grant National Historic Site
Ulysses S Grant National Historic Site

7) Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield

Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield was the first major Civil War battle fought west of the Mississippi River. The site also marks the place where the first Union general was killed in battle. The battle significantly influenced the control of Missouri during the war.

The battlefield is located in southwestern Missouri. The park also features a self-guided tour that allows visitors to explore the grounds where Union and Confederate forces clashed, marking a pivotal moment in the conflict and shaping the course of U.S. history.

The site serves as a memorial to the soldiers who died there and highlights the brutal realities of war.

Hours: The park grounds are open from 1/2 hour before sunrise until 1/2 hour after sunset. Vehicle entrance begins at 8:00 am when the automated gate will open to vehicle traffic. The visitor center and museum hours are 9:00 am to 5:00 pm daily, seven days a week.

Entrance Fee: Free

Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield
Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield

National Parks near St. Louis

The three National Parks near St. Louis are:

National Historic Trails in Missouri

In addition to the 7 National Park sites above, 7 National Historic Trails run through Missouri. These trails span multiple states and hold great historical significance.

  • California National Historic Trail
  • Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail
  • Oregon National Historic Trail
  • Pony Express National Historic Trail
  • Sante Fe National Historic Trail
  • Trail of Tears National Historic Trail

Thougths on Missouri’s National Parks

Missouri’s National Parks offer a rich tapestry of history, natural beauty, and outdoor activities that glimpse into America’s past while presenting ample opportunities for modern discovery. These sites encapsulate pivotal moments in U.S. history, from the iconic Gateway Arch National Park in St. Louis to the historical battlegrounds of Wilson’s Creek.

Beyond their historical significance, many of the parks offer diverse recreational activities. If you plan to go hiking, remember to pack your backpack! Missouri is a must-visit for enthusiasts of history and outdoor activities alike.

Be sure to take your National Park Passport book to document your journey!