Mark Twain National Forest Travel Guide

Plan your next adventurous getaway to Mark Twain National Forest with our detailed travel guide. Explore the cultural and natural attractions, hiking and biking routes, food and drink scene, accommodation options, safety tips, and more.

Introduction to Mark Twain National Forest

Mark Twain National Forest is a picturesque haven located in southeast Missouri, spanning over 1.5 million acres of land. The forest is steaming with natural beauty and boasts an array of recreational opportunities and cultural attractions. Named after the famous American author, Mark Twain, who grew up in nearby Hannibal, the forest is a perfect blend of history, culture, and adventure.

List of Places to Visit in Mark Twain National Forest

Culturally Important Attractions: Museums and Historical Places

  • Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum: Experience the childhood of the literary legend Mark Twain at his boyhood home and surrounding museum.
  • That Bookstore at Daybreak: For book enthusiasts, this quaint bookstore is a must-visit, featuring a wide selection of books, including those by Mark Twain.
  • Ozark National Scenic Riverways: A unique destination that protects and preserves the crystal-clear Current and Jacks Fork River watersheds, where visitors can explore Ozark culture and history.

Natural Attractions of Mark Twain National Forest: Outdoor Adventures and Scenic Views

  • Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park: A picturesque natural water park offering a range of activities, including swimming, hiking, and exploring the spectacular geological formations.
  • Hercules Glades Wilderness Area: If you’re looking for a scenic trail, the Hercules Glades Wilderness Area offers several hiking, wildlife, and outdoor adventure opportunities.
  • Mina Sauk Falls: A breathtaking waterfall, and Missouri’s highest waterfall, which can be accessed through a strenuous hike.

Hiking/Biking Routes of Mark Twain National Forest

  • Ozark Trail: A popular hiking and biking trail that spans over 500 miles through the Ozark Mountains, offering scenic views and challenging terrain.
  • Berryman Trail: A challenging 24-mile loop with steep slopes, rocks, and bridges, for seasoned hikers and bikers.
  • Taum Sauk Mountain State Park Trail: A moderately strenuous trail that leads to Missouri’s high point. It is manageable for most hikers, with incredible views on the way up.

Best Things to Do in Mark Twain National Forest: Activities and Tours

  • Canoeing and kayaking: Paddle through the Current River Scenic Waterway or explore the many pristine rivers and streams across the forest.
  • Horseback riding: Traverse scenic trails on horseback and embrace the natural beauty of the forest.
  • Caving: Explore the dark and mysterious world of caves at Meramec Caverns, with guided tours through Missouri’s largest cave.

Week-Long Itinerary for Mark Twain National Forest

Day Activity
1 Arrival and visit to Mark Twain Boyhood home and museum
2 Hike at Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park
3 Canoeing at Ozark National Scenic Riverways
4 Visit to That Bookstore at Daybreak and Taum Sauk Mountain State Park Trail
5 Horseback riding at Hercules Glades Wilderness
6 Exploring Meramec Caverns
7 Departure

Food and Drink Scene of Mark Twain National Forest

Must-Try Dishes

  • Smoked meats: Mark Twain National Forest is known for its flavorful smoked meats, such as barbecue ribs and pulled pork.
  • Fried catfish: A local favorite, fresh catfish is fried to perfection and served with signature sides.
  • Razorback cake: A sweet and moist cake that contains nuts, chocolate, and condensed milk.

Local Beverages

  • Beer: Embrace Missouri’s rich beer culture with local craft breweries such as Mark Twain Brewing Company and Piney River Brewing Co.
  • Wine: Enjoy award-winning Missouri wines from Meramec vineyards and St. James Winery.

Where to Stay in Mark Twain National Forest: Hotels, Hostels, and Guesthouses

  • Pine Crest Azalea Gardens: A cozy bed and breakfast with beautiful gardens and comfortable accommodations.
  • Moonshine Ranch: A family-friendly guesthouse with horse ranching in the middle of natural beauty.
  • Echo Bluff State Park: An ideal campground for budget travelers, with excellent amenities and beautiful surroundings.

What to Buy in Mark Twain National Forest: Souvenirs and Local Products to Bring Home

  • Mark Twain memorabilia: Purchase books, t-shirts, and souvenirs related to Mark Twain’s literary works at his boyhood home and museum.
  • Missouri wine: Shop for locally made wine that provides an authentic taste of the region.

Local Culture and Customs of Mark Twain National Forest

Mark Twain National Forest is part of the Midwest, where people are generally warm and friendly. Missouri has a rich history and culture, which visitors can explore through its numerous museums, galleries, and local shops.

Best Time to Visit Mark Twain National Forest

The best time of the year to visit Mark Twain National Forest is during the spring and fall seasons. The weather is pleasant, with temperatures ranging from 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Summers can be hot and humid, while winters can be harsh, with occasional snowfall.

Do’s and Don’ts of Mark Twain National Forest


  • Respect nature and wildlife, and follow the ‘leave no trace’ principles
  • Dress appropriately for hiking and outdoor activities
  • Take sufficient food and water supplies during your outdoor excursions
  • Check the weather conditions before your visit


  • Litter or leave trash on trails or campgrounds
  • Go off-trail or disturb wildlife
  • Use campfire or smoking materials irresponsibly
  • Approach any wild animals encountered on your adventures

Safety and Health

Safety in Mark Twain National Forest

  • Wear appropriate footwear and carry first-aid supplies while hiking.
  • Be aware of natural dangers such as poison ivy, ticks, and snakes.
  • Avoid unexpected flash floods while out on the trails.

Health in Mark Twain National Forest

  • Stay hydrated and take frequent breaks while out in the sun.
  • Be aware of the potential for heat-related illnesses in summer.
  • Apply insect repellent and dress appropriately to avoid tick bites.

Getting to Mark Twain National Forest: Transportation Options and Logistics

Airports Near Mark Twain National Forest

  • Columbia Regional Airport (COU): Approximately 114 miles northeast of Mark Twain National Forest.
  • Springfield-Branson National Airport (SGF): Approximately 147 miles southwest of Mark Twain National Forest.

Bus Stations Near Mark Twain National Forest

  • Greyhound Bus Lines: Four hours from Bridal Cave and Thunder Mountain Park in Camdenton.
  • Trailways Transportation System: Eighteen miles from Starved Rock State Park in Ottawa.

Other Options

  • Car rental services are available at nearby airports.
  • Amtrak train services run through Springfield and St Louis.

How to Get Around in Mark Twain National Forest

Driving is the easiest way to get around Mark Twain National Forest. Cars can be rented from several locations, including airports, and parking facilities are available at most popular attractions.

Where to Go Next from Mark Twain National Forest: Nearby Destinations and Excursions

  • St Louis: A vibrant city filled with culture, art, and architecture. Visit the Gateway Arch and meet the famous Clydesdales at Anheuser-Busch Brewery.
  • Kansas City: The land of fountains and jazz music, where visitors can visit the Country Club Plaza, sample some barbecue at Arthur Bryant’s, and visit the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.
  • Branson: The entertainment capital of Missouri, with plenty of live shows, family attractions such as Silver Dollar City, and outdoor recreational opportunities.


Mark Twain National Forest is a hidden gem, offering a unique blend of natural scenery, rich culture, and history. Whether you’re an avid hiker or prefer to indulge in local foods and drinks, Mark Twain National Forest has something for everyone. With our detailed guide, plan your next adventurous getaway to Mark Twain National Forest and explore the many wonders it has to offer.