To take a giant leap or turn around and head back to the trail? That is a question that I found myself asking a lot when Griff and I visited Elephant Rocks State Park in Missouri.
The park: gentle trails and giant boulders
The paved trails with easy inclines are nice for visitors out for a stroll, while giant granite boulders call to those looking for a more moderate hike. Along the paved path there is a braille trail with ropes leading to signs with short paragraphs that explain the history of the area and encourage visitors to enjoy the natural beauty in the park. Climbing on and around the boulders requires visitors to be more cognizant of their footing as slopes may be steep and it is important to watch for gaps as some are wide and/or deep.
There was a youth group visiting at the same time who jumped across the gaps of the boulders with ease and a carefree attitude. I, on the other hand, thought very seriously about the direction that I would take in order to make the smallest possible leap from one boulder to another. Although the choices that we made on the hike were less youthful, we couldn’t resist the urge to take silly photos with the rock formations. Griff also found ample opportunity to take other (more artistic) photos throughout the park. The maze created by these rocks provided a fun place to get light exercise and capture the fresh air before getting back into the car.
The history: volcano, granite and railroad
Granite built the area and is still a major resource for the community. For many years, the granite in Iron County, MO has been transported throughout Missouri to build some of the most admired buildings in the state. To transport the rock from the quarry to other areas, the railroad was once a major factor. A short detour trail in the park will lead to the old engine house. While the former engine house is in ruins, the granite walls are still a beautiful sight to see. It is easy to envision what this area must have looked like at the time with multiple former railroad tracks convening near the engine house. Griff and I definitely thought the sidetrack to the old engine house was worth the time.
Visit Iron and Reynolds Counties
The granite and other large rocks formed by a volcano have left behind beautiful parks in the area including the nearby Johnson’s Shut-Ins. Visitors to Iron County (Elephant Rocks) should consider visiting Reynolds County (Johnson’s Shut-Ins) if time is available. We heard that there are other parks and natural sites in the area that we did not have time to visit in 2014 but hope to in 2015. Visitors to Elephant Rocks, and probably other area attractions, may find the Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park campground a convenient place to share stories around the campfire about their day at play in the great outdoors.