An (un)official guide to (some) COMO parks

What better way to connect with nature in your local community than to visit a park? Here you’ll find profiles on a few of our personal favorite parks in and around COMO. We hope you take the time to visit these places with your friends, family (or even a good book!) and soak up the sun.

Cape Park

If you are interested in scenic viewpoints, Capen Park is your place. The 31.9-acre park features the Hinkson Creek hiking trail, a creek, and rocky cliffs perfect for hikers and climbers. This park is connected to the Grindstone Natural Area and the Hinkson Creek Trail via bridges.

The Hinkson Creek Hiking Trail is the result of a collaboration between the City of Columbia and MU. The two-width trail and overpasses connect Conley Road to the MKT Trail. The city runs 5.25 miles from Conley until it connects to the 2.25 mile long MU Rec Trail, which the University runs, before merging with the MKT Trail.

The park property was acquired in 1978 after a donation of 10.75 acres by James and Lucy Capen. Over the years, the City purchased the remaining 20.84 acres for a total of $120,890.

The City of Columbia also has a Mulch Site in Capen where citizens can drop off yard waste and pick up free mulch.

Location
1600 Capen Park Dr. Columbia, MO 65201
Park Hours
6 a.m. to 11 p.m.


Finger Lakes State Park

Built in a former coal mining area, Finger Lakes State Park has become an outdoor destination. In addition to spacious campgrounds, rolling terrain, and Missouri’s natural beauty, the park offers a variety of activities for the whole family.

The campgrounds offer basic 30 amp and 50 amp electric campsites. Reservations can be made online at mostateparks.com/campgrounds/finger-lakes-state-park or by calling toll-free 877-ICampMO.

The park offers several trails: the challenging 2.75-mile Kelley Branch Mountain Bike Trail, the 4.5-mile Finger Lakes State Park Water Trail, and an ORV (all-terrain vehicle) trail system that visitors can explore. ATV Park is one of only two in Missouri’s state park system. Kayak, paddleboard, and canoe rentals are available for those wishing to explore the water trail.

Other activities include swimming on the park’s sandy beach or in the lake, fishing in the finger-shaped lakes that give the park its name, picnicking in the shaded picnic area (with tables and grills) or the enclosed shelter, boating and having fun at the park’s playground.

Location
1505 Peabody Road.
Columbia, Missouri, 65202

Park Hours
April – October (in season)
6 a.m. to 10 p.m., daily

November – March (off season)
6 a.m. to 9 p.m., daily
* Office hours, riding hours, motocross / ORV, etc. vary


Rock Bridge State Park

Established in 1967, Rock Bridge Memorial State Park has been a local hotspot for decades. The park spans 2,273 acres and has 12 caves that provide insight into Missouri’s underworld.

The park also offers some of the most popular hiking trails in the state, some of which can be used by visitors for biking or horseback riding. Trails include Deer Run Trail, Gans Creek Wild Area Trail, High Ridge Trail, Sinkhole Trail, Grassland Trail, Karst Trail, Spring Brook Trail, and Devil’s Icebox Trail. The latter is only half a mile long, but is home to some of the park’s most impressive geological features. This includes the 63-foot-tall, 124-foot-long natural tunnel known as The Rock Bridge and the twin-hole entrance known as Devil’s Icebox. Once visitors enter Devil’s Icebox, they can explore the 166-foot-long Connor’s Cave and even take a guided tour.

Rock Bridge offers a variety of interpretive programs to help educate and connect people with their natural environment. The park also offers an Orienteering Course, a recreational activity in which participants use a map and compass to navigate along an unfamiliar path that has permanently installed markers/checkpoints as checkpoints. There are also two picnic shelters (Bill Gilbert Memorial Shelter and Rockbridge Mills Shelter), a special use camping area for non-profit, educational or scout groups with children, and a playground for 5 at the age of 12.

Location
5901 South Route 163
Columbia, Missouri, 65203

Park Hours
From sunrise to sunset, all year round


Pinnacles Youth Park

Located about 20 km north of COMO, Pinnacles Youth Park may be the furthest from town, but the views from the park’s rugged peaks are well worth the trek. The 70-acre park is a geological wonder, formed by two rivers carving through the limestone on both sides. The rock formation stands 75 feet high and spans 1,000 feet long. The park is open daily for public use and also available for youth groups to camp overnight.

The latter keeps the park true to its original purpose, as it was deeded to the Boone County Youth in 1965. Since then, the private park has been maintained by the Boone County Pinnacles Youth Foundation with the help of donations and voluntary work and without government funding.

There are several trails in the park, but the most popular trails run along the rock formation of the same name, The Pinnacles. Another favorite trail leads to Shelving Rock, a 40-foot-deep, 125-foot-long, 10-foot-high natural shelter that was formed from erosion-sapped Burlington limestone.

Location
850 Pinnacles Road E.
Sturgeon, MO 65284

Park Hours
sunrise to sunset


Twin Lakes Recreation Area

The Twin Lakes Recreation Area spans 73.3 acres in southern Columbia. The area holds special appeal for dog owners, as there are three dog parks in Twin Lakes: Lakeside, Paws Pond, and the off-season dog park. Dogs are allowed off-leash here, but they must be under the control of the owner. However, leashes are mandatory on established trails.

Lakeside offers a spacious 3.9 acre area for dogs of all sizes. This area is fenced on three sides with the 16-acre fishing lake serving as the western boundary (hence the name). Dogs are welcome to join the fish and dive in!

Paws Pond Dog Park is a safe haven for small dogs. No big dogs allowed! Visitors should not be taller than 18 inches at the withers. This area is fenced and also includes a small pond in which small dogs can dip their paws.

The two previously mentioned dog parks are closed from December to February. Appropriately named, the off-season dog park is open to all dogs during the colder months. This space was created at the request of the Columbia Fire Department after a dangerous winter season when it received nine calls to help rescue dogs that had fallen through the ice.

Anglers can use the fishing lake and dock at Lakeside Dog Park, but be aware that there is no dock and no motor boating is allowed. Additional amenities also include a playground, picnic tables, reservation shelter, restrooms (open April 15-October 15), bathhouse, County House Trail, and MKT Trail access.

Location
2500 Chapel Hill Road. Columbia, Missouri, 65203

Park Hours
6 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Fishing hours
4:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Dino J. Dotson