Rock Bridge Memorial State Park
Rock Bridge Memorial State Park is a beautiful spot located near Columbia, Missouri. This park features a variety of unique terrain including caves, sinkholes, and a natural rock bridge. Clear spring fed streams run through the park and wildflowers are abundant. The park offers eight different trails to explore with the Devil’s Icebox Trail being the most popular. We hiked both the Icebox Trail and the Sinkhole Trail on our first visit.
Devil’s Icebox Trail
- Distance: .50 mile trail
- Difficulty: 2/5. Short and mostly easy boardwalk trail but does have some stairs.
- Scenic Value: 5/5. The rock bridge, cave, and spring are beautiful
The Devil’s Icebox Trail shares a trailhead and parking with several other trails. This lot can fill up on nice weekends so try to arrive earlier in the day or a weekday. A vault toilet is located here as well as trail information. The Devil’s Icebox Trail starts behind the sign board and crosses the creek.
You can find some nice wildflowers along this section near the creek. The path can be a little confusing as there are several trails that share part of the same path and then break off in different directions. When you come to the first fork, go left to follow the boardwalk spur trail to see the rock bridge first.
The rock bridge is quite impressive. It was separated from the rest of the cave system at the park when a portion of the cave roof collapsed. This left a 125′ long and 65′ high natural rock tunnel.
The tunnel can be explored by visitors. Depending on the water level, you may have to get your feet wet to venture inside. It is well worth it to see this amazing natural feature from all angles.
After exploring the tunnel, retrace your steps on the boardwalk and turn left at the fork to start the loop portion of the icebox trail. The boardwalk will climb stairs to provide an overlook of the rock bridge from above. Continue along the boardwalk and keep straight when a walkway leads off to the left.
More steps and walkways lead to the other side of the tunnel where you can see water entering the rock bridge. A section of the boardwalk and an overlook platform were closed during our visit from what appears to be damage to the platform.
Soon you arrive the Devil’s Icebox overlook and kiosk. This platform gives you a view of the spring and opening into Devil’s Icebox and Connor’s Cave. The spring starts as an underground river in Connor’s Cave before flowing through Devil’s Icebox and back out as a cool water spring.
Stairs lead down to the cave opening for both caves. Devil’s Icebox is closed for exploring, but visitors are welcome to enter Connor’s Cave with caution.
Standing by the cave opening is a welcome cool spot on a hot day. You can certainly feel how Devil’s Icebox received its name. If you wish you can duck inside the cave, just be prepared to get wet. Conner’s Cave is off to the left side of the opening. We took a peek inside, but did not explore further.
Climb back up the steps to continue the trail loop. We soon came to the junction with the Sinkhole Trail. The Devil’s Icebox trail continued to the left a short distance to pass over the top of the rock bridge and complete the loop. We decided to turn right and follow the Sinkhole Trail back to the parking area.
- Distance: 1.4 mile loop with connectors to shorten or extend hike
- Difficulty: 2/5. Mostly wide and flat. Somewhat rocky in sections.
- Scenic Value: 3/5. Some historical interest.
The Sinkhole Trail follows an old roadbed. The path is wide and mostly flat. The first portion after leaving the Icebox Trail travels through the woods. A huge concrete silo is located along the trail, a remnant of the area’s former farming past.
The Sinkhole Trail is also a living history trail. There are numbered signs attached to trees along the route that tell of the history and points of interest along the trail.
A short distance further down the trail is a fork. Right continues on the main sinkhole trail, passing by fenced sinkholes. Continuing straight leads to the white connector trail which shortens the hike slightly. We decided to take the connector. The path goes by a small pond. Off to the right you can see another small silo.
The path continues through the woods. It can be a little confusing in a few spots as there are some side trails branching off. If you have the map to follow or are using the All Trails app, that can help keep on the correct trail.
The path heads down a gentle switchback to a bench then curves left. You can see more signs of the past history of this area. The town of Rockbridge Mills was once located in this area. The town was formed around a grist mill and dam that used the power of the water existing Devil’s Icebox. Several homes and businesses once flourished here. Little remains now but you can see a rut from the wagon wheels that once traveled this road along a section of exposed rock.
A side trail leads off to a spring that was once used by road travelers. Towards the end of the trail near the parking lot is the foundation of a building of the former Rockbridge Mills town.
Additional Things to Know:
- A park map can be found here.
- A map of the Devil’s Icebox Trail can be found here and the Sinkhole Trail map here.
- Bring watershoes or boots if you wish to explore inside either the Rock Bridge or Connor’s Cave as both have a stream flowing through them.
- Vault toilets are located at the parking area for Devil’s Icebox with flushable restrooms located at the other parking and picnic area near the park office and Deer Run Trail. A log cabin is also located at this area.
- If you are exploring with kids, check out Steinberg Playground at COSMO park in Columbia. This playground is HUGE and so amazing!