Lake of the Ozarks State Park is Missouri’s largest state park and is located along the shores of one of the state’s biggest lakes. The park offers many options for adventure and outdoor recreation. First established in the mid-1930s by the National Park Service and turned over to the state in 1946, the park features log buildings and rustic bridges built by the Civilian Conservation Corps. While recently visiting Lake of the Ozarks, we had a wonderful time exploring a small portion of this great park.
Things to Do at Lake of the Ozarks State Park
Camping and Cabins
The park features a campground located along a bend of the lake with basic, electric, and family sites. There are also eight rustic eight rustic log cabins and two yurts for campers who want to experience the outdoors without pitching a tent. Neither the cabins or yurts have running water.
During our visit to Lake of the Ozarks, we were hosted by Stayclusive’s beautiful waterfront condo. Needless to say, our accommodations at the Lake of the Ozarks were far from rustic!
This vast park features miles of hiking trails with 12 different trails to choose from. We hiked one scenic trail loop with further details of the hike discussed further down this post.
You can explore underneath the park as well by taking a one hour guided tour of Ozark Caverns. This tour includes several lovely and unique formations including the Angel Showers phenomenon. The caverns are also the location of the park’s Visitor Center. We didn’t have time to tour the cave this trip, but maybe next time!
Whether you are into boating, paddling, fishing, or swimming, you can do all of those activities on the lake. The marina offers kayaks and paddleboats to take on the park’s aquatic trail. There are two public swimming beaches, each with restrooms and changing houses. We visited the Grand Glaize area which had a nice beach, picnic area, and playground.
Lake of the Ozarks State Park Rocky Top Trail
- Distance: 2.2 mile loop for full trail or shorter one mile loop option.
- Difficulty: 3/5. A couple minor hills, but mostly an easy hike with a good amount of shade.
- Scenic Value: 4/5. Great lake views, especially from the top of the bluffs.
Reaching the Trailhead
We only had time to hike one trail at Lake of the Ozarks State Park so we chose the Rocky Top Trail. This trail is close to Osage Beach, where we were staying. It’s also kid friendly, not too long, and offers great lake views. The trail makes sort of a squished figure eight shape with two connecting loops.
The trailhead can be found near the Grand Glaize beach area. The trail is located just on the other side of the cove where the marina and beach are located. Follow the paved road past the first playground and up the hill to another playground, pavilion, vault toilet, and parking area.
You can either start the trail be taking the path at\the trailhead sign near the road and behind the playground or by taking the path next to the trail sign by the pavilion. By heading to the trail sign near the road, you will explore the glade first. This could be a good option on a hot day as this stretch has no shade. We opted to take the trail next to the pavilion first. This allows you to walk along the lake at the start.
Rocky Top Lake Views
The path immediately descends towards the water and turns right. The kids had the usual trail fun of throwing rocks in the water along this stretch. This section of trail is fun and easy as it’s mostly flat.
The graveled path is easy to follow as it parallels the shoreline along a scenic cove. We had actually rented a pontoon boat the day before from the Getaway and took it into this same cove to swim!
The path follows the cove for about 0.4 miles before leaving the water behind and entering the trees. At about the half mile mark, the path reaches an intersection near the bottom of a ravine. You may see yellow trail markers going in all directions.
At this junction you can decide how far you want to hike. If you want only a mile loop, turn right to head uphill and back towards the parking area by way of the woods and an open glade. If you want a longer hike, turn left.
After a very short distance, the trail splits once again for the other mile loop portion of the full figure eight trail. We opted to keep left at this junction as the trail once again followed the cove, but on the opposite side.
Rocky Top Bluff Views
The path climbed steadily uphill so that you are along the cove, but much higher up. We even found a turtle friend along the way.
Eventually near the halfway point of this loop segment, the path reaches the edges of a tall and rocky bluff. Use caution with kids and pets here as this is the only stretch with a high drop off.
The views are well worth the climb as you can see the lake in several directions.
Exploring the Woods and Glade
After admiring the view, the trail turns away from the bluff edge. The path wanders through the woods and makes a gradual descent back towards the same ravine at the edge of the cove. This time you want to keep straight and slightly to the left to complete the final stretch of the path.
The trail makes another gently climb uphill before breaking out of the trees into a large, grassy glade. You might see some seasonal wildflowers in this pretty glade.
After leaving the glade, the trail passes through one short stretch of woods before reaching the parking area again from behind the playground.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The park grounds are open daily sunrise to one half-hour after sunset.
- You can find a park map here although it is not very detailed. Better maps can be found at the park or visitor center.
- The AllTrails app is very helpful especially with keep track of the different trail junctions.
- Use caution when swimming or wading in water. Supervise kids at all times.
- Always remember to pack out what you bring in.
More to See
There is so much to see and do at Lake of the Ozarks. We also enjoyed hiking at the amazing Ha Ha Tonka State Park (more details to follow!), playing mini-golf at Pirate’s Cove, and giving the kids their first go-karts ride.
Some great free options include visiting historic Wilmore Lodge, which has a museum of the dam construction. Head over to one of the two scenic overlooks of the dam or head down to Bagnell Dam Access to see the dam from the river level.