Spring Visits to Columbia Conservation Areas

Spring is the perfect time to explore, and luckily, it’s easy to get out of the city in Columbia. That can mean jumping in the car and heading a few minutes out of town or just escaping into the woods at one of our many conservation areas. Here are some of my favorite places to connect with nature:

Rocky Fork Conservation Area.
Rocky Fork Conservation Area.

Rocky Fork Lakes Conservation Area
E. Peabody Rd., 7 miles north of Columbia

This conservation area is 2,200 acres of fields, woodland, and over 90 lakes and ponds – 20 of which are fishable. The MO Department of Conservation’s website offers information on hunting and fishing, and you can even find a Bird List if you’re interested in bird watching. Rocky Fork has two gun ranges (one for handguns and rifles and the other for shotguns) but keep in mind that they’ll be especially busy on nice days. There aren’t any designated trails, so you may want to grab a map before heading out.

Gans Creek 2
Gans Creek

Gans Creek Wild Area
Rock Bridge Memorial State Park

Gans Creek Wild Area is 750 acres and includes 8.5 miles of trails. Definitely take this map because while there are plenty of trails, it can be hard to decide if you’re taking the right turn without a map – trust me. This trail system is open to horseback riding from July 1st-October 31st if the ground is dry. If the ground isn’t dry… I recommend old shoes because the trails will be muddy. Check out the Shooting Star Trailhead – there are great views from the bluffs along the trail.

Forum Nature Trail
Forum Nature Trail

Forum Nature Area
2701 Forum Blvd.

Forum Nature Area is the place to go if you want to see wildlife; I almost always spot turtles, snakes, deer, or birds along the trail. The trail is a 1.5 mile loop and connects to the MKT Trail and Twin Lakes Recreation Area. In my experience, the nature area is typically less used and more quiet than the MKT Trail so it’s easy to forget that you’re in the middle of town. Bring a camera in case you stumble upon animals or an awesome sunset.

Grindstone Nature Area
Boone the Golden Retriever at Grindstone Nature Area.

Grindstone Nature Area
2011 Old 63 S.

My dog loves Grindstone Nature Area because he gets to lose his leash once we leave the Hinkson Creek Trail. He’s all about sand and swimming so we usually stick to the creek, but there are quite a few small trails throughout the 200 acres leading to scenic views and historic remnants.

Wherever you decide to go, share your photos with us by tagging #ShowMeCoMo.

Written by Rachel Grant from the Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau. 

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