While the castle ruins are a natural draw, the gorgeous and elaborate trails that weave through the park’s grounds are the real stars of the show. There are so many different things to see along the way, including an enormous natural bridge, caves, bluffs and a 500-foot deep sinkhole. So strap on your rugged outdoor footwear, Missouri, it’s time to get hiking.
Starting at the main parking lot (right in between the water tower and the Robert M. Snyder mansion) hikers are able to choose a number of different trails to start their adventure.
To the left, toward the water tower, a diverse boardwalk trail starts its descent into the area of the sink hole. After a few minutes of hiking, you are given a choice to go to the left to explore the natural bridge, which is 70 feet wide and reaches more than 100 feet in the air, or you can continue on to the spring.
The trail to the left twists past the sink hole and takes you down the railed steps to Whispering Dell Spring, which feeds into the Lake of the Ozarks. As you descend to the spring, the temperature seems to drop 10 degrees, which makes for a more enjoyable hike. The trail here meanders along the water and into the forest so peacefully.
Many other trails lead to caves such as River Cave and Island Cave. River Cave is a “supervised visit only” cave which has monthly scheduled tours, where Island cave is an “entry by permit only” cave in which you must request a permit in advance. Visit the State Parks website for more information on these caves.
Of course, while you are in Ha Ha Tonka State Park, the castle ruins are a must-see. While you hike around the grounds (and visit the carriage house and 80-foot water tower) learn the story of a wealthy Kansas City business man and his dream wilderness retreat turned hotel and the fire that brought it all crumbling down.
For more information on hiking Ha Ha Tonka State Park and other Missouri State Parks and Historic Sites, visit MoStateParks.com.