Hi there, friends!
We are just back from our second camping trip of the season at Montauk State Park. Since buying our camper, Alice, late last season, we’ve been trying to see as many different Missouri state parks as we can.
Every year around my and my eldest’s birthdays, my hubby takes a week of vacation time for proper birthday celebrations. This year it happened to be the last week of school, oops! In my defense, the calendar changed this year from past years, as normally we have dismissed for summer before my eldest’s birthday–something he has been bummed about over the years, not being able to celebrate his bday at school. So this year, unthinking about the school calendar, I booked us a camping trip for three days at Montauk State Park near Licking, MO. Don’t worry, they didn’t miss any of their favorite things (like class parties or field days) or any curriculum at this point either, both their teachers cleared it. 🙂
One of the things that Montauk is most well-known for is fishing. We don’t fish, my hubby and I never learned how, but it was still a pretty cool trip regardless.
The park is located in Licking, MO, (you might also see it listed in Salem, MO – they’re both nearby) and getting there is a bucolic treat. There are rolling hills and pastures dotted with cattle and horses, and just the overall beauty of the area. If you’re prone to car sickness though, be advised that these roads are hilly and curvy.
Inside the park is the spring that combines with Pigeon Creek to form the headwaters of the Current River. It is this spring that gives the water its beautiful green/blue hue. The water is so clear, you can see clear to the bottom of it. If you’re a fisherman, this gives you a perfect view of where the fish are. While it isn’t part of the official Ozark National Scenic Riverways founded by the NPS in 1964, it’s in the same general area and I think deserves honorable mention.
Pine Ridge Trail
The first full day of camp, we took our time being lazy that morning, eating a filling hot breakfast before setting out on the Pine Ridge Trail, a moderate 1.5 mile trail shaped like a C connecting from one part of the main drive to another. You can choose to do it out and back to make for a longer hike, or you can just walk the main road to complete a loop, which is what we did.
The trail itself is very pretty. Parts of the trail are rocky and narrow, but other parts are wide and offer a soft pine needle bed to walk over. This time of year, there were lots of wildflowers still, and some peeks at the water beyond the trees in some areas. Our bichpoo pup Charlotte (Charlie) enjoyed the hike as well. Be advised though, especially with all of those pine needles on the trail, and given this time of year, you will want to be vigilant about ticks. I lost count of how many I pulled off Charlie at the end of this hike. My kids had a couple, but other than that, we humans were okay.
After our hike, it was back to the campsite to eat a little lunch and relax a bit. We always bring the kids’ bikes and/or scooters, a few things to throw around (frisbee, football, glow in the dark ball), as well as some fun yard games like ladder golf or cornhole. So we played a bit, they rode their bikes and scooters, and mom and dad hung out in the shade. Shortly after dinner, it started raining, so inside we went to play a little Catan instead.
The only bad thing to happen on the trip was later that evening when we were playing Catan while it rained, we forgot to angle the awning on our camper…rookie move. The rain pooled and the supports bent on the awning, and it came down. Yikes! We got it sorted as best as we could, and thankfully it stopped raining, so it wasn’t much of an issue. Plus the handy hubby fixed it right up when we got home. Moral of the story…if it’s raining, your awning needs runoff.
Montauk Lake Trail, Montauk Springs, + Grist Mill
The next day dawned a bit overcast but no rain. So we went out on the Montauk Lake Trail, a part paved, part gravel path around the rearing pools, hatchery, and man-made lake rife with fish and its banks filled with fishermen. This was a short and easy hike, a walk really, and the views were stunning! Unlike the previous day’s Pine Ridge Trail that only offered a peek at the water, this trail was all about it.
With small paths down to the water for fishing access and river viewing, the winding path past a swamp-like area, the beautiful “lagoon” as I call it, and the hatchery, this is a can’t-miss trail.
If you’d like to immerse yourself briefly in this trail, I’ve recorded a short clip (about a minute) of some of the scenes and sounds from this trail.
When we finished that trail, we decided to go check out the old grist mill, which wasn’t open for visitors yet but will be open now. Much of the original equipment is still there and there are talks given there as well.
Lastly, before heading back to camp, we wanted to check out the spring. You’ll need to drive to get to it, but it’s worth the drive. When we arrived, it was a bit confusing, since there were two trails beginning in one area and technically both marked Montauk Spring Trail, but only the trail on the left as you face the sign post actually led to the spring. The trail on the right side leads to the river. The pool doesn’t seem very big, or very active, but still waters run deep and it’s amazing to think that this small pool feeds the rushing headwaters you can see in the right-side trail leading to the river.
After that, it was back to the campsite for more fun, food, and relaxation. I even finished my book while I was there! Psst! If you’ve read this book and would be interested in discussing it, it’s this month’s Books, WIPs, and Sips Book Club pick and we will be discussing it live on Instagram Stories Live on Tuesday, June, 1st at 7 pm CST. I would love to see you there!
The campground itself is huge, but sites book up fast. The park boasts basic and electric and premium electric sites as well as cabin rentals if you would prefer, or there’s also a lodge on site. While there are no full hook-up sites available, there is a dump station. Forget something? There’s a camp store where you can purchase anything you might have left behind, or ice or camp wood if you run out. The bathrooms and shower house are cleaned daily and while there are only two showers each for men and women, we didn’t have any problem getting into one when we wanted. Read more about the campground here.
We stayed on site #224, which is an electric site situated in Loop 2 nearer to the bathhouse. There are a few playgrounds around, but mostly my kids just enjoyed riding their bikes/scooters around. The site was very nice, with a long paved pad, an extra-large fire pit with a fold-down grate for grilling, and lots of shade. It was a nice size too, with lots of space for Charlie to roam around on her tie-out cable. We were right next to the water spigot too, so I was more than pleased with our site selection. One thing to note though is that the area is very sandy, which I find sticks to EVERYTHING, so be warned. Also, if you are staking a tie out for your dog, make sure you are in solid ground.
One thing we didn’t get to do that I think this park would be amazing for is a float trip! I think when we book our first float trip, this is where we are going to do it. There are so many more things to see that are most easily accessed by floating down the river, stopping to sightsee as desired, then hopping back in continuing the float. Floating the Current River from Cedar Grove to Round Spring offers Class One and Two water that makes it perfect for canoeing, kayaking, or raft floating. There’s caves, an abandoned hospital, Akers Ferry, and so much more to see floating from these sapphire waters.
Even with the awning debacle, we had a great time. The park is beautiful and offers so much to its visitors, it is easy to see why it books up so quickly. We will definitely be back! If you want to book your own trip to Montauk, visit the Missouri State Parks Reservation page, choose from camping or lodging, then choose Montauk State Park from the drop down.
Do you have a favorite place to go camping? Where is it? Tell me in the comments! I’m always looking for suggestions and recommendations!
Until next time, happy camping!
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