Well hello there!
I’m finally getting around to writing about our camping trip to Alley Spring in August. Guys, it was GORGEOUS. Let me tell you all about it!
Alley Spring, near Eminence, Missouri, is part of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, protected and maintained by the National Park Service (NPS). The spring is the 7th largest in the state, pumping an average 81 MILLION gallons per day. Alley Mill, situated on the bank of Alley Spring, was built in 1894 and is open seasonally for tours.
Park Pros + Cons
Alley Spring Campground is a huge campground with lots of amenities sure to suit your needs, centrally located in the Ozarks in Southern Missouri. Eight loops offer electric sites, with one of those loops (the 600s) offering water hook up as well. Additionally, there is a walk-in area (the 700s) as well as group sites, so there really is something for every type of camper. Note, there aren’t any full hookup sites, but there is a dump station located on the grounds.
Each loop offers toilet facilities (not pit toilets), with a central shower house located off the main road through the campground loops. If you enjoy kayaking or canoeing, you can park and put in at Bluff hole, just down the road from the campground loops. The campground also boasts a pavilion for any large group gatherings, as well as a picnic area.
One thing to note, and whether this is a pro or a con for you depends on your own opinion, there’s no wifi and no cell service. I mention this because it might come in handy to have any trail maps printed, or get a map of the area in case of emergencies because the whole area is pretty much a dead zone. If you plan to visit other places nearby and you need directions, you’ll want to make sure you have a map or directions ahead of time. We had a moment at Rocky Falls on our second full day where a man fell and cut his head open on the rocks (always camp with a first aid kit!) and needed stitches but because of the lack of cell service, no one knew where the closest hospital was.
We stayed in the 600 loop, so here’s what I can tell you about the individual sites. Each one has a double-wide concrete pad (yay!) but is pretty short (boo!). With our little pop-up fully extended, we still had to park our van almost perpendicular to it so as not to block the road. That said, we did see plenty of people pulling 5th wheels that made it work, so just pay attention to the pad length when you’re booking sites.
The campground is well established and has a good mix of sun and shade. Each site has a fire ring, picnic table, and lantern post. The picnic tables are movable (yay!) but the fire ring is a bit on the small side (boo!), though it does come with the fold-over grate for grilling if needed (yay!). I didn’t see that this park was participating in the recycling program that some of the other nearby parks are participating in. This could be because it is run by the NPS instead of MO State Parks.
The campground is situated near the Jack’s Fork River, so there are some areas you can park and go swimming at, including a large rock you can climb then jump off of, and as I mentioned above, there’s also an area you can put in at to go kayaking. Its location also makes it a great place to camp if you’re planning a float trip in the area. The Current River, Big Spring, Round Spring, Pulltite, and others are close-by access points.
Here’s a quick little video of some of my favorite moments from our camping trip at Alley!
Alley Spring + Mill
I couldn’t forget the spring for which this campground is named! Alley Spring and Mill is accessed by the Spring Branch Trail (.4 miles, easy). Don’t let that short and easy rating fool you into not bothering with this trail because that would be a HUGE mistake. This .4 mile trail packs a lot of things to see into it, including impressive rock faces, caves, the spring branch of water running from the spring to the river, and of course, Alley Spring and Mill. This trailhead is located a short walk across a quaint wooden bridge near the parking lot that you’ll find just off the main road as well. The Spring Branch trail will lead you up to and around Alley Spring and Alley Mill, at which point you can return back to the parking lot the way you came or pick up the Overlook Trail (1.7 miles) trailhead at the Mill, which will take you up and around and pop you back out just a short walk away from the parking lot making a short and relatively easy loop with a lot to see. Much of the trail is gravel, inclines are broken up into easily tackled segments and switchbacks, and the view is spectacular.
We made this trek the morning of our first full day at Alley, and my oldest claimed that this 2+ mile hike combo was his favorite ever. Caves, cliffs, rushing water, what’s not to love? Alley Mill is on the National Registry of Historic Places and is open seasonally for tours of the first floor and grounds. There’s a small gift shop available inside and if your kids are collecting stamps in their National Park passports, they can get a stamp showing Ozark National Scenic Riverways.
Come along with us on the short walk up to Alley Spring and Mill then up to the overlook. Take a peek at the interior of the mill, listen to the sounds of the rushing water, and get a load of that view!
On our second full day, we hopped back in the car for about 30 min or so and spent the day at Rocky Falls. This waterfall is a popular swimming hole and the perfect way to cool off in the heat of that summer sun. Be careful on those rocks though! My oldest and I took a dry trail up to the top of the rocks and carefully walked out, but people were climbing all over them. If you are going to do that, I recommend having some really good water shoes, stay low, and bring a first aid kit with you. I ended up having to administer first aid to a (slightly inebriated) man who did none of those things before telling him he REALLY needed to go to the emergency room. It might also pay to know where the nearest hospital is since cell service is spotty. Just sayin’.
On our way back from Rocky Falls, we stopped off at the Dairy Shack in Eminence for some ice cream. It hit the spot!
Watch the highlights reel from our day at Rocky Falls! Swimming, waterfalls, and the view, Rocky Falls is can’t miss!
We had so much fun at Alley Spring. We have camped at other nearby parks but this is definitely a favorite. The area is stunning, and there is so much to see and do! Be sure to also check out nearby Montauk State Park (which we visited earlier this summer, read about that here), Current River State Park, Echo Bluff (where we went in July, read about that here), and more! If you want to plan your own trip to Alley Spring, do that here!
Until next time, happy camping!
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