Camping,  Travel,  U.S. Travel

Camping at Johnson Shut-Ins

Well hello there!

I’m finally getting around to writing about our camping trip to Johnston Shut-Ins in August. What a cool place to visit! Let me tell you about it!

Johnson Shut-Ins State Park, near Middle Brook, Missouri, is about 2 hours south of Saint Louis, nestled in the St. Francois Mountains. The unique geology of Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park are perfect for campinghikingpicnickingsplashing in the shut-ins, exploring nature or just relaxing.

Know Before You Go

Whether you’re in for a day trip to play in the shut-ins or for a weekend away from the city, at less than 2 hours south of Saint Louis, Johnson Shut-Ins State Park has a lot to offer. Visit their website to get more information!

Things To Do

  • Splash and play in the shut-ins! (NOTE: dogs are not permitted on this trail and no food is allowed at the shut-ins with the exception of non-disposable bottled water, plan accordingly)
  • Hit the Trails! Six trails provide over 20 miles of trail ranging from easy to moderate
    • Bike: Black River Trail System, Campground Trail System
    • Horseback Riding: Goggins Mountain Equestrian Trail
    • ADA Accessible: Shut-Ins Trail
  • Go fishing in the Black River
  • Have a picnic at one of 15 single table picnic pads, 14 covered shelters, or the enclosed shelter
  • Play at the playground in the North Day Use area
  • Attend a nature program – Available only during the summer months
  • Visit the Visitor’s Center to learn about the natural history of the area
  • Stay a while!
    • Camp in one of 5 loops, including equestrian, walk-in, basic, electric, water/electric, or full hookup.
    • Rest easy on a real bed in one of the 6 camper cabins available

Campground Amenities

This is one of the better-appointed campgrounds I’ve stayed at, with single use showers, laundry facilities, the full range of different camp sites, and even a camp store in case you run out of or forgot something. Firewood can be purchased in the campground as well. The concrete pads are nice and wide, sites are well insulated from neighbors, and the fire pits are the kind you can cook on with a folding grill. There are plenty of trees and shade, good for summer but chilly in the cooler months, so plan accordingly.

I didn’t see that this park was participating in the recycling program that some of the other state parks are participating in. I also didn’t notice any recycling dumpsters anywhere either.

There is a Campground Trail System that is paved that connects different loops and even meets up with some of the other trails. That said, we still drove to the trailhead for the shut-ins, and there was plenty of parking.

Our Visit

Having heard about this park since moving to the burbs with the kids, we finally made a trip to go experience it ourselves! We packed up Alice, threw the kids and dog in the car, and away we went!

I was so excited to use our new flamingo lights on the awning this time. I had been on the hunt for some fun lights for a while, because that’s one thing I always remember about camper camping with my grandparents…they always had fun lights to hang and so did everyone else. Anyone can grab plain bulb lights or strip lighting, but we had flamingos! They turned out pretty cute, don’t you think?

The first thing the kids did was take off on their bike and scooter to scope out the campground while HBW Hubby and I got busy setting up. After dinner, the hubs and I took a stroll around in the dark to gaze at the stars, hand in hand. It was super romantic and also practical because when it’s dark, man, it is DARK. Still, it’s always so amazing to see the whole galaxy spread out above you. And we made some fun new little friends while we were there as well!

The next day, hubby took the dog on a hike and I took the boys down to the shut-ins. Remember, dogs can’t go on the Shut-Ins Trail, so be sure to have a plan if you go. Hubby said that the trail he went on (Horseshoe Glade Trail) wasn’t marked very well, but he made it out okay and the dog was pooped, so it was still a win. He also saw some pretty interesting fungi while he was hiking!

The water at the shut-ins is cold but you will get used to it and it feels especially good on a hot summer day! The kids absolutely loved splashing around and climbing on top of the rocks. Good water shoes/sandals are a MUST if visiting. Don’t be the guy wearing flip flops.

After hiking/splashing and grabbing some lunch, we went back out to explore the relatively new visitor center. It’s quite the naturalist exhibit, perfect for kids and adults alike! There are videos to watch, exhibits to interact with, and you can even touch certain specimens gathered by the park rangers!

We had so much fun at Johnson Shut-Ins and can’t wait to go back! Whether you’re looking for something fun to do in the summer or want a get away, there’s so much to do in this beautiful park!

Until next time, happy camping!


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