History: Wayne County’s Mudlick Dellenite features some of the oldest exposures of volcanic rock in North America. Fittingly, it’s also home to one of the oldest parks in Missouri: the 5,000-plus acre Sam A. Baker State Park. It’s named after Wayne County native Samuel Aaron Baker, who spearheaded the park’s creation during his governorship in 1926. The St. Francois Mountains dominate the park’s landscape, crowned by the 1,313-foot-high Mudlick Mountain. During the 1930s, Roosevelt’s CCC built three stone hiking shelters and many of the park’s 18 rustic cabins, among other contributions. The structures still stand today, making visits just as convenient for modern campers as it was for the park’s earliest guests nearly 90 years ago.
On-site Dining: The park store offers a wide selection of souvenirs and outdoor, fishing and camping equipment, grocery staples and quick, microwavable items such as mac ‘n’ cheese cups, soup and breakfast sandwiches. The attached Sam’s Grill is slated to open in August, and there you’ll find classic camp fare including burgers, barbecue sandwiches, housemade pizza, breakfast items and hand-dipped ice cream. An outdoor walk-up window makes picking up food to-go a cinch, although there’s air-conditioned seating inside and a screened-in attached covered pavilion, too. Some evenings will feature specials and live music. Planning to hit the creek and stay all day? Grab the Floater’s Bag Lunch. For a big breakfast, order a plate of biscuits and gravy. They’ll stick to your ribs until lunchtime. For a hearty breakfast or lunch, head to The Lodge Restaurant, housed inside a beautiful stone building erected in the 1930s.
Lodging: The highlight of the park’s overnight facilities are the 18 charming native stone and wood cabins tucked in the woods near Big Creek and the 12-mile Mudlick Trail. They’re available for rent from April to October. The rustic stone façades are sure to delight, and most have modern kitchens, air-conditioning and full baths, plus bedding and cutlery. The campgrounds are shaded by lovely towering pines, and some of the sites even offer Wi-Fi.
Recreation Highlights: With recreation for equestrians, hiking, cycling, floating, fishing and swimming, this is one of the most family-friendly parks in the state. Get the lay of the land at the visitor’s center, where hands-on programming – like a 150-gallon aquarium filled with native fish – delights kids of all ages. The St. Francis River is popular for luring bass, blue gill, sunfish and catfish, but there are also 4-, 14- and 18-mile float rentals for kayaks, canoes and rafts. Big Creek’s calm waters prove irresistible on a hot day, and the flat stones of the gravel bars are easy on tender feet. For bragging rights, trek 16.75 miles to the summit of Mudlick Mountain, although the park's prettiest hike is the 1.25-mile Shut-Ins Trail.
Sam A. Baker State Park, Route 1, Patterson, Missouri, mostateparks.com/park/sam-baker-state-park