When you seek natural beauty or man-made marvels, there is a bounty of mesmerizing hidden gems in Missouri. Whether you want to scuba dive underground, swim in a hidden waterfall, explore a tropical rain forest inside a Climatron, or take a bison hike on the prairie, Missouri has it all. Book a stay at one of numerous vacation rentals in Missouri for your upcoming getaway. Take a look at the most noteworthy hidden gems in the state.

1. Smallin Cave, Ozark

Underground cave system
Source: smallincave.com/Smallin Civil War Cave

Join a guided tour through Smallin Cave, a true hidden gem in the Ozarks where historians believe hid Union Army artillery and ammo during the Civil War. Special tours include the lantern tour and night tours. The lantern tour takes you a full mile back into the cave where you see historical artifacts and fossils, and learn more about the history of the cave. Night tours take place only during autumn months, and include dinner of beans, cornbread, and fried potatoes served by a campfire.

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2. Prairie State Park, Mindenmines

Buffalo with birds on his back.

Join a guided tour through Smallin Cave, a true hidden gem in the Ozarks where historians believe hid Union Army artillery and ammo during the Civil War. Special tours include the lantern tour and night tours. The lantern tour takes you a full mile back into the cave where you see historical artifacts and fossils, and learn more about the history of the cave. Night tours take place only during autumn months, and include dinner of beans, cornbread, and fried potatoes served by a campfire.

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3. Castor River Shut-In, Fredericktown

Water from a river running over rocks.
Source: Wikemedia Commons

Castor River Shut-In includes beautiful bluffs and pink granite boulders in a tranquil, primitive setting. The well-kept, shaded trail leads from a gravel parking lot down to the stunning bolder fields where the spring-fed river meanders along, giving you rocks to climb and water to wade. At the end of the shut-in is a four-foot waterfall with a crystal clear pool, a lovely spot to swim and snorkel to look for lots of colorful fish.

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4. Ha Ha Tonka State Park, Camdenton

Ruins in a state park
Source: Flickr/Dakota Callaway

Ha Ha Tonka State Park translates to “laughing waters,” and it covers more than 3,700 acres of beautiful oak forests. With majestic scenery along 15 miles of hiking trails, the park features the remains of a mansion. Robert Snyder bought 5,000 acres in 1905 as part of his plan to build a castle overlooking the Missouri River. Following his death in 1906, it took his sons until 1920 to complete the castle. It later served as a hotel until destroyed by fire in 1942.

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5. SubTropolis, Kansas City

Work vans in a building
Source: huntmidwest.com/Hunt Midwest

Kansas City features several off-beat, hidden gems to explore, including SubTropolis, a 55,000,000-square-foot city underground. Limestone mining over the decades gave the owners the idea to rent out the enormous caverns they created. Since the 1960s, the Hunt Midwest rents space to store everything from millions of postal stamps to the original film reels of “Gone With the Wind.” Drive your car in any of the entrances to explore the seven miles of paved, illuminated roads 364 days a year.

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6. The Endangered Wolf Center, Eureka

Two wolves walking in fall leaves.
Source: Facebook/Endangered Wolf Center

You first enter the classroom at the Endangered Wolf Center for an orientation in which your tour guide introduces the history of the center and how they acquire the animals. The introduction includes the types of wolves they tend and how workers feed and care for the wolves, foxes, and wild dogs. During your tour of the property, you see the large enclosures, and any wolves or foxes that come out of their dens. The wolves include maned, red, and Mexican breeds. The center also houses swift foxes, fennec foxes, and African painted dogs, also known as painted wolves and African wild dogs.

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7. Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis

Glass globes floating on water.
Source: Flickr/Dave Herholz

Missouri Botanical Garden, a true midwestern hidden gem, features hundreds of beautiful flowers and plants, gorgeous water features, and occasional light shows. Open year-round, the garden always includes interesting paths to explore, including a children’s area. Be sure to explore the Climatron greenhouse, the geodesic glass dome that houses a variety of tropical plants, a small hut, waterfalls, rocky cliffs, and a river aquarium with exotic fish. You experience a tropical rain forest habitat in this half-acre display of over 2,800 plants under the dome.

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8. Alley Mill, Eminence

Red mill by a river

Among the historic mills in Missouri, the Alley Mill, in Eminence, features guided tours led by park rangers dressed in 1860s costumes. In addition to hiking around the mill and Alley Springs, look for the interesting caves along the stream, the wooden bridge, and the old one-room schoolhouse on the site. The park rents kayaks, canoes, and inner tubes to enjoy on the water; an there’s a lovely picnic area. Your Eminence vacation rental also puts you close to Harvey’s Canoe Rental for canoeing and kayaking the Current River.

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9. Bonne Terre Mines, Bonne Terre

Water flooded mines.
Source: Flickr/Robert Stinnett

Beginning in 1870, Bonne Mines was the leading producer of lead ore in the world until workers accidentally struck water in 1962, which flooded the miles of man-made caverns. Known as the billion-gallon lake, the mine now serves as a unique diving and swimming spot, featuring strong lights that pierce the crystal-clear waters to depths of over 100 feet. Visitors swim along 24 diving paths along 17 miles of rooms, through huge arches, and explore sunken, abandoned mining equipment. Boat tours and guided walking tours aspire to share the history and enchanting beauty of the old mine.

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10. Taum Sauk Mountain, Ironton

Rocky terrain on a mountain.
Source: Flickr/Keith Yahl

Taum Sauk Mountain, at the top of the St. Francois Mountains, is the highest peak in Missouri. When most of this continent lay submerged beneath ancient Paleozoic seas, scientists believe that Taum Sauk peeked out of the waters as an island. The flat ridge, named after Piankeshaw chief Sauk-Ton-Qua, features Mina Sauk Falls, which tumbles 132 feet over rocks and ledges to reach Taum Sauk Creek. The three-mile Mina Sauk Falls Loop features pristine woodlands and scenic vales, giving you opportunities to see deer, foxes, birds, and other wildlife. The waterfall flows only during wet weather or after a heavy rain, but scenic views along this moderately easy hike reward hikers year-round.

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