The Scoop: We stopped here on recommendation by a local, very nice gal working at Bridal Cave. She said we simply couldn't leave the area without stopping at the park and even directed us to a local swim spot that she takes her "itty bitties" to splash in the spring water. We were happy to have taken her up on both suggestions -- we spend around three hours leisurely hiking (we happened to visit over the lunch time heat of the day) so it was slow going to save on energy!
We especially liked the Castle Ruins -- it was a real short walk around a paved trail and was almost completely flat with a little shade. There was one fountain on this trek. There were not only fantastic photo opps by the ruins, we also found a little trailside overlook at the spring-fed (almost glacial looking) water below in the valley.
The hike to the spring seemed a little too far for our kiddos in the heat (and we didn't think they'd appreciate the epic end to the walk being a body of water) so we didn't take that route, but it looked neat and not too difficult at all.
The park has many miles of hiking available and could easily be a weekend destination in itself.
The Visitors Center is small but has modern restrooms and is a great source of information.
Tips: Driving is a little tricky in the park - one intersection even has a mirror since it's a busy, blind approach, so drive with care!
Print a park map before you go - they detail all the sites to see AND where the drinking fountains are!
It's pretty humid and hot in the summer but they have drinking fountains posted around the park. It's still a good idea to bring plenty of water (even for short hikes) and go easy on yourself - use your stroller or backpack carrier if you can.
Bottom-Line: This one is a park to put on the itinerary for sure! Missouri state parks are free admission and this one in particular offers easy, short hikes that are mostly stroller friendly. The neat contrast of the old buildings and the vivacious vegetation makes it a unique stop. Kids will appreciate the castle and the "funny colored" spring water.
We were so happy to find Ha Ha Tonka! The castle ruins are totally incredible. A hidden treasure in the middle of Missouri's natural beauty. We didn't end up taking our stroller out of the car there, and it was a good thing. There are unpaved paths that you should definitely go through, but a stroller would have been a nightmare. We went in the Fall and the foliage was just gorgeous! It made for the perfect weekend getaway. Don't forget your water bottles!
Best feature: the old castle ruins that you can explore
Con: not stroller friendly
We live in Lebanon, MO just about a 20 min drive from Camdenton and go to Ha Ha Tonka State Park all of the time. It is a wonderful place to walk around and explore. From the old burnt down castle to the hanging rock. It is a great place to walk around and look at all that nature in Missouri has to offer. Bring your walking shoes and a snack your legs are gonna get tired as you walk all around the park (especially the stairs...you'll see what I mean when you get there!)