6 Things to do at Johnson Shut-Ins

1. Camp

Johnson Shut-Ins State Park
Site 220

There are 5 campground loops at Johnson Shut-Ins, a Missouri state park. We stayed in Loop 2, the loop with full hook up sites. The sites were very spacious and level. There are a number of pull through sites; although, we didn’t have one. There is a gravel trail which runs all through the campground which is great for walking and provides an easy access to the campground’s facilities.

There is no wi-fi or over the air tv channels available, so we brought some DVDs for nightly entertainment. There is a campground store which was open only on weekends during our fall stay. Next to the store is a very nice laundry facility. This is a most pleasant place to camp.

2. Visit the Shut-Ins

The main draw of the park is the shut-ins area. There is a concrete path from the campground to the shut-ins. However, it is 3.74 miles to the “entrance” to the shut-ins area, and then it is a small hike to the shut-ins. We felt it too far to walk, so we drove to the shut-ins area parking lot and walked in from there. There is a second store located here, and in front is a beautiful stone mural depicting nature in the Ozarks. We enjoyed the fall colors during our visit, a time when the park is a bit more peaceful. In the summer, this state park can become very crowded as people love playing in, what is commonly called, nature’s water park. Water shoes are a must along with a ton of caution. We saw two people slip on the rocks while walking just a bit into the water. Good thing they didn’t hit their heads! My pictures don’t do the justice to the beauty of the area, but here are just a few to give you an idea.

Johnson Shut-Ins
Betty and Dan on trail to Johnson Shut-Ins
Johnson Shut-Ins

3. Visit the Black River Visitor Center

Heart of the Wilderness outdoor sign in front of Johnson Shut-Ins Visitor Center

One day, we walked the concrete path from the campground to the Visitor Center. It took us a good 45 minutes one way. The nice thing is the path goes under the state highway, so no worries about crossing the sometimes busy road. We enjoyed the walk immensely. We also enjoyed looking at the displays in the Visitor Center, including some short videos. The Visitor Center is on the bottom floor of the building. There are also some nice displays out front.

4. Visit Elephant Rocks State Park

This day-use state park is about 14 miles from Johnson Shut-Ins, and we visited there on our best weather day. We visited this Missouri state park on a Wednesday, and we were surprised at the number of cars in the parking lot. However, we were able to practice social distancing without any issues. The walk through the elephant rocks is a paved trail which is about one mile long. There are a couple of alternate paths which ensures the path is wheelchair accessible. Right off the parking lot, there are a number of picnic tables among the boulders. After our hike, we enjoyed this area to eat lunch and to play some Scrabble. While sitting here, we saw a young girl with her grandmother walk in, both carrying sketchbooks. Later, they showed us their drawings which were excellent. What a nice activity to enjoy together and connect the generations.

Rock quarry with water at Elephant Rocks State Park

Elephant Rocks State Park with view of the hills

5. Visit Battle of Pilot Knob – State Historic Site

Battle of Pilot Knob sign
Museum at Battle of Pilot Knob

This state historic site is in Pilot Knob, about 15 miles away. It is a smaller museum which offers a number of displays as well as 2 movies to watch. This site preserves an important civil war battle. There is an outside walking trail; however, it was a very cold and windy day. So, we hope to do the outside activities on a future visit.

Pilot Knob is in the area known as “Arcadia Valley”, and it is a beautiful area in Missouri. I can’t help but remember how my grandmother, who was born in 1898, talked about how she visited Pilot Knob as a young girl. She told me many times, she “hiked those hills morning through night.” She also said she was with some lady, maybe Mrs. Bogart, who carried a gun on those hikes. For what, I don’t know. Maybe because of snakes – or bears? My grandma lived in St. Louis, so I wonder how she got to Pilot Knob – horse or train? I will have to ask family members if they recall any more to the story.

6. Go out to Eat

Baylee Jo’s BBQ

For dinner one night, we drove back to Pilot Knob. We ate at Baylee Jo’s BBQ, and it was delicious. It was recommended to us by a fellow camper, and it was a great recommendation. There is also a Save-A-Lot right across the street which we popped into for some groceries.

My post describes just a few things to do in and around Johnson Shut-Ins. However, there are many other activities and places to visit. With such a nice campground and it being so close to home, we hope to visit and enjoy Johnson Shut-Ins and the Arcadia Valley area again and again.

Eagle in granite mural at Johnston Shut-Ins state park


  1. Looks like a beautiful park. We have discovered that state parks across the nation are wonderful treasures for those of us who love getting outdoors. Glad to see your home state is no exception. Thanks for the post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are welcome. We love the state parks, too. We also really like the Corps of Engineer campgrounds. We looks for the ones with full hook ups for our $12 discount price. Thanks for reading, and enjoy your day!


    • You are welcome! I have a drop down menu on the side which lists campgrounds we have visited by state. I’m not sure if anyone has ever used that feature or if it is even useful. I also plan to add a header for St. Charles,MO & Area which is where we live. But that will likely be done in January. While it’s not like the National Parks out west, Missouri does have a lot to offer. Thanks for reading, and enjoy your evening.

      Liked by 1 person

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