Described by state officials as “a geological wonderland,” visitors to Ha Ha Tonka State Park near Camdenton, Missouri, can expect to see caves, a natural bridge, bluffs, the state’s 12th-largest spring and the ruins of a European-style stone castle along its 15 miles of hiking trails.
Starting at 10 a.m. Aug. 29, staff members from Fort Leonard Wood’s Outdoor Adventure Center will hold a guided hike at the park. The hike is free and open to members of the Fort Leonard Wood community but requires advance registration, which can be completed by calling the OAC at 573.596.4223.
“Basically, we’ll be taking them out there to explore the park,” said Brian Kaolowi, a recreation specialist with the OAC.
“We have a lot of people coming into the area, and they’re new, and we wanted to plan something everyone could do,” Kaolowi said. “Ha Ha Tonka is a great, local historic site. It’s just so beautiful out there, and with everybody being cooped up, we wanted something where people could focus on getting out in the fresh air and hiking with us — plus it’s well within the 100-mile radius.”
Participants are required to provide their own transportation to the park – located about 50 miles from the installation. The event will begin at the Ha Ha Tonka State Park Visitors Center, where hikers will have a chance to make their own trail mix. Kaolowi also recommended that visitors bring any items they feel they might need on the hike, which could range from 1.5 to 3 miles.
“This hike will be very light — nothing too crazy. We’re trying to keep it (at) a couple of miles,” Kaolowi said. “We recommend hikers bring face masks and maybe a light backpack with essentials, such as water bottle, hand sanitizer, maybe a tiny first-aid kit, bug spray or sunblock — anything they think they’ll need.”
During the hike, the group will visit and discuss the history of the stone ruins often referred to as simply, “the castle.” Built in 1905 by a wealthy Kansas City businessman, the European-style mansion was later converted into a hotel but was gutted by fire in the 1940s. After the property sat dormant for decades, it was made into a state park in 1978. Repeated preservation efforts have kept the castle intact over the years, with the structure drawing several thousand visitors to the area each year.
OAC staff have scheduled additional Ha Ha Tonka State Park hikes for Sept. 12 and Oct. 3.
For more information, call the OAC or visit the event listing online at https://leonardwood.armymwr.com.