There’s a reason why Missouri is called the “Show Me State,” and a part of that may be because it shows visitors plenty of scenic views. From the Ozark Mountains with lush forests, to the strong waters of the Mississippi River, to rural farmlands offset by gently rolling hills, it can be difficult to decide what route to take in order to forge a more intimate connection with the state’s natural areas. That’s why we’ve done the homework for you and compiled a list of our favorite scenic routes to start you off right on a Missouri exploration adventure.

No. 10 – Missouri Farmlands Loop

Starting Location: Sedalia, MO
Ending Location: Sedalia, MO
Length: 49 miles
Best Season to Drive: Spring, Summer, and Fall
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For a shorter route that isn’t short of interesting sights, this loop through Sedalia puts some picturesque rural farmlands on display. Keep an eye out for local wildlife, especially deer, and don’t be surprised if you encounter free-roaming cattle. Stop in Florence to take a break and investigate some of the town’s historic buildings, such as the Hummell Pottery Building that was constructed in 1939.

No. 9 – Southwest Missouri Corner

Starting Location: Southwest City, MO
Ending Location: Washburn, MO
Length: 47 miles
Best Season to Drive: Spring, Summer, and Fall
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This route through prime Ozark Mountains stomping grounds is full of panoramic views and small rural towns in the midst of dense woods. Just watch out for hairpin turns and take your time to enjoy everything that passes by the windows. In Pineville, Sims General Store is an essential stop to browse country wares and antiques while chatting up the friendly locals.

No. 8 – Wine Country Tour

Starting Location: Hermann, MO
Ending Location: St. Charles, MO
Length: 72 miles
Best Season to Drive: Spring, Summer, and Fall
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Missouri is home to several vineyards of note, especially in this northeast region of the state off of Highway 94. This is largely due to the influence of the Missouri River, which over time created the fertile valleys so conducive to growing grapes, but it also makes for a lovely drive. Although there are many wineries to choose from for tours and samples, the Montelle Winery in Augusta and Stone Hill Winery in Hermann are perhaps the most popular.

No. 7 – Highway 106

Starting Location: Houston, MO
Ending Location: Ellington, MO
Length: 69 miles
Best Season to Drive: Spring, Summer, and Fall
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There is no shortage of recreational opportunities on this route along the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. Alley Spring is an ideal place to stop for a picnic beneath the dogwood trees and dip a toe in the water to cool off in warmer months. The Rocky Creek Conservation Area appeals to wildlife lovers of all sorts and has several hiking trails to get a closer look at the native flora and fauna.

No. 6 – Rolla-Salem Loop

Starting Location: Rolla, MO
Ending Location: Rolla, MO
Length: 86 miles
Best Season to Drive: Spring, Summer, and Fall
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This lovely drive through rural Missouri and along a portion of what was once part of Route 66 showcases a simpler time in the state’s history and its natural splendor. Although the roads are a tad rough in spots, the lettered highways are quite smooth with fewer twists and turns. Salem is a good town for stopping and stretching your legs, as there are quite a few historic buildings of interest, including the one-room Lower Park School House.

No. 5 – Glade Top Trail

Starting Location: Rolla, MO
Ending Location: Theodosia, MO
Length: 189 miles
Best Season to Drive: Spring, Summer, and Fall See this drive on Google Maps

Bordering the Hercules Glades Wilderness Area and passing through some of the Mark Twain National Forest, expect panoramic views of the rolling countryside below a narrow ridge this route traverses. The town of Ava is known for its good barbecue and the presence of the rarely seen smoke tree. In Theodosia, the spring season brings countless blooms and the opportunity for birders to spot the Bachman sparrow and roadrunner.

No. 4 – Little Dixie Highway

Starting Location: Hannibal, MO
Ending Location: St. Louis, MO
Length: 117 miles
Best Season to Drive: Spring, Summer, and Fall
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Travelers along this route may feel transported back in time to the Old South with the views of plantation-style mansions and streetscapes evoking the Victorian era. With the trip’s close proximity to the Mississippi River, it isn’t unusual to see waterfowl, including eagles, snatching meals from the water. In the quaint town of Clarksville, the riverfront district is full of shops with artisans of all manners.

No. 3 – Old Trails Road

Starting Location: Lexington, MO
Ending Location: Napoleon, MO
Length: 12 miles
Best Season to Drive: Spring, Summer, and Fall
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Although this drive between Lexington and Napoleon isn’t very long, it can set the basis for a pleasant morning or afternoon when taken leisurely and explored. It runs just below the Missouri River, so recreational opportunities like fishing and swimming are always close by. In Napoleon, tour the downtown district and its historic buildings to learn about the town’s past role as a trading post.

No. 2 – Missouri Leg of Great River Road

Starting Location: Cape Girardeau, MO
Ending Location: New Madrid, MO
Length: 53 miles
Best Season to Drive: Spring, Summer, and Fall
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This portion of the Great River Road passing through the state is particularly beautiful as it winds near the mighty Mississippi River and through Fort Defiance State Park, where the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers meet. Stop in Mark Twain’s home town of Hannibal, where several museums have been established in his honor. Visitors may even want to peek at the Mark Twain Cave there, which served as inspiration for some of Tom Sawyer’s adventures.

No. 1 – Blue Buck Knob Scenic Byway

Starting Location: Branson, MO
Ending Location: West Plains, MO
Length: 112 miles
Best Season to Drive: Spring, Summer, and Fall
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This scenic drive through Missouri’s Ozark hill country cuts right through the heart of the Mark Twain National Forest, full of hardwoods and pines. A flowing stream to drop a line for trout or crappie is never far with the Noblett Lake Recreation Area, where two streams and a lake reside, being a prime location for fishing and other water fun. There, visitors can also take the nine-mile hike around the lake or picnic beneath sugar maples and shortleaf pines.

This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as Top 10 Scenic Drives in Missouri and was authored by Elan McAfee.


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