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10 Best Places to Camp Near Kansas City

If you live in Kansas City, you don’t need to go far to find a good spot to camp. Camping is a great way to spend time with your family or friends, but spending a whole day in the car out and back makes it difficult for weekend camping trips. That’s why I narrowed down my top five favorite campgrounds within an hour of KC and my top five camping areas within three hours of Kansas City. This way you can spend less time driving and more time enjoying nature. 

Walk-In Campsite at Johnson Shut-Ins State Park

I chose these areas because the campsites are either large and shaded and/or there are great activities nearby that will keep you busy all weekend. Some of these areas are not far from towns, if you would prefer to drive into town to get meals instead of cooking. 

Places to Camp Near Kansas City Within One hour:

Watkins Mill State Park, Excelsior Springs, Missouri

If you’re looking for big, shaded campsites, boating, biking, hiking, paved trails, swimming, fishing, or history then Watkins Woolen Mill is the place for you. The campsite is within walking distance of the lake, which has a 3-mile paved loop trail around it, perfect for walking or biking. The lake also has a boat ramp on the opposite side of the lake as well as a beach. 

If you like history, be sure to visit the Watkins Woolen Mill Visitors Center to learn more about the historic mill and farm here. You can take a tour of the land and go inside the old farmhouse and mill. 

There are 96 campsites, 74 with electric hookups. There is a shower house, vault toilets, laundry facility, potable water, accessible sites, a playground, and firewood for sale. 

Wallace State Park, Cameron, Missouri 

In my opinion, Wallace State Park is one of the most underrated state parks in the Northwest Missouri/ Northeast Kansas region. This area boasts beautiful views, a small fishing lake, great trails, and four beautiful campgrounds. For hikers, I recommend the .6-mile Rocky Ford Loop hiking trail with a rocky waterfall and the 1.1-mile Old Quarry Trail with a wooden boardwalk. 

The campgrounds have a playground, shower house, vault toilets, accessible sites, and both electric and basic options. Some of the campsites in Campground One are next to a cliff. There is a wooden fence, but if you have toddlers I recommend booking one of the sites in the inner loop if you stay at Campground One. 

Weston Bend State Park, Weston Missouri 

This might be the most popular state park in the Kansas City region, but it is for good reason. This is one of the most beautiful spots in the area to see fall foliage in the fall, there is a lookout with expansive views of the Missouri River, and the hiking trails are unmatched. Naturally, all of this makes it a great spot to camp because you’re near so much nature. 

Weston, Missouri is known for its cute shops and local eateries. If you’re looking to be immersed in nature during the day, but skip cooking dinner or grabbing a coffee in the morning, then this is a great option. Downtown Weston is a short drive from the campground. 

There are electric and basic sites. The campground has a shower house, vault toilets, accessible sites, potable water, a dump station, and a woodlot. 

Smithville Lake, Smithville, Missouri 

Smithville Lake is one of our favorite summer day trips. We love to paddle, bike, fish, and hike at Smithville Lake, but having the option to camp for the night or weekend just makes it even better! There is a swim beach, stand up paddle board or kayak rentals, 26-miles of paved biking and hiking trails, 11-miles of single-track mountain biking and hiking trails, and fishing. Camp Branch Marina has boat rentals, fishing gear, and supplies. 

There are 752 campsites at Smithville Lake. There are 346 campsites at Camp Branch Campground, including 200 electric sites and 146 basic ones. At Crow’s Creek Campground, there are 406 sites, with 134 basic sites, 181 electric sites, and 91 sites with both water and electricity. Each campground has a dump station, shower house, and playground. 

Clinton Lake, Lawrence, Kansas 

If you are looking for a campground close to Kansas City, Clinton Lake is a great option. Clinton Lake has a lot of features the other campgrounds do not have such as an archery range, a children’s fishing pond, mountain bike skills course, sand volleyball court, 3-acre trout pond, and a fish cleaning station. There are also 25-miles of hiking and biking trails, an 18-hole disc golf course, and a swim beach. There are also cabins if you’re camping with family or friends who would prefer to sleep on a bed. 

There are 378 campsites: 135 have water and electricity (30 amp, 20 amp plugs), 61 sites with water and electricity (50 amp, 20 amp plug ins), and 173 primitive sites. There are shower houses, playgrounds, woodlots, and a dump station. 

Places to Camp Near Kansas City Within Three Hours: 

Coler Mountain Bike Preserve, Bentonville, AR 

If the Four Seasons hotel ever got into designing fancy campgrounds, I think it would look like Coler Mountain Bike Preserve. If you like biking, then this will be the absolute coolest spot for you and your family to camp. It’s got over 20 miles of trails for all levels, from paved paths, to easy dirt trails to intense jumps. The first time we went we just walked the trail and my kids practiced on their balance bikes. The bikers inspired my kids to try some dirt paths and they were in awe of the bikers doing tricks and jumps. 

Another great thing about this trail, is there is an outdoor coffee shop with cute swings and a rooftop terrace called Airship. If camping in a beautiful forest with epic biking trails does not blow your mind, then surely knowing it’s only a short walk or bike ride to coffee in the morning will. They also serve food if you would like to grab a meal there. 

Coler Mountain Bike Preserve is only 5 minutes from downtown Bentonville. Bentonville is a vibrant and fun city with lots of beautiful trails, a great art scene, good food, and a cute-small town feel. If you get a chance to visit, don’t miss Crystal Bridges Art Museum, The Momentary, the Eight Street Market, or The Walmart Museum. 

There are 16 campsites at Coler Mountain Bike Preserve. Parking is not next to your campsite, so be prepared to haul your things. There are carts available. The campsites have wooden platforms for the tents and are stacked on a hill. The shower houses look like they should be featured in a modern architecture magazine and are near the parking lots. There are individual fire pits at each camping site, but there is also a group fire pit closer to the parking lot. There is one ADA accessible campsite. 

Places to Camp Near Kansas City

Red Rock Lake, near Pella, Iowa 

If you’re looking for a campsite within walking distance of a beach, bike trails, and a nature playground, the North Overlook Campground on Lake Red Rock is the perfect spot. It can be booked on Recreation.gov. There is hiking, fishing, and lake access nearby. 

Places to Camp Near Kansas City

This campground is only 8 minutes from Pella, Iowa. Pella is known for its Dutch influence including multiple windmills, beautiful gardens and flowers, a canal with a drawbridge, a moving clock, Dutch bakeries, and Dutch delis and food. We camped here for the Tulip Time Festival in Pella and it was a close, affordable, and beautiful place to stay. Twelve minutes away there is Cordova Observation Tower. It has a lookout of the beautiful lake. 

The campsites are shaded and there is a playground in the center. There are both standard electric and tent non-electric sites. There is a shower house, dump station, and drinking water. 

Places to Camp Near Kansas City

Indian Cave State Park, Shubert, Nebraska

Did you know there are petroglyphs in the Midwest? Yes! A few places, but some can be found at Indian Cave State Park. This park is named after a large, open-mouthed half cave with carvings in it. Unfortunately, it is hard to spot most of the carvings because they have been vandalized, but you can still make out a few that are high up. 

This park has expansive views of the Missouri River, great hikes, hike-in campsites and hammock sites, an archery range, boating, biking, equestrian trails, and hunting. 

Places to Camp Near Kansas City

There are electric and primitive campsites. The primitive campsites have their own shower houses, water, and electric hookups.There are also 134 campsites for RV hook up. Each site has a grill and campfire.

Camp Near Kansas City

Roaring River State Park, Cassville, Missouri 

Roaring River State Park is most famous for its bright blue water cascading from a natural spring between two rocks. It is also a fish hatchery managed by the Missouri Department of Conservation. They regularly release fish into the water, making it one of the best spots to trout fish in Missouri. 

There are some beautiful hiking trails, bluffs with beautiful views, and cabins and a lodge for any of your friends or family who are joining you but do not want to camp. There is a river running through the park with cold, clear water rushing over small rocky falls. 

There are three different campgrounds with both electric and basic sites. They include amenities such as shower houses, dump stations, laundry facilities, potable water, and accessible campsites. 

Camp Near Kansas City

Finger Lakes State Park, Columbia, Missouri 

Want to give new life to a series of mines that have been hollowed out and emptied? Fill them with water and make them into lakes! At least that is what they did at Finger Lakes State Park. They created a GPS-mapped waterway, think of it like a mapped hiking trail–but for paddling! You can follow different color buoys like a trail and keep track of your location and distance. 

Not into paddling? This state park also has a swim beach, pump park, off-roading area, fishing, biking, and hiking. It is very close to Pinnacles Youth Park, an interesting and difficult trail with unique rock formations I have never seen anywhere else in Missouri. It’s about 20 minutes from Rock Bridge Memorial State Park which has a cold underground opening called the Devil’s Box, a cave, and an expansive rock bridge. It’s 15 minutes from downtown Columbia, if you’re looking for a place to eat or go out nearby. 

There are basic and electric sites. The campsite is open year-around but the shower house is closed in the winter. There are vault toilets, a shower house, a dump station, a woodlot, a playground, a water tap, and accessible sites. 

Camp Near Kansas City

Looking for more great spots to get outdoors? Check out this post about the 11 Most Beautiful State and National Parks in the Midwest. Looking for something a little closer to Kansas City? Check out this blog post about the Best Waterfalls In and Around Kansas City.

If you are in need of some amazing Camping Gear, see our family recommendations here.

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