Road tripping with the kids to see a castle

A castle in Missouri?

Surrounding by miles of trails, a natural bridge, sinkholes, a spring and more beautiful natural wonders?

We’re talking about Ha Ha Tonka State Park, which is an Osage Indian phrase meaning smiling or laughing waters and spans 3,700 acres on the Niangua arm of the Lake of the Ozarks. And it’s a great place to road trip with your kids.

The stone castle, carriage house and water tower were built by Kansas City businessman Robert Snyder around the turn of the century. A fire in 1942 gutted the castle and carriage house, and in 1976, vandals burned the water tower. Today, the ruins overlook the park and provide amazing views of the lake and wooded hills.

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The Karst geology (the landscape formed from the dissolution of soluble rocks such as limestone) is featured throughout Ha Ha Tonka with the best display being the natural bridge that is 70 feet wide and is more than 100 feet high.

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Fifteen miles of trails and boardwalks throughout make it easy for visitors to explore woods, wildflowers and wildlife.

Spring Trail features 316 wooden stairs down to a bubbling spring below (or up as it was for us because of where we began our day. And 316 steps up is obviously – and painfully – more difficult that 316 steps down).

There’s so much to see and enjoy, you could spend a couple of hours here or a couple of days.

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The park also offers boating, fishing and swimming with camping nearby and plenty of accommodations around the lake.

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