Thousand Hills State Park

Thousand Hills State Park

Thousand Hills State Park surrounds the 700 acre Forest Lake which is the centerpiece of the park. Spend the afternoon swimming, canoes, and fishing. In between days on the water, you can go to the interpretive center to see the Native American Petroglyphs and learn about them.


Thousand Hills State Park is located on the west side of Kirksville, MO. It is about a three hour drive northeast from Kansas City. Take I-35 North to Cameron, then take 36 East to MO-11 and take MO-11 North the rest of the way to Kirksville. From St. Louis, the park is a 4 hour drive. Take 61 North to 36 West until you get to 63 North, and take that the rest of the way into Kirksville.

Camping in Thousand Hills State Park

There are two campgrounds in Thousand Hills State Park, both located just off Missouri-157. Campground Two is located on the main road of the park, closer to the Petroglyphs, Marina, and Cabins. Between the two campgrounds, there are 15 basic campsites, and 38 electric sites. There are also 3 accessible sites.


At Thousand Hills State Park, there are seven duplex cabins available to stay in, for a total of 14 rental units available. A few of the units are dog friendly, for an additional fee. Cabins 1-8 are right on the lakefront, and Cabins 9-14 are on the hill behind the first cabins.

Check out the Store for cabin rental information and prices.


There are four trails in the park, (one of them is not yet complete) ranging in length from 1/5 of a mile, to 10 miles long. With this big of a range, you are sure to find one that fits the sweet spot of your interest.

Oak Trail

The Oak Trail is a short trail, that should only take you about ten minutes to complete. The trail takes you to an overlook where you can see one of the park shelters, and Forest Lake.

Red Bud Trail

Probably the most popular trail, at a little more than a mile long, it is long enough while still being accessible to the majority of park visitors. Depending on your pace, it will take you between an hour and an hour and a half to complete the trail. The trail goes through the hilly woods, and takes you along the edge of Forest Lake in Craig’s Cove.

Thousand Hills Trail

The Thousand Hills Trail is the longest trail in the park, at ten miles long. Only for serious hikers, it will take you 10 or 11 hours to complete, or you can take one of the connectors to shorten your hike. Besides hikers, it is also popluar with mountain bikers. Thousand Hills Trail is a dirt trail, going through hilly and rugged wooded terrain. From this trail, you can see several restoration units, aiming to return the land to its original savanna. The trail also goes along Forest Lake for a portion of the trail.

Forest Lake Trail

The Forest Lake Trail is the newest trail, and is still under construction. It is an easy trail, that will take you about 20 minutes to do one way, or 40 minutes if you go both ways. The trail runs from the dining lodge, through the main part of the park by the cabins, swimming beach and the petroglyph site. The trail will be paved, so it is good for an easy bicycle ride, and it is accessible for wheelchairs and strollers, with views of Forest Lake.

Forest Lake

Fishing in Forest Lake

Fishing is popular on Forest Lake. You can fish for largemouth bass, walleye, channel catfish, and crappie. Be sure to comply with the park and state fishing regulations.


Near the Dining Lodge, there is a paved boat ramp you can use to launch your boat. Boats are required to have a city permit, and you must also have a park boat launch permit. Motorized boats under 90 horsepower are allowed on the lake. Paddle boats, kayaks, canoes, and pontoons and fishing boats can be rented from the marina.


There is a swimming beach open until 7 during the season, with showers nearby. The beach does not have lifeguards, and pets and alcohol are not allowed on the beach.


A popular attraction at Thousand Hills State Park is the parks petroglyphs site. These petroglyphs are rock carvings, left behind by the areas Native Americans more than 1,500 years ago. One of the park shelters has an interpretive center to teach visitors about the petroglyphs. Park staff also do nature walks where you can learn about the petroglyphs and the park.

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