Johnson Shut-Ins State Park in Middle Brook, Missouri

Johnson Shut-Ins State Park

When thinking about scenic places to visit in the United States, most would not typically think of traveling to the Midwest. But in southeast Missouri, there are many amazing state parks that are enough for every adventure enthusiast to fall for.

When we lived in St. Louis, this became one of our favorite places to go camping and hiking on a weekend due to the amazing established campsites and the scenic natural beauty that surrounded us. We hope this post will inspire you to travel to this scenic gem in Missouri!

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Where is Johnson Shut-Ins State Park?

Johnson Shut-Ins State Park is located in the town of Middle Brook in southeast Missouri, about 2 hours south of St. Louis. It is also close to another popular St. Louis day trip or hiking spot, Taum Sauk Mountain.

When is The Best Time to Visit?

Johnson Shut-Ins State Park
Hiking on the rocks at Johnson Shut-Ins.

The best time to visit Johnson Shut-Ins is during the late spring or summer months because you can enjoy swimming in the Shut-Ins. But if you aren’t interested in swimming, the best time for hiking is early spring or fall when you can observe the Shut-Ins and enjoy the mild temperatures at your campsite.

Although the summer months are perfect weather for swimming in the chilly waters, it is also the most popular time to visit this Missouri State Park, so keep that in mind when booking a campsite or visiting on a day trip.

READ MORE: A Quick Travel Guide to St. Louis

Hiking Trails

Johnson Shut-Ins State Park hiking view.
View from our hike at Johnson Shut-Ins State Park.

One of our favorite outdoor activities is hiking, especially when there is something to look forward too that makes the hike worth it! The Johnson Shut-Ins State Park has a few different trails to choose from with varying levels of difficulty and length

Hiking Trails in the Park

Shut-Ins Trail

  • Difficulty: Easy/Moderate
  • Length: 2.25 miles
  • Time: 1-2 hours
  • What to Expect: Boardwalk for wheelchair access that takes you to a view of the Shut-Ins, some difficult rock staircase areas that offer scenic views from above, a few water features.

Black River Trail (Red Trail Markers)

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Length: 2 miles
  • Time: 1-2 hours
  • What to Expect: The Shut-Ins main trail, many information pavilions, boulder field, and views of the Shut-Ins

Scour Trail (Red Trail Markers)

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Length: 1.5-miles
  • Time: 1-1.5 hours
  • What to Expect: Overlook views and access to the scour channel.

Horseshoe Glade Trail (Orange Trail Markers)

  • Difficulty: Easy/Moderate
  • Length: 1.5-miles
  • Time: 1-1.5 hours
  • What to Expect: Heavily wooded forest, view of the St. Francois Mountains and the Black River.

Goggins Mountain Equestrian Trail (Yellow Trail Markers)

  • Difficulty: Moderate/Difficult
  • Length: 10 miles (loop)
  • Time: 4-10 hours
  • What to Expect: Open to hikers and horses, heavily wooded and far from paved pathways.

Our favorite trail is the Shut-Ins Trail which starts at a level boardwalk and takes you to a view of the shut-ins from above (0.3 miles) so if you aren’t up for a lengthy hike you can go this far and stop.

However, if you decide to continue on the Shut-Ins Trail the journey is about 2.25 miles round-trip and offers many scenic spots to stop along the way. Halfway through the hike, we came across a beautiful waterfall that we stopped at to rest before continuing on to finish to the lower half of the Shut-Ins.

READ MORE: Elephant Rocks State Park

The Campgrounds at Johnson Shut-Ins


Johnson Shut-Ins offers a variety of camping sites from walk-in, basic, electric, sewer/water/electric, and equestrian electric/water campsites.

All sites are reservable on a first-come, first-serve basis so it’s best to book early and for weekend reservations it is mandatory to book two nights. Each of the campsites has shower houses close by and there is even a campground store located in the center of the camping area in case you need some basic supplies.

Basic/Walk-In Campsite

Camping Fees: $13 (April-October), $12 (November-March)

Electric Premium Campsite

Camping Fees: $23 (April-October), $21 (November-March)

Electric/Water Premium Campsite

Camping Fees: $25 (April-October), $21 (November-March)

Sewer/Electric/Water Premium Campsite

Camping Fees: $28 (April-October), $24 (November-March)

Park Hours: 8am-6pm (March through Wednesday before Memorial Day, Day after Labor Day through October), 8am-7pm (Thursday before Memorial Day through Labor Day), 8am-4pm (November-February)

What are some of your favorite local or state parks?

Johnson Shut-Ins State Park in Middle Brook is one of the most beautiful State Parks to visit in Missouri with hiking trails, swimming holes, and campsites.


  • Reply
    Elephant Rocks State Park – Pages of Travel
    June 21, 2016 at 7:54 PM

    […] inviting Missouri state park located close to the Johnson Shut-Ins is Elephant Rocks State Park. Getting its name from the gigantic boulders that stand end-to-end […]

  • Reply
    January 14, 2017 at 5:09 PM

    Oh what gorgeous photos! It looks beautiful. Is most of the trail covered in a wooden walkway like that photo or is much of it more uneven footing? I wonder if moderate difficulty might be too much for me!

  • Reply
    January 14, 2017 at 9:03 PM

    Looks like a really nice hike. Your photos look lovely. If I am in the area I would definitely go here. Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply
    January 15, 2017 at 12:12 PM

    Geesh, I need to get out more. I cannot believe that is in Missouri. I think I need to spend some time discovering that state. 😉 The photos are incredible.

  • Reply
    January 15, 2017 at 7:30 PM

    Your photos are great! I’ve never heard of this nat’l park but I would love to visit. I’m happy anywhere next to water.

  • Reply
    Joan Torres
    January 17, 2017 at 2:59 AM

    I’m amazed that you guys in the USA have the an endless number of amazing National Parks. I’m so jealous! I’m seeing lately loads of people posting about different parks with an amazing landscape. The Johnson Shut-Ins State Park is gorgeous. Incredible pictures. Another to put on my travel bucket list!

  • Reply
    Chrysoula Manika
    January 17, 2017 at 3:06 PM

    Wow your photos convinced me to do the hike also. What an amazing place, the natural beauty is simply breathtaking

  • Reply
    January 18, 2017 at 12:14 AM

    Looks stunningly beautiful! I have a theory that the State parks throughout the US are actually far better than the national parks. You get into the national parks and they’re so micro managed and too many tourists, where-as state parks like this are somewhat of a hidden gem in comparison, and much calmer too!! Johnson Shut-Ins State Park sounds wonderful – haven’t been but want to!

  • Reply
    January 19, 2017 at 6:12 AM

    Green and refreshing. That bridge through the forest is so appealing. You just made me pine for a vacation in a rainforest.

  • Reply
    January 19, 2017 at 9:30 AM

    I love hiking and much more if there’s a promise of refreshing sights of water in between/at the end. Love your photos, how long did it take you total?

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