DAY 4 PLAN: Chicago to Meramec State Park



DRIVE: Chicago, IL to St. Louis, MO to Meramec State Park

  • early check-out hotel
  • DEP Chicago ** START ROUTE 66 HERE **
  • DRIVE Chicago / Springfield (IL) / St. Louis / Meramec State Park
    (approx. 500 miles / 9 hours)
  • RESUPPLY en route
  • HIKE Memory Lane, Lexington IL
  • (optional: VISIT Shea’s gas station museum, Springfield)
  • (optional: VISIT Henry’s Ra66it Ranch, Staunton)
  • **CAUTION** – If stopping to walk Chain of Rocks Bridge, take ALL valuables/leave someone with the vehicle, as there are frequent smash-and-grab robberies in the parking area according to recent sit reps.
  • (optional: VISIT Times Beach Rt 66 Park)
  • ARR  Meramec State Park
  • Set up camp

NITE: Developed Park Campsite / Meramec State Park, MO


DEP: 0830 – Chicago IL
(DRIVE: 200 miles / 3.5 hours = 4.0 hours estimated segment time)

DEP: 1230 – Springfield IL
(DRIVE: 125 miles / 2.0 hours = 4.0 hours estimated segment time)

DEP: 1630 – St. Louis MO
(DRIVE: 170 miles / 3.0 hours = 3.5 hours estimated segment time)

ARR: 2000 – Meramec State Park MO
(495 miles / 8.5 hours drive / 11.5 hours estimated travel)




ACTIVITIES EN ROUTE from Chicago to Meramec State Park:

Memory Lane – Lexington, IL. phone: 309-365-8105

  • Lace up your walking shoes and check out life in the past lane along this slice of Mother Road, built in 1926. No vehicles are allowed, but you’ll enjoy this amble through the woods, dotted with classic billboards. While you’re at it, check out the nearby Towanda Geographic Journey Linear Parkway (say that fast three times), another stretch of old road that offers a nostalgic stroll
  • Directions: From 1-55, take exit 178 and drive 3/4 mile east to Old Route 66 and turn left; 1 mile north of downtown Lexington, IL.

Shea’s Gas Station Museum – 2075 Peoria Rd., Springfield, IL. Phone: 217-522-0475.

  • Visit Bill Shea at his Route 66 Gas Station Museum in Springfield, Illinois. The museum consists of a porcelain panel “icebox” station and an all metal station building moved there from a nearby site. Bill is a delightful guy to talk to, with a wealth of experiences. Enjoy the pics. That Champion air compressor is a thing of beauty and still works. (Private collection of gas station and Route 66 memorabilia by a lifetime local Texaco dealer.)
  • Directions: From I-55 exit north Bus Rte 55, then right on Grand, left on 9th. 2075 Peoria Rd., Springfield, Illinois.
  • Hours: Tuesday – Friday 8 a – 4p, Saturday 8a – 12p.
  • FEE: $2 admission.

Henry’s Ra66it Ranch – 1107 Historic Old Route 66, Staunton, Illinois. Phone: 618-635-5655 (see the website)

  • This modern attraction celebrates Route 66 and the people along the highway with its emporium of highway and trucking memorabilia that includes a collection of Campbell’s 66 Express “Humpin’ to Please” trailers next to a replica of a vintage gas station. This attraction offers all things about rabbits: Volkswagons or the furry kind.
  • Directions: in Staunton IL, on Old Route 66, watch for signs as you approach.
  • Hours: April-November: Open Monday – Saturday 8 am until dusk. Or, call for appointment.

Route 66 State Park – 97 North Outer Road, Suite 1, Eureka, MO 63025. Phone: 636-938-7198 (see the website)

  • Route 66 State Park showcases the history and mystique of a highway that has been called “The Main Street of America.” The historic Route 66 has come to represent American mobility, independence and spirit of adventure, and the park has captured the essence of the highway in its displays and array of recreation options. Located along the original Route 66 corridor, the nearly 419-acre park is a boon to park visitors who want to enjoy nature and see interesting historical displays showcasing Route 66. Bridgehead Inn, a 1935 roadhouse, serves as Route 66 State Park’s visitor center. It houses Route 66 memorabilia and interprets the environmental success story of the former resort community of Times Beach, which once thrived on the location of the park.
  • no camping
  • Directions: From I-44 west take Exit 266/Lewis Road; follow the road to the right and then curve to the left. Continue past the West Tyson County Park entrance to the stop sign at Lewis Road. After crossing Lewis Road, you will see the visitor center on the left.

LODGING: Meramec State Park
(an hour and a half drive past St. Louis).
115 Meramec Park Drive, Sullivan, MO 63080
(see park website)
Telephone: 573-468-6072

Meramec State Park Campgrounds offers basic, electric and sewer/electric/water campsites. On-season (April through October) services include reservable sites, a dump station, showers, water and laundry. (Basic Campsite=Parking pad, table, grill and lantern post/Electric Campsite=Parking pad, table, grill, lantern post and electric power supply)

RATES: $21/nite in season (for “electric campsite”, “basic” is only $13/night but there are very few). PLUS $8.50 to make a reservation.

Meramec State Park is approximately 1 hour 15 minutes from the St. Louis area. Travel west on I-44 to Exit 226/Sullivan/Hwy. 185 South. After exiting, turn left to travel over I-44 and continue for three miles south on Hwy. 185. The state park entrance is on the right side.

  • Campsites 1-180 (in Sections 1, 2 and 3). open and reservable year-round
  • Campsites 181-188 (in Section 3) open for first-come, first-served use daily April through September
  • Campsites 189-210 (in Section 3) open and reservable daily April 1 through Sept. 1.


2 JAN 2010: we need to decide if we spend the night IN St. Louis in a hotel… or if we kind of just pass thru and spend the night in a campground either before or after. There are no great national park campgrounds here, but i have located a couple of state parks nearby… and if all else fails there are the KOA campgrounds to either side of the city (though if we had to stay at one of them, i would prefer the “historic route 66″ one… i guess… )… Also, if we actually want to DO anything in St. Louis (it is still pretty early in the trip and we would have just come from Chicago… and i am thinking it might be better to spend our “free” time in some of the odd towns than in the city here… there are some good walking/discovery opportunities during the day between Chicago and here… there is a “memory trail” walk along an inaccessible part of the old road, and the merrimac caverns which is some kind of intersting cave i guess… and other things which might make more interesting experiences… not really sure what the city of St. Louis has to offer (we can get some ideas by looking at the AAA guide pdf, i guess… what do you think?

11 JAN 2010: i think we should plan on getting an early start on our departure from Chicago, then making a stop along the way at “Memory Lane” for a break (in Illinois), then try to drive all the way thru to Meramec State park to set up camp for the night. In the morning we can visit the cavern and do a canoe trip on the river, then either stay another night, or make some headway toward the next stop and stay some place in between…

Day 4 Lodging – suggesting we stay at Meramec State park (with a reserved campsite) or perhaps at the Meramec Caverns campground

Day 5 Lodging – suggesting we try to get a little further down the route and plan on picking up a lodging on the way.

17 MAR 2010: HOTEL RESERVATION DONE: Confirmed our reservations for Meramec State park campground.

Access to Meramec State Park is restricted by a gate that closes at 10 p.m. from April through October. Campers planning to arrive after daily gate closure time should contact the facility at 573.468.6072 the day before arrival for instruction on late entry procedures.

Directions: Take I-44 to Exit 226/Sullivan/Hwy. 185 South. Take Hwy. 185 south three miles; the state park entrance is on the right side.