If you are just getting into hiking or backpacking, this is my list of the 5 hikes that are great for beginners!
Ha Ha Tonka is just a really neat place in general. There are many trails of varying lengths. None of them are difficult. The most difficult walk (hike) at Ha Ha Tonka is getting up to see the castle ruins. However, if you really want to start getting into backpacking and/or hiking, I recommend the Turkey Pen Hollow trail. It's one of my favorite trails in the state. Good any time of the year. Has some different scenery and several spots with varied views. Would be okay for kids, but a little much for young ones. There is a shortcut trail about halfway thru. The Turkey Pen Hollow is the most isolated trail at Ha Ha Tonka. Backpacking is allowed at a specified camp. Ive camped there twice. The camp is beside a creek, but it was dry both times we were there. The camp is flat and there is plenty of room. Expect animals around at night. There are some other shorter trails that would be excellent choices for young kids to start them out on biking!
Rock Bridge has a lot of trails. The best choice for beginners would be on the east side of the highway. They are relatively easy but there are some areas that have a little climb. Rock Bridge is great for year-round hiking as well. Gorgeous in the summer; however, in the winter, you can get up to the top and overlook the river...really nice scenic views. A plus for beginner's is the trails are varying lengths and intersect with each other, allowing you to shorten or lengthen your hike depending on how things are going. Another plus is that it's close enough to Columbia so that it is pretty heavily used and if you should get into trouble, someone will come along shortly.
A nice, relatively easy hike with the bonus of going through the "natural tunnel." Easy enough for beginners but fun for the whole family!
Prairie State Park is a very unique place. Very easy to hike. Lots of choices of trails. And the views are amazing. Don't expect woods or trees here but what you will get is prairie....and a lot of it. With the added bonus that you can actually hike right beside the buffalo. Not to many places to do that in this area. There are several trails available, none difficult. This park is not used very much. I've been there twice and pretty much had the wide-open prairie to myself on both occasions! PrairieState Park is quite a ways from most other hiking areas, but do yourself a favor and go here at least once. This is a must-see for children. If you stop at the visitor center, they will tell you where the bison are that day. Dont miss out on this ne!
In narrowing down this list to 5 hikes, I'd tried to pick areas that were scattered around the state rather than all being in one group. Weston tops off that list by being north of all of the others. Weston Bend State Park is just an outright fun place. There are quite a few trails. If you want the most bang for your buck, pick the bicycle trail. It's the right length, easy going since it is a service road. The best feature is that it runs alongside the Missouri River. Another tip is that the trail goes right into the town of Weston, which is an adorable community. Hike the trail to town and have a nice lunch! Great day! Easy hikes.