• Hannibal, Missouri to St. Louis on the Great River Road

      150 miles - about 4 hours

      Starting from Hannibal, a town that captures the American literary imagination, this route is the stuff of legends. From the front seat of your car, you'll see the merging of the mighty Mississippi, the historic Illinois, and majestic Missouri Rivers. You'll be zooming down a perfect stretch of highway, the Mississippi river directly to your right and large tree lined bluffs to your left, making this a perfect drive for fall 'leaf peeping.' The route ends at the Gateway to the West - the St. Louis Arch.

      Here are some highlights along the route.

      Hannibal, Missouri (Starting point)
      Known as America's Hometown, Hannibal might as well be known as the greatest Mississippi River town ever. After all, it was home to the greatest icon the Mississippi River will ever have. Samuel L. Clemens, otherwise known as the famous Mark Twain, used his hometown as a source of inspiration for his books The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. You can visit the Mark Twain boyhood home museum, the Mark Twain cave, stay at historic bed-and-breakfasts, eat some great home cooked food, and enjoy the essence of a true American town.

      Louisiana, Missouri (Mile 25)
      If you are on the road here in October, you can enjoy the 50 Miles of Art, a gallery and studio tour that stretches from Hannibal to Louisiana, and then on to Clarksville. The area also hosts other festivities like the Autumn Historic Folklife Festival in Hannibal, the Applefest in Clarksdale, and the Autumn colorfest in Louisiana.

      Kampsville, Illinois (Mile 68)
      Kampsville and the surrounding areas are in the heart of one of the world's most archeologically rich regions, known as the 'Nile of North America.' The Center for American Archeology is open seasonally and makes a nice place to pause on the road trip. It also hosts programs such as 'Family Dig It' weekend in the summer, and 'Adult Excavation Weekend' in the early fall.

      Pere Marquette, Illinois (Mile 93)
      Illinois' largest State Park comprises some 8,050 square miles and is home to amazing fall colors in the fall, eagle watching in the winter, and endless fun in the spring and summer. It's named after Jacques Marquette, who was one of the first Europeans to reach the confluence of the Mississippi and Illinois rivers in 1673.

      Grafton, Illinois (Mile 98)
      Located only 5 miles east of Perre Marquette State Park is the bustling and picturesque little river town of Grafton. It has a busy main street full of small inns, antiques, restaurants, and other small businesses.

      Elsah, Illinois (Mile 102)
      If you need to stretch your feet a little more, you can park and walk around this adorable historic village. Described as the 'New England of the Midwest', Elsah is an excellent example of historic preservation, the entire village is on the National Register of Historical Places.

      Alton, Illinois( (Mile 115)
      Developed as a river town in 1818, Alton has a rich history and was once played an important role in the Underground Railroad. It was also home to the world's tallest man, Robert Wadlow. Also known as the Alton Giant, he was 8 feet 11.5 inches tall. There is a memorial to him (and a life-sized statue) on College Avenue. The Piasa Bird, a mural painted by Native Americans and discovered by Marquette in 1673, can be seen on the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi just outside Alton.

      St. Louis, Missouri (Mile 150)
      St. Louis, known as the 'Gateway to the West' was founded in 1764. In 1904 it hosted both the World's Fair and the Olympics. It's a great place to grab a piece of St. Louis-style pizza or perhaps some BBQ, and then tempt fate by riding in an egg-shaped tram car up to the top of the Gateway Arch. Be sure to watch the film of the arch's construction in the visitor center. It's truly amazing!

      The St. Louis Arch also known as the
      'Gateway to the West' is a memorable attraction
      on the Great River Road
      Photo courtesy of iStockPhoto.com / © Jeremy Edwards
      Click here for more photos of this route by Megan Baker

      Comments 2 Comments
      1. Mark Sedenquist's Avatar
        Mark Sedenquist -
        That's an interesting view of the St. Louis Arch, I've taken dozens and dozens from the other side of the river, but not from this viewpoint.

      1. Paid2Drive's Avatar
        Paid2Drive -
        I love this drive. I remember seeing tens of thousands of migratory birds up north of Grafton. We used to do the short version and went north from St. Louis to the ferries around Perre Marquette Park that would take you back to St. Charles, Mo (another great river town on the Missouri). How, I miss St. Louis.