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Hiking the Ozarks

By: Michael Ayo

Publish Date: September 14, 2016

Fall is fast approaching, and with it comes the changing of colors and temperatures. The heat of summer makes it hard to spend hours outdoors exploring the wilderness. However, the cooling temperatures of fall make it the perfect time to do just that. When the weather starts to cool off, know where in Branson you can find hiking trails to fully take advantage of the crisp temperatures.

There are several parks and areas located throughout the Ozarks that feature some of the best hiking trails in Southwest Missouri. With the large amount of parks, trails and nature areas around town, it’s almost impossible to name them all. There are some, however, that are more popular than the others.

Perhaps the most popular area to hike is also the one with the most activities to try out as well. Dogwood Canyon is located just southwest of Branson in Lampe, MO. This park covers 10,000 acres of Ozark landscape and features a six and a half mile trail that winds past waterfalls, limestone bluffs and spectacular wildlife. If you want to get the experience of hiking without walking all that distance, biking, horse rides, Segways, and tram and jeep tours are available at Dogwood Canyon as well. There are also a number of different spots to fish along with an education center and restaurant onsite.

Branson’s most rigorous hike resides inside the Lakeside Forest Wilderness Area. This area’s hiking trail is over four miles long, and features a set of 315 stonework steps constructed in the 1930’s. Aside from the steps, the Lakeside Forest has a number of different things to see along its hiking trail. Those who hike the entire trail will see an old homestead and barn, a grotto, waterfall, two caves, and immaculate views of Lake Taneycomo and the countryside.

Another popular area to go hiking is the Ruth and Paul Henning Conservation Area. This four-mile area includes four different hiking trails, each with its own degree of difficulty. The Homesteader’s Trail is the most difficult, spanning almost three and a half miles long. The next longest is the Glade Exploration Trail, a moderate hike just over a mile long. Another difficult hike is Shane’s Shortcut. While labeled as “difficult,” Shane’s Shortcut is only .3 miles in length. The final trail is the Streamside Trail, a moderate hiking trail that is .4 miles long. These trails cut right through the heart of the Ozark Mountains, providing plenty of incredible views along the way.

Another scenic hiking trail is located along Roark Creek in Branson. This trail spans over three miles long and is mostly paved, except for the last half mile. While this trail isn’t as difficult or treacherous as others you may find in the Ozarks, it ends at a bluff overlooking the creek which provides a great view of the surrounding landscape.

Other hiking trails you may want to visit while vacationing to Branson in the fall are the ones inside the White River Valley Trail System. These trails are located within Table Rock State Park and feature various degrees of difficulty and terrain. The four different trails in the system can connect if you wish to hike the entire 10 miles, and there will be plenty of scenic views of Lake Taneycomo and Table Rock Lake along the way.

While exploring the outdoors there aren’t many sights more beautiful than that of a waterfall. Branson’s newest hiking trail, conveniently named the Waterfall trail, features just that. This two-thirds of a mile long trail is unpaved and runs along an unnamed tributary of Roark Creek. Along with the waterfall, there are also two creek crossings, a dense tree canopy and magnificent rock formations to see while hiking this trail.

Part of what’s great about fall is the cooling temperatures. If you find yourself on vacation to Branson this September through November, make time between show schedules to do some hiking and explore the beauty of the Ozarks on one of these trails. From waterfalls and rock formations to roaming wildlife and old homesteads, there’s plenty to see.


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