Get off the beaten path!

                                                                                          By Kristy Taylor

Ron Bogart hitting the trails at Dogwood Canyon

Wanna hit the trails this year?  Here are some great places to get off the beaten path!

Lake Springfield Trail Head at the Boathouse officially begins and ends at the trailhead located at the east end of Lake Springfield Park near the boat launch. Along this 1.40 mile woodchip trail, are quarter mile trail markers showing the mileage in both directions back to the trailhead.

The Nature Center – 3 miles of groomed trails – Missouri Department of Conservation. No bicycles, skates, pets.  Great for trail running and hiking.  Mix of wood chips and pavement. Running hours vary.  Check: Trailhead: Off Hwy. US 60 East (James River Freeway) take south Glenstone along Hwy 60 southeast to Nature Center.

Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield has a 4.9 mile paved tour road great for bicycles, or on foot. There are five trails off the tour road for individual exploration, varying in length from 1/4 to 3/4 of a mile. A 7-mile trail system for horseback riding and hiking is accessible from the tour road.  For directions visit:

The Busiek State Forest and Wildlife Conservation Area is located 14 miles north of Branson and covers 2,505 acres of steep, rocky hills and gravel bottom creeks.  Visitors may take self-guided hikes on 5 miles of nature trails. Biking and horseback riding are available on vehicle roads and in designated areas. There’s also an unattended public shooting range.

Frisco Highline Trail – 35 miles – National Recreation Trail.  This is Missouri’s second longest Rail-Trail, connecting Springfield to Bolivar, 35 miles. Surface is compact crushed gravel, similar to the Katy Trail. Hybrid tires work best on the unpaved sections, but mountain and road bikes are fine, too. Two sections of the trail are paved: 4 miles in Bolivar, and 8 miles from Springfield to Willard. Trailhead parking lots are located in Springfield, Willard, Walnut Grove, Wishart and Bolivar.

Galloway Creek Greenway – 6 miles – National Recreation Trail.  Runs north-south in southeast Springfield, from Pershing Middle School to Nature Center and Old Iron Bridge.  (Nature Center does NOT allow bikes or dogs onto their trails.)

South Creek Greenway – 8 miles – National Recreation Trail.  Runs east-west through the middle of Springfield, starting at McDaniel Park Trailhead at National & Sunset, linking Nathanael Greene Park/Close Memorial Park, Botanical Center, Japanese Gardens, Horton Smith Golf Course, Carver Middle School and many neighborhoods. Experience the overlook from the Kansas Expressway overpass.

South Dry Sac Greenway – 3 miles total.  Lost Hill Park Trailhead is on Grant Avenue, north of Hillcrest High School. Two short but nice sections are open: 1 mile connecting to the east side of Ritter Springs Park, and the 1-mile section from Lost Hill to Truman Elementary School. (Eventually to Valley Water Mill.)

Ward Branch Greenway – 3 miles total.  There are currently two sections of this trail: one mile in Shadowood Subdivision, from Twin Oaks Substation to the Library Center on south Campbell (goes under Campbell), and nearly two miles from Wanda Gray School to Rivercut. There is hope for connection.

James River Greenway – 2 miles.  The first mile of this trail connects to Galloway Creek Greenway, west of the old iron James River bridge. The north end of the trail currently connects to Gasconade Road, which crosses back over Highway 65. The trail is planned to head north up the James River.

James River Water Trail (on the river) – 6 miles. Not for hiking and biking, but for canoeing and kayaking! Yes, the river: a 6-mile route on the James River from Joe Crighton Access to Lake Springfield marina. The river is a wonderful resource, in our backyard! It’s fun to float, terrific urban wildlife habitat, and a vital water source for drinking and living. Canoes and kayaks can be rented spring to fall at Lake Springfield Park, North Shore Access (417) 891-1550.

Jordan Creek Greenway – 2 miles.  Current open sections are: from Smith Park to OTC, and through Jordan Valley Park to Jefferson Avenue. This trail is planned to continue it’s way southwesterly, eventually under Chestnut Expressway, then through the planned West Meadows part of Jordan Valley Park, and on to connect with Wilson’s Creek Greenway and eventually South Creek Greenway.

Wilson’s Creek Greenway – 2 miles. There are two miles of trail, with Rutledge-Wilson Farm Park as its trailhead. There is also another short section between the Cruse Dog Park and Ewing Park. Construction is underway to extend the trail a mile to the southwest.

Sac River Mountain Bike Trail – 8 miles dirt singletrack.  This 300-acre Springfield-Greene County city park offers over 8 miles of interconnecting single-track trail through the woods in northwest Springfield. Built by volunteers in 1996, it’s popular with mountain bikers from beginner to advanced, and for running, and hiking. Area perimeter is about 2 miles. Trailhead’s off Highway 13, three miles north of I-44. Watch for the brown highway sign marking westbound turn onto an un-named road.

Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce and CVB suggest:

For a beautiful hike, check out Lakeside Forest Wilderness Area. This 130-acre park boasts trails that range from mild to strenuous, a waterfall, cave and overlooks to Lake Taneycomo. Hours are daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the summer.  It’s located on Fall Creek Road just two blocks south of Missouri 76, not far from the Dixie Stampede.

Dogwood Canyon Nature Park sprawls across the Missouri-Arkansas border, just south of Branson, MO. The entrance is located on Missouri Highway 86, approximately 16 miles west of U.S. Highway 65.

A more strenuous option is the Ruth and Paul Henning Conservation Area on the west side of Branson on Missouri 76, .75 mile west of the Missouri 376-Missouri 76 intersection. The 1,534-acre, mostly forested area includes hiking trails, White River Balds Natural Area and Roark Creek. There are steep hills covered with typical upland oak and hickory forest.

If you enjoy mountain biking, the White River Valley Trail System at Table Rock State Park is the best single trail in the area and good for moderate to beginners.

Let us know in the comments if you try one or more of these!  And, if you have a favorite I didn’t mention, report in!

Watch out for spider webs out there. 😉

Have a good run!


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