Bicycling in Southwest Missouri
Biking in Springfield, MO means riding on the relatively level Springfield Plateau rather than on the more technically challenging hills and ridges of the Ozark Mountains. The hilly terrain around Branson offers opportunities for more difficult and technical riding, but there are some easy trails, as well. Both towns are within an easy drive of numerous forest trails.
Springfield Bike Trails
These trails are also open to hikers, so watch out for foot traffic.
Start in town and pedal 35 miles up the Frisco Highline Trail to Bolivar. Mainly crushed gravel surface with a couple of paved areas. The South Creek Greenway and Sac River Mountain Bike Trail are both 8 miles long. South Creek is paved and runs east-west through the middle of town, while the Sac River Mountain Bike Trail is a single-track dirt trail through the woods in northwest Springfield, offering several loops of varying difficulty. At a shorter 6-mile length, Galloway Creek Greenway is a north-south trail in the southeast section of town and is mostly paved.
Shorter rides on the Greenway Trails are numerous, and some connect to other bike paths. These include: South Dry Sac Greenway has two nice one-mile sections right through town, and will eventually run further east. The James River Greenway connects to Galloway Creek Greenway, and a new north section is planned. Ward Branch Greenway has two of three 1-mile sections finished and runs in the south part of town. Jordan Creek Greenway is right in the heart of town, through Jordan Valley Park: currently 2 miles long, with more sections planned. Wilson's Creek Greenway is also a 2-mile trail with more planned; it's got a nice rural feel.
Click here for more information and for PDF maps of the trails.
Mountain Biking in Branson, MO
Branson has recently opened a designated mountain bike trail system, The White River Valley Trail, and it's already being hailed as a great ride. The main trailhead is located across the street from the Showboat Branson Belle parking lot on Hwy 165, and is easily accessed when you're in town. There's nearly 12 miles of natural surface.
There is also a short trail in town (2.4 miles), which starts near the Marina at Table Rock State Park and follows the lakeshore to the Dewey Short Visitors Center at the Table Rock Dam. It's a good family ride--paved, easy to ride, and with lovely lake views. You can now rent bikes at Table Rock State Park Marina. BransonRecPlex Trail is a series of paved, level walking trails around the ball fields and the entire perimeter of the property. At only a mile long, it's a good place to take the younger kids or new riders. The trailhead is in the parking lot adjacent to Branson Hills Parkway.
The forested general use trails listed below are mostly free and open to bikers, but you'll need to watch out for hikers and horseback riders--and the right of way belongs to the horses.
Lakeside Forest Wilderness Area on Fall Creek Road (behind the American Bandstand Theatre) is a 130-acre nature preserve with two rustic trails: Trail #1 is moderate to difficult, with bikes allowed only on the upland trail; Trail #2 is a moderately easy ridgetop trail. Henning Conservation Area on US 76 near Shepherd of the Hills Homestead has several short loop trails running through a 1,534-acre wilderness preserve. Dogwood Canyon Nature Park has a total of 6.2 miles of paved and mostly level trail. There is an admission charge. On Hwy 86, 16 Miles west of US 65.
Forest Trails Near Springfield and Branson
If you have the time and inclination, the Mark Twain National Forest has numerous trails open for hiking and mountain biking. Here's a few that are reasonably close (drive times are for motorized vehicles.)
Hercules Glades Wilderness is a 32-mile trail system roughly an hour and a half southeast of Springfield. The Hercules Tower Trailhead is on Highway 125, 8.5 miles south of Bradleyville. (It is only 20 miles east of Branson) Slightly more than a hour away, near Shell Knob, The Piney Creek Wilderness in the Mark Twain National Forest offers you a four-mile main trail, and nine more miles on side trails. The north trailhead is off Lake Rd. 76-6; the south trailhead is off Hwy 39/Lake Rd. 39/1. This trail is 32 miles west of Branson.
Less than an hour southeast of Springfield, and 15 miles southeast of Branson, near Chadwick, the forest is crisscrossed by nearly 80 miles of designated mountain bike, motorcycle, and ATV trails at the Chadwick Motorcyle and ATV Use Area near Chadwick. Daily permits sell for $5; annual permits are $34.
Fifteen and half miles southeast of Branson, the Drury/Mincy Conservation Area trails can be ridden on a hybrid or mountain bike. There are paved and dirt roads available to bikers, but you may not ride on the designated hiking trails. Take your time in the Ozarks wilderness, and look for wildlife and historic sites and enjoy crossing the low water bridges. The trail ends in a long and technical uphill, so only expert riders should consider taking it all the way up that last incline.
Thanks to Downhill Bikes, 116 Flynn Road, Branson, for some of the above info. Drop by the store for trail suggestions, repairs or gear. You can rent bikes by calling several days ahead: 417-335-4455.