State Parks & Forests Near Springfield and Branson
The Ozark Mountains' beautiful forests are primarily oak, hickory and some pines. Understory dogwood, redbud and native cedar trees are abundant, and in spring and late summer wildflowers spangle the glades. In fall, the trees burst into flaming color. It's quite beautiful. Deer, small mammals and many local birds inhabit these woodlands, and your chances of seeing them are very good.
Branson, less than an hour's drive from Springfield, is set deep in the Ozarks, and it's just a short drive to reach several State Parks and Conservation Areas.
Hiking the Ozarks woods is free and fun, but remember to bring your insect repellent because our ticks and chiggers are not shy about getting up close and personal with strangers. It's a good idea to know what poison ivy and oak look like, too.
Springfield Conservation Nature Center Inside the Nature Center building are nature exhibits and programs about conservation. Outdoors,three miles of wooded trails wander natural paths, some with benches for resting. In late spring, look for dragonflies and butterflies, and wildflowers everywhere. In fall, trees and shrubs put on a brilliant color display. Free. Accessible from Republic Rd, south of the James River Freeway. 4601 S. Nature Center Way. 417-888-4237.
Little Sac Woods Conservation Area This forested area of nearly 800 acres is home to deer, turkey, squirrels, raccoons and many bird species. 7.3 miles of hiking trails, and a chance to see wildlife and do some bird watching. Camp and picnic; hunting allowed in season. Several small ponds attract wildlife but lack fish. Click herefor information and maps, or call 417-895-6880.
Busiek State Forest and Wildlife Area 18 miles south of Springfield, 14 miles north of Branson. 740-acre woodland with a well-marked 18-mile long trail system for hikers, bicyclists and horseback riders. Primitive camping available by permit only; picnic areas always available. Also has an unstaffed firearms shooting range.Spring and fall are the best times to view wildflowers in the glades. For more information, call 417-895-6880 or click here.
The Ruth and Paul Henning Conservation Area Located on the west side of Branson,this 1,534-acre tract is open for hiking and bird watching. The trails follow steep hillsides, and Roark Creek crosses the land. Not a heavily used area, so if you want to commune with nature, this may be your go-to place while in Branson. Take Hwy 76 three quarters of a mile past where it intersects Hwy 376. Click here for more info.
Table Rock State Park Camping areas with easy lake access, a marina, SCUBA diving excursions and a mountain bike trail (also used by hikers) make this a popular state park. The lake offers excellent fishing and swimming, and during the summer there are free interpretive programs in the ampitheater. 5272 St. Hwy 165, Branson. Click here for more info.
Dogwood Canyon Nature Park Entry and activity fees for lots of outdoor activities. 2038 W MO Hwy 86, Lampe, 16 miles west of Hwy 65. 417-779-5983
Drury-Mincy Conservation Area Camping, bird watching, fishing, hiking and hunting in season in this 5,599-acre conservation area. More than 300 forested acres with deer, wild turkey and plenty of native birds. Drive east of Branson on Highway 76, then six miles south on Route J, and 0.75 mile on County Road J40. Borders Bull Shoals Reservoir. Click here for more info.
Roaring River State Park In Cassville, MO, 35 miles west of Branson. Known for world class trout fishing and splendid scenery. Hiking trails wind through the woods and overlook the river. Camping and lodging available, and a summer swimming pool for cooling off. For more info, click here. Park office: 417-847-2539.