Climbing & Hiking Trails - 11 min read

10 Best Hiking Trails in Branson (Intermediate & Heart Pumping!)

Alex Frick

Alex Frick, Updated September 27, 2022

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Branson is an unassuming but remarkable town in the heart of the Midwest. If you have never been to Missouri, you may have never heard of Branson. This Ozark town is a Missourian vacation destination for families, rich with music, history, and entertainment options galore.

Branson is the charmingly self-titled, “Live Entertainment Capital of the World.” Is that accurate? You can judge for yourself. The small town is home to over 50 theatres with over 60,000 theatre seats! The best-known attraction is its 76 Country Boulevard; a strip lined with theaters once hosted by country musicians, now available to today’s variety of popular genres.

While the unique culture may define the town, the landscape in and around Branson is the true attraction of this beautiful city. The Ozark Mountains are towering, with dense and beautiful forests, lush with incredible woodlands. With the healthy fauna of the forests, the hills are an excellent habitat for abundant wildlife. Within these hills are miles of memorable hiking trails just waiting for adventurers to explore.

Here is your guide to the 10 best hiking trails in all of Branson, Missouri.

1. Bluff, Bent Tree, and Ridgetop Loop

Credit: Diana Johnson / AllTrails

Directions: From downtown Branson, head west on W Main Street for 0.6 miles and merge onto W 76 Country Boulevard. Continue for 0.8 miles and turn left onto Fall Creek Road/Yellow Route. Make an immediate left, followed by a quick right into the parking area for this hike.

The Bluff, Bent Tree, and Ridgetop Loops are downright stunning. Arguably the most beautiful trail in Missouri, this adventure highlights an abundance of the state’s natural features in a short but challenging journey.

Walk beneath the chiseled bluffs through the dense Missouri wilderness as you ascend through the magnificent countryside. To reach the picturesque ridge, you will have a daunting task to conquer!

While the high-rooted terrain is manageable, the near entirety of the elevation gain is completed as a long set of carefully carved stone steps.

There are 240 steps in total in a seemingly endless climb through the lush woodlands. Luckily for you and your knees, the return loop is only 98 steps.

After defeating the infinite staircase, you will be rewarded with truly outstanding views of Missouri’s greatest features. Along the ridge, you will have access to several small caves underneath the towering rocky bluffs.

At the top of the loop, you will also have earned a panoramic view of the sensational Lake Taneycomo and its rolling valley.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 1.9 Miles
Elevation Gain: 354 Feet

2. White River Trail System: Red, Blue, Orange, and Green Loops

Credit: John Phillips /AllTrails

Directions: From downtown Branson, head west on W Main Street and drive for 0.3 miles, then merge onto US-65 S toward Harrison. Drive for 6.0 miles and turn right onto State Highway 265 N.

Continue for 0.7 miles and turn right to stay on State Highway 265 N. Drive for another 2.5 miles and turn left to continue on State Highway 265 N/Historic Highway 165 N. After 2.2 miles, turn right and the parking area will be on your left.

The White River Trail System is a technical trek along a diverse collection of hiking trails. By combining the Red, Blue, Orange, and Green Loops, the adventure becomes an all-encompassing sample of Missouri’s natural countryside.

The trail wanders through lush forests, with low-hanging flora that provides a cool and breezy shade. With the well-maintained conditions and the wide pathway, these trails are an experienced mountain biker’s dream.

While there is elevation gain, most of the climbs are consistently manageable ascents along comfortable hiking surfaces. The hike will bring you to the banks of several slow-flowing creeks while you leap over playful creek crossings.

Throughout your journey, you will encounter ancient roads, an abandoned farmhouse, small and tranquil waterfalls, and a diverse collection of tree species. On the top of the highest overlooks are sweeping views of picturesque Table Rock Lake.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 11.5 Miles
Elevation Gain: 1,194 Feet

3. Roark Creek Waterfall Trail

Credit: Scott Wehrle / AllTrails

Directions: From downtown Branson, head west on W Main Street and drive for 0.6 miles. Turn right onto Blue Route/Roark Valley Road and continue for 2.1 miles and the parking for this hike will be on your left.

The Roark Creek Waterfall Trail is tucked away in the center of Branson. This unique hike travels along the creek-bed of Roark Creek through a dense and lush overhanging forest.

As you journey through the woodlands, you will encounter several eye-catching features, such as trickling waterfalls and amazing geological mountain bluffs. This urban hike ultimately leads to its namesake – the Roark Creek Waterfall.

While not very tall, the waterfall is very wide. The creek slowly falls from the top of the bluff, creating a calm pool beneath the peaceful falling waters. From here, you can hike to the top of the falls and enjoy a nice picnic from the edge of Branson’s most popular shore.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 1.8 Miles
Elevation Gain: 114 Feet

4. Homestead Trail

Credit: Evan Fusco / Flickr

Directions: From downtown Branson, head west on W Main Street and drive for 0.6 miles. Turn right onto Blue Route/Roark Valley Road and continue for 2.1 miles. Make a left onto Shephard of the Hills Expressway and drive for 1.4 miles. Turn right onto MO-376 E and after 0.7 miles, the parking area for this hike will be on your right.

The Homestead Trail in the Ruth & Paul Henning Conservation Area is a secluded journey through the native foothills of rural Missouri. The trail wanders through the streets of an old, abandoned residential area.

All-in-all, there are 15 markers along this interpretive pathway. Each marker tells a story of the settlers of yesteryear in the remnants of Missouri during the gold rush.

The trail will then escape into unique wetlands – an area lush with wildflowers, reptiles, and unique bird species. With the abundance of resources, the area is an ideal habitat for endlessly multiplying insects. Be sure to bring plenty of bug spray with a healthy concentration of DEET.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 3.5 Miles
Elevation Gain: 757 Feet

5. Table Rock Lakeshore Trail

Directions: From downtown Branson, head west on W Main Street and drive for 0.3 miles, then merge onto US-65 S toward Harrison. Drive for 6.0 miles and turn right onto State Highway 265 N.

Continue for 0.7 miles and turn right to stay on State Highway 265 N. Drive for another 2.5 miles and turn left to continue on State Highway 265 N/Historic Highway 165 N. After 2.2 miles, turn right and the parking area will be on your left.

The Table Rock Lakeshore Trail is a beautiful trek through Table Rock State Park. The trail begins on the sensational shores of Table Rock Lake, a reflective lake with geologically unique rocky bluffs as your backdrop.

The lake is a healthy wildlife habitat for several rare species – including fiery foxes and soaring bald eagles. The trail forks into the lush forests of the shady park.

The trail is paved in its entirety, apart from a few wooden bridges. With the level surface and smooth pavement, this hike is suitable for hikers of all skill levels.

Once finished, be sure to jump into the cool waters of Table Rock Lake – the perfect way to relax and recover in the lifeforce of this iconic park.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 4.4 Miles
Elevation Gain: 144 Feet

6. Ridge Trail and Owen Drive Trail Loop

Credit: Kelsey / Flickr

Directions: From downtown Branson, head west on W Main Street for 0.6 miles and merge onto W 76 Country Boulevard. Continue for 0.8 miles and turn left onto Fall Creek Road/Yellow Route. Make an immediate left, followed by a quick right into the parking area for this hike.

The Ridge Trail and Owen Drive Trail Loop is a deceptive knee-buckler of a trail. The trail begins on Owen Drive, formerly a road that is comfortably level and wide.

During your trek, there will be a stone staircase that must be climbed before reaching the top. You will ascend nearly 400 feet in elevation gain in less than a mile – a feat for travelers of all skill levels.

Once reaching the ridge, your will efforts will be rewarded with incredible panoramic views of Missouri’s hills and valleys.

Be sure to bring a detailed trail map, the path can be poorly marked – you will likely find yourself on a side quest at some juncture.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 2.0 Miles
Elevation Gain: 374 Feet

7. Dogwood Canyon Trail

Credit: ryan jones / Flickr

Directions: From downtown Branson, head west on W Main Street and drive for 0.3, then merge onto US-65 S. Drive for 8.7 miles and turn right onto State Highway 86 W before reaching a traffic circle. Take the 2nd exit at the traffic circle onto State Highway 86 and continue for 11.5 miles. Turn right onto MO-13 N and drive for 2.9 miles.

Turn left onto State Highway 86 W and continue for 2.0 miles. Make a left and drive for 0.4, then make another left, followed by an immediate right, and the parking area will be on your left.

The Dogwood Canyon Trail is a peaceful adventure through some of Branson’s richest landscapes. The paved pathway leads through the lush Missourian wilderness on a comfortable journey for all adventurers.

This park is also abundant in local wildlife – including foxes, deer, and birds. This trail passes over clear mountain streams, leading to the shores of the high-arching waterfalls.

The trail is quite primitive, be sure to equip yourself with the appropriate ration of supplies, especially plenty of water. Keep an eye out for cyclists, the smooth surface conditions are ideal for a two-wheeled journey.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 6.2 Miles
Elevation Gain: 242 Feet

8. Lakeside Bluff Trail

Credit: Jesse N / AllTrails

Directions: From downtown Branson, head west on W Main Street for 0.6 miles and merge onto W 76 Country Boulevard. Continue for 0.8 miles and turn left onto Fall Creek Road/Yellow Route. Make an immediate left, followed by a quick right into the parking area for this hike.

The Lakeside Bluff Trail is an incredible hike that wanders through a scenic valley before climbing to a picturesque overlook. The trail is interpretive, with excellent signage telling the story of this trail.

The hike begins in the valley, traveling past an old homestead – home to Old Soldier’s Cave. From here, the trail ascends a steep section of stone steps that lead to the base of a waterfall.

Depending on the seasonal conditions, the waterfall may be dry. Once reaching the top of the bluffs, enjoy the far-reaching views of the lower hillside from above.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 1.8 Miles
Elevation Gain: 308 Feet

9. Glade Trail Mini Loop

Credit: Susan Mowry / AllTrails

Directions: From downtown Branson, head west on W Main Street and drive for 0.6 miles. Turn right onto Blue Route/Roark Valley Road and continue for 2.1 miles. Make a left onto Shephard of the Hills Expressway and drive for 1.4 miles. Turn right onto MO-376 E and after 0.7 miles, the parking area for this hike will be on your right.

Starting from a beautiful overlooking view of the valley, the Glade Trail Mini Loop is an excellent hike into the Ruth and Paul Henning State Forest.

From the panoramic vantage point, the trail steeply descends into the park along a loose gravel pathway. Be cautious following a rainy forecast, the trail can become unpredictably slick – hiking poles are highly recommended.

Once reaching the valley, you will enter the secluded forest. The dense forest is a protected habitat for several species of birds and deer.

To continue your trek through the park, you may connect to the Streamside Trail to travel deeper into the peaceful wilderness.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 2.3 Miles
Elevation Gain: 331 Feet

10. Henning’s Wildlife Refuge Loop

Credit: Larry McGriff / AllTrails

Directions: From downtown Branson, head west on W Main Street and drive for 0.6 miles. Turn right onto Blue Route/Roark Valley Road and continue for 2.1 miles. Make a left onto Shephard of the Hills Expressway and drive for 1.4 miles. Turn right onto MO-376 E and after 0.7 miles, the parking area for this hike will be on your right.

The Henning’s Wildlife Refuge Loop is a trek through the protected Henning Conservation Area. This stunning hike connects all the unique trails in the preserve.

The abundance of natural resources makes this area a rich habitat for native wildlife. The trail follows along calm rivers, hops over creek crossings, and escapes deeper into the dense wilderness.

The trail is composed of packed dirt. However, due to the lack of shade, the waters beneath the trees evaporate slowly. Waterproof shoes are necessary to avoid squishy socks.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 5.5 Miles
Elevation Gain: 820 Feet

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