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Autumn in the Ozarks: Beautiful Hiking Trails for Fall Foliage

Besides its family-friendly shows and numerous entertainment venues, Branson also attracts nature enthusiasts due its close proximity to Missouri's Ozark Mountains. The scenic mountains offer a perfect fall getaway for couples and families that want to take advantage of the last vestiges of pleasant weather before colder temperatures set in. After you've booked your lodgings at one of the area's premier resorts, Welk Resorts Branson, it’s time to lace up your hiking shoes and explore the beauty of the region’s Ozark Mountains. Read on for our collection of popular hiking trails as well as some tips for getting the most out of your Branson vacation in the Ozarks.

Choose Your Path

A favorite treat is to visit Branson during late October or early November to see the forests exchange their green hues for the beautiful colors of autumn. While you can view the beautiful fall foliage from nearly any of Branson's hiking trails, be sure to choose hikes that match your fitness level and unique vacation goals. If you’re used to doing mostly light forms of exercise regularly, you may want to pick a trail that presents only a moderate physical challenge. You can also choose a trail based on what you want to see while trekking through the mountains. Here are some of the most popular trails in the area by category:

Beginner Trails

New at wilderness trekking? The Lakeside Forest Wilderness Area, which is located about four miles north of The Lodges at Timber Ridge by Welk Resorts, has trails that offer spectacular nature viewing and comfortable outdoor exercise. Roark Creek Trail and Waterfall Trail are two easy hikes that you can take at centrally located Lakeside.

Roark Creek Trail
Roark Creek runs for over three miles, and paths are mostly paved. The trail features scenic views of creeks and wooded areas. You can expect generally flat-surface trekking.

Waterfall Trail
Waterfall Trail features scenic views of dense forest canopy, natural pools and a waterfall. It's less than a mile in length has more rugged terrain than Roark Creek Trail. Expect to do some steep uphill climbing here.

women standing on trail with waterfall
Photo by Branson Ticket & Travel
Man and son hiking down a trail
Photo by 4 Radical Roadschoolers and a Fat Cat

Intermediate Trails

Busiek State Forest
Busiek State Forest is a wilderness conservation area that is located about 22 miles north of The Lodges at Timber Ridge by Welk Resorts. It has over 18 miles of trails that alternate between rugged and fairly flat terrains. The trails at Busiek are well marked and suitable for hikers, cyclists and horseback riders. The forest has a shooting range and permits hunting so hikers should take precautions.

Busiek State Forest Photo by
Ozarks Walkabout

Pineview Tower Trailhead
The Pineview Tower Trailhead is located at Piney Creek Wilderness Area, which is about 30 miles west of The Lodges at Timber Ridge by Welk Resorts. Visitors can choose between two paths that are approximately 1.5 miles in length. The trek features superb wildlife viewing, including the occasional blue heron, woodpecker and armadillo. The hike ends at the park's main water feature, Piney Creek. Sycamore, ash, elm, oak and hickory are just some of the trees that you will see along Piney Creek. The trails consist mainly of unpaved paths. Several species of rattle snakes also reside in the Piney Creek Wilderness Area so hikers are encouraged to take precautions.

Pineview Tower Hiking Trailhead
Photo by Ozarks Walkabout

Advanced Trails

White River Valley Trail
Looking for a challenging adventure that is less than two miles from most resorts in the area? The White River Valley trail system has a loop network of trails that range in degrees of difficulty. The trail’s Red Loop features just under three miles of rugged and steep terrain in wooded areas and creek bottoms.

White River Valley Hiking Trail
Photo by Trip Outlook

Hercules Glades Wilderness
Hercules Glades Wilderness area, about 50 miles east of most major lodging, makes for the perfect day trip. On the trails at Hercules, hikers encounter all types of trees that are gorgeously arrayed in their warm, autumn attire of brick red and burnt orange. The trails also offer great opportunities for wildlife viewing like roadrunners, turkeys, and black bears. Although evergreen cedar trees are prominent in this wilderness area, you can see the fall foliage on its many maple trees.

Hercules Glades Wilderness Hiking Trail
Photo by Explore the Ozarks

Let Us Guide You

While the wilderness can be a place of renewal and wonder, it can also be a source of anxiety to those who are unfamiliar with it. If you're not careful, you can easily end up straying off the beaten path and wondering how to get back to civilization. The forests of the Ozarks are huge. If you are not familiar with the area, it is best not to hike there alone.

Consider using an experienced guide such as the adventure guides from Welk Resorts INSPIRED FOR YOU program. They’ll help you to find the most interesting spots to visit and get you back home safely so that you can brag to your friends about your spectacular trip. Join our INSPIRED team on Sunday mornings for a guided stroll along Lake Taneycomo's forested waterways followed by a fascinating tour of the inside of the fish hatchery. Please contact the Activities Center for more information.

Lake Taneycomo
Photo by Explore Branson

Gear Guide for the Ozarks

Before you head out on your adventure, don’t forget to pack the following hiking essentials:

  •      Drinking water
  •      Healthy snacks
  •      Sturdy yet lightweight hiking boots or shoes
  •      Rain gear
  •      Camera

If you choose to hike without a guide, you'll likely want to take some additional gear in case of emergencies. Some of these items include:

  • First aid kit
  • Water purification tablets

  • Multi-tool or Swiss Army knife

  • Compass or GPS device
  • Waterproof maps of trail and surrounding area

  • Flashlight

  • Waterproof matches

  • Change of clothing

Adventure Awaits!

Book your fall vacation at Welk Resorts in Branson today and get in the mood for autumn in the great outdoors.

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