Cliff Sain

Cliff Sain

Winter is a wonderful time of year to be in Branson.

In fact, it might be “the” time to be here.

I know, I know. I don’t like the cold, either. And I definitely don’t enjoy trying to drive in slick conditions. Who needs that? If I had the kind of bank account that would allow me to spend my winters in a tropical paradise, believe me, I’d be barefoot and wearing a Hawaiian shirt right now.

But I would be missing something. As Branson Tri-Lakes News contributing columnist Laura Lemke Thomson pointed out last week, with the leaves gone from the trees, so many spectacular views open up. One can really take in the grandeur of the Ozarks hills.

We are blessed with a great area for hiking, and this time of year is perhaps the best time to do so. One does not have to worry about getting over-heated. Snakes and ticks are of no real concern. And, of course, you can see all those views.

I’ve written about the area’s hiking trails before, but I do like to revisit the topic, just to remind everyone of the options.

My favorite hiking trail is the Homesteader Trail at Henning Conservation Area. It’s a 3.5-mile trail with a couple of good hills, so it’s more than just a casual stroll, but it’s nothing too challenging. 

And along the way, you can see remnants of many old home sites. I would also add that the trail is very rocky, so I’d recommend a good pair of hiking boots. 

The trails is best accessed from Sycamore Church Road, right where it crosses Roark Creek. But you can also access it from other trails in Henning, which can be accessed from Missouri 76 (which is now going to be considered part of Missouri 376? Don’t get me started on that.)

Another great place to hike, and one that is quite handy to me, personally, is the Lakeside Forest Wilderness Area on Fall Creek Road, close to the intersection of 76 Country Boulevard – right in the middle of Branson.

The park has several trails, some of which are good for a light walk. But this park also includes the 315 stone steps that take the hiker to a waterfall and cave near Lake Taneycomo. It’s a beautiful walk down the steps and a grueling death-march back to the top. But it’s winter, so you shouldn’t get too hot.

If you want a more casual walk, you can try the trail at Stockstill Park. It’s level, and most of it is paved. It’s also gorgeous. If you haven’t been to Stockstill Park, get yourself down there. You’re missing out.

There is also the White River Valley Trail System, which is a treasure. Located along Missouri 165 near Table Rock State Park (but on the opposite side of the highway), there are four trails in the system. They are interconnected, so a person can hike one trail at a time, or two or three or all four.

The longest trail is the blue loop, at three miles. The shortest is the orange loop, at 0.6 miles. (I usually combine the orange and green loops, which, combined, are about two miles.) If you do the entire system, it’s more than 10 miles, which is usually more than I’m up for.

I can’t name every good hiking trail in this space, but I should also add that there are some really good trails at Busiek State Forest and Wildlife Area, north of Branson on U.S. 65.

Although I haven’t been there in a while, Roaring River has some terrific hiking options, and winter is a great time of year to avoid the crowds.

Over in eastern Taney County is the Hercules Glades, which I, myself, have not explored. But I keep telling myself to do so, and they seem great.

So get out there and enjoy a good Branson winter.

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