Branson, MO  - Vacation Travel Guide

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Branson Area Features

Wild and Natural

The gentle hills of the Ozarks are welcoming sights to those who have never been to this part of America. Predominately covered with dense forestry and interspersed with caves and a few waterfalls, this land is indeed a national treasure. Meanwhile, the neighboring lakes, where both active watersports and peaceful retreats can be enjoyed, provide a striking contrast to the hills. After you've seen the shows and experienced the excitement of Branson, we encourage you to backpack through the hills or paddle on the waterways. After all, nature’s splendor is one of the many top attractions of the region.

The Ozarks

Despite being typically misconstrued as mountains, the rolling hills and deep rocky canyons on this large plateau create heavenly “mountainous” scenes that draw spectators from around the world. Anytime is a great time to visit this region. However, if you want to spend a considerable amount of time in the Ozarks, spring and fall are perhaps the best times to visit. In the spring, you’ll find tiny cascading brooks that have swollen with melted snow and new life emerging from the winter. If you’re visiting in the fall, the colorful foliage is a thing of beauty.

Hiking, biking and simply wandering through nature are favorite activities in the Ozarks. There are many trails in the area that are made for whichever activity you choose. The Drury-Mincy Conservation Area lies southeast of Branson and is a wonderful place to see animals in nature and hike the available trails throughout the reserve. It began as a deer sanctuary when populations were low in the early 1900s but also served to protect wild turkeys. You could also go about 25 miles west of Branson to explore Big Sugar Creek State Park. Take your bike or grab your hiking boots and trek along the Ozark Chinquapin Trail in the Elk River Breaks Natural Area. This trail is just over 3 miles and takes its hikers through the hills and past a babbling stream. A little southwest of Branson near the Arkansas border is Dogwood Canyon—one of the most popular parks in the Ozarks. Contained within its boundaries are over 10,000 acres of forest, clear blue lakes and picturesque waterfalls. With the purchase of admission and activity passes, visitors can see the park on foot, bike, horseback, on a tram or maybe even on a Segway tour. Along the way, animals such as elk and bison may be seen. Be sure to visit the mill, the Nature and Conservation Center, and the tree house while you’re there!


Many of the most awe-inspiring sights are underground. The caves in the region are part of what began drawing tourists to Branson. When the Marvel Cave (now part of Silver Dollar City) opened to the public in 1894, people were delighted to walk inside its passageways among the stalactites and stalagmites that have been forming for millennia. Since then, other caves including those at Talking Rocks Cavern, Fantastic Caverns, and the Smallin Civil War Cave have opened to explorers who wish to do some amateur spelunking in safety.


The rolling hills aren’t the only natural feature that entices people to the region. The lakes attract water worshipers who love to explore the coastlines by canoe, kayak, or paddleboard. Even the beaches that grace the shorelines beckon sunseekers for a relaxing day by the water. Formed by the Table Rock Dam, Table Rock Lake offers over 800 miles of shoreline and a paved hiking trail through the neighboring state park and along the river. There are many family-fun activities to do on the eastern side of the lake near the dam such as taking a showboat cruise, swimming at Moonshine Beach, or renting a boat and dropping a fishing line in the water. Another lake that was formed by the same dam and is actually fed by Table Rock Lake is Lake Taneycomo. Along its shores that border southeastern Branson, visitors can participate in water sports, unwind on Rockaway Beach, or just sit by the water at Branson Landing. Lastly, Bull Shoals Lake (which begins as part of Lake Taneycomo) flows past the Drury-Mincy Conservation Area and into Arkansas. It is renowned for its steep cliffs, clean beautiful water to swim in, and exceptional fishing. As one of the less visited lakes in the region, it is highly recommended to those in search of a peaceful day on the water.

Fisherman’s Corner

Tip: Where you should go fishing depends on what you would like to catch. At the colder Lake Taneycomo you’re more likely to hook brown and rainbow trout. Bass, bluegill and crappie are more abundant at Table Rock Lake, where there’s even a bass tournament hosted by Bass Pro Shops in the spring. Entrants have the chance to win a hefty purse by hooking the biggest bass!

While you’re out and about in nature, you’re bound to see some wildlife that is native to the region. However, there are also places where varying species can be seen up close and (if needed) in safety. Giraffes, kangaroos, sloths and so many other animals can be viewed at the Promised Land Zoo. With two locations (Branson and in nearby Eagle Rock), the zoo invites patrons to interact with a few of its animals. Maybe bottle-feed a camel or pet an armadillo. Birds will be happy to see you at the Parakeet Paradise exhibit where you can go into the enclosure with some food to hand-feed the hungry birds. There’s even a drive-thru safari where animals can be observed in a natural environment. At Branson’s Wild World and its sister park, Wild Valley Adventure Park, you’ll not only see wolves and alligators but you may also have the opportunity to interact with stingrays, turtles and dingoes. As you wander around, peacocks meander with you and may even lead you to the next exhibit.

There are additional places with animals you wouldn’t normally expect to see in Missouri such as the National Tiger Sanctuary and the Butterfly Palace. At the sanctuary, it’s not just tigers that can be found—this non-profit group rescues everything from panthers to puppies and the public can visit to see them all. You can even book a tour where you have the opportunity to feed the big cats yourself—if you dare. And a trip to Branson would not be complete without a visit to the Butterfly Palace and Rainforest Adventure. Visit the aviary where these delicate and beautiful creatures fly all around you. There is also a Living Rainforest Science Center full of frogs, insects, lizards and more. Afterwards, make your way around the Banyan Tree Adventure. It’s an exhilarating obstacle course based on a rainforest expedition!

These are just a few of the places around Branson where you can enjoy natural settings and observe wild animals. Have a great time finding your little slice of Eden.

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