My wife and I had an opportunity to stay at the Ozark Mountain Resort in Kimberling City, Missouri this past week. I'd never been to Missouri or the Ozarks before, so I jumped at the chance to cross another state off my list of US states I need to visit (17 left!). What followed was a much-needed, relaxing vacation in a tranquil mountain locale with some very worthwhile hiking opportunities.
We had a nice little two-bedroom unit situated on a fairly steep incline toward the bottom of the resort. The unit was furnished with a full kitchen (with included cookware) and a Jacuzzi-style bathtub. Unfortunately, the only wifi available was in the middle of the resort at the "Activity Center" building. Since my wife and I had intended to work on a few things while on the trip, this was not ideal. We mostly resorted (ha!) to LTE tethering with our phones instead.
Below our unit was a little half-mile trail. It wasn't particularly scenic, but worked well for morning strolls.
At the end of the road running through the resort, past the end of the aforementioned trail, you can walk out to Kennel Branch Cove. This is a small part of the Table Rock Lake. Although there's a launch and rentable boats, we never actually went out on the lake. Anything below 75°F is "too cold" for the missus...
Aside from Kimberling City, the closest town to the resort is Branson, Missouri. I'll be honest: I don't really find small towns to be particularly interesting, and Branson's history doesn't particularly resonate with me. As a result, we didn't spend much time in town. I can say, however, that the Greek Gyros and Deli had exceptional falafel, though!
Henning Conservation Area
The first one we checked out was the Ruth and Paul Henning Conservation Area. Off to the right, you can take the Dewey Bald Trail. This is a half-mile, paved trail leading out to a 40-foot tall observation tower. I'm not a huge fan of heights, but the view was pretty nice, so it was worth it.
The Henning Conservation Area's main draw, however, is the set of 3 hiking trails through the valley below: The Glade Trail, the Streamside Trail, and the Homesteader's Trail. This was the first (and only) time on the trip I managed to get out of the range of cell towers (on the Homesteader's Trail).
The Glade Trail, as you can see from the map above, is a 1.1 mile hike down into the valley below the scenic overlook where we'd parked. You're mostly hiking through a bunch of scrubland areas. The elevation change isn't particularly steep and it's very obvious where you're going.
Once you get into the valley, you'll hit the Streamside Trail. This starts the more wooded sections of the trail. There's not a whole lot to see other than trees and rocks, though.
In order to get to the Homesteader's Trail, you'll need to take Shane's Shortcut. This was actually my favorite part of the trail. You're out near the stream (the one the previous trail gets its name from) and have to walk through some interesting rock formations and by some little pools.
Unfortunately, we didn't get to complete the Homesteader's Trail due to time constraints. I also forgot to take a picture. Imagine a serene Ozark wilderness with lots of trees, though. Like I said, we'd finally found ourselves outside the range of cell towers, so the area was very peaceful.
Table Rock State Park
We also checked out the Table Rock State Park. There's a lot to do here, but we just hit some of the trails.
The first one we explored was the Table Rock Lakeshore Trail. This, as you might expect, has you walking along the shore of Table Rock Lake. It's a little over 2 miles long, but we started from the state park's parking lot that was kinda in the middle, which meant we had to backtrack to hit the other side of the trail.
Heading north from the parking area took us out to the Dewey Short Visitor Center. Along the way, we passed by the Branson Belle - a showboat. We didn't get tickets, but it looked like a lot of fun.
Heading south took us back around part of the lake for a clearer view. The very end of the trail is near a dock where you can launch boats out into the lake. Again, we didn't go in the lake because, "That would be cold!"
The entire time, we had tons of great birdwatching opportunities. I got to cross the Red-headed Woodpecker, Carolina Chickadee, and Northern Flicker off my life-list! Hitting the trail early in the morning was really important for this. Bird activity generally drops off after 8-9:00 and here was no different.
We also explored part of the White River Valley Trail System. This is a collection of 4 trails that, together, represent almost 12 miles of hiking. We only had time for the first of the trails, the Red Loop.
The vast majority of the trail winds through fairly dense forest. It's not really anything noteworthy, but I enjoyed the trek anyway. Along the way, we came across a small creek. I'd been looking at local maps earlier and couldn't actually find the White River. So, when we stumbled across the creek (which was almost entirely dried up), I was concerned the whole river had vanished!
As it turns out, the White River counts Table Rock lake as part of its winding journey through Missouri and Arkansas. So, no worries!
Overall, I had a lot of fun on this trip. It was really relaxing and, although the hiking didn't hold a candle to my experiences in Peru or Alaska this year, it didn't matter. The break from all the stress I've been going through this year was more than welcome. And, as it turns out, Missouri is really pretty in autumn! I'll definitely be back (and with a lot more time to hike further along many of these trails next time). There are a ton of places we didn't get to, like the Mark Twain National Forest that I'd really like to spend some time in.