Branson, Missouri is best known for its live shows, but did you know it’s a nature-lovers’ paradise as well? In fact, some of Branson’s best-known attractions got their start as tours of natural wonders. Here are five natural adventures you won’t want to miss on your next trip to Branson. (Feature Photo: Branson Convention and Visitors Bureau)
Marvel Cave: Let’s start where it all began, with Marvel Cave. Actually, the cave was originally called Devil’s Den, and later Marble Cave. The “marble” part was just wishful thinking, though. Despite repeated attempts to find mineral deposits, the cave’s real value lay in its natural splendor. In 1927, the cave was renamed Marvel Cave, and became a tourist attraction. Today you can descend into the cave to admire the Cathedral Room, the largest cave entrance room in the United States, before embarking on a journey through ever-growing formations, gorgeously lit waterfalls, and underwater lakes.
Marvel Cave is located inside Silver Dollar City. The popular theme park actually began as an attraction to amuse cave visitors, and hour-long cave tours are included with theme park admission. For a special trip back in time, reserve the Lantern Light Tour, with costumed tour guides and only the dancing light of lanterns to illuminate your way. Visit the Silver Dollar City website for more information on reserving your cave tour.
Dogwood Canyon Nature Park: This 10,000-acre park is a treasure trove of outdoor adventures, with tram tours through stunning valleys on the way to visit bison, elk, and deer herds. There’s also horseback riding, walking and biking trails, fishing, and even a two-story treehouse from Animal Planet’s “Treehouse Masters.”
Originally purchased by the founder of Bass Pro Shops, Dogwood Canyon is a wonderland of native forests, trout-filled streams, and tumbling waterfalls. The sign at the gate says “Welcome to Paradise,” with good reason! There is an admission fee of $10 per person ($5 for children) and some additional charges for different activities within the park. Find more information at dogwoodcanyon.org
Table Rock Lake: It’s hard to miss Table Rock Lake – the reservoir is approximately 50,000 acres and has 750 miles of shoreline! Whether you’re planning on swimming, boating, fishing, going for a cruise on an old-fashioned showboat, or settling down to a fine meal with a gorgeous lakefront view, Table Rock Lake can easily star in your Branson plans.
Boats of every shape and size abound on Table Rock Lake. Photo: Branson Convention and Visitors Bureau
Table Rock State Park is a perfect way to discover the lake and surrounding forests. Just six miles from Branson, the park offers boat rentals, hiking trails, and picnic areas. Pontoon boats are a favorite way to cruise the waters with families, but you can also zip around in a ski-boat, parasail above the waters, or sail on a 50-foot catamaran. If you’d rather stay on dry land, the hiking trails range from the easy, paved Table Rock Lakeshore Trail (ideal for strollers and wheelchairs) to the rugged White River Valley Trail, which is nearly twelve miles long and climbs elevations up to 1,200 feet above sea level. The hard work pays off with peeks at waterfalls, an abandoned farmstead, and roads used in the 1950s during the construction of Table Rock Dam. Get the details at the park’s website.
Talking Rocks Cavern: Originally called “Fairy Cave,” because it resembled a fairyland beneath the earth, Talking Rocks Cavern is a long-standing attraction in Branson. In addition to an hour-long cave tour, which takes guests through breath-taking subterranean formations, guests can also play mini-golf, play on the speleobox mazes, which simulate cave exploration, embark on nature trails, and even engage in a little gemstone mining of their own. The gift shop actually sells bags of “mine rough,” which guests can take out to the sluicing trough to sift for semi-precious stones and minerals. It’s a fun way to experience the natural history of the Ozarks, and maybe take home some rough semi-precious stones as a souvenir.
At $17.95, the admission includes the cave tour and access to most recreation (golf is extra). If you’re not visiting Silver Dollar City and missing the Marvel Cave, this is a great opportunity to get underground and experience the wonders hiding beneath your feet! Visit their website for more information.
Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery: A fish hatchery doesn’t sound like an amazing natural attraction, but stay with us—this state-run trout farm gets rave reviews on TripAdvisor for good reason: its stunning location, just beyond the torrents of water rushing from the Table Rock Dam’s spillways, is one. Its fascinating aquaculture is another, with spaces ranging from fairly clinical pools to man-made “fish ladders,” which look just like a babbling Ozark brook. There are also hiking trails, a conservation center with animal exhibits, and underwater viewing areas.
The fish hatchery spawns some 350,000 pounds of trout each year, which thrive in the cold water produced by the hydroelectric plant. For more information on this unique attraction, visit the Missouri Department of Conservation’s website.
Branson’s worldwide reputation might be for live music and shows, but it was the natural beauty of its Ozarks setting which originally drew visitors to this part of Missouri. These natural wonders are still on full display. So the next time vacation or business takes you to Branson, step out of the bright lights for a few moments, and slip out into nature. You’ll be journeying back to the heart of the Ozarks.
Ready to plan your Branson vacation? Exploria Resorts offers you a perfect home base for your next vacation.
• Greensview Branson By Exploria Resorts: Branson, MO. One-, two-, and three-bedroom condos in a peaceful setting near entertainment, dining, and hiking.
• Crown Club Inn By Exploria Resorts: Branson, MO. Hotel-style accommodations in the heart of Branson’s excitement.
Visit the Destinations tab to explore and find more information on accommodations, amenities and availability.