Dogwood Canyon Nature Park could be called the crown jewel of the Missouri wilderness. More than one travel writer has called it, “the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen,” and few would argue. Just 16 miles west of Branson, Dogwood Canyon encompasses 10,000 acres of pristine wilderness, complete with wildlife, meandering trout streams, bridle trails and a tram ride that allows even the most lethargic explorer access to the more rugged reaches of the canyon where the elk and bison live.
Among the most appealing aspects of the Dogwood Canyon Nature Park are the spring-fed streams that are home to rainbow trout. Little Indian Creek welcomes catch-and-release and catch-and-keep anglers, and offers guided catch-and-release trout excursions for serious fly fishermen. Shallow streams allow anglers to see the prize—not that visual sightings help much when your line dances above your head and settles tantalizingly just inches from the “big one.” Catching or merely casting, time spent beside the trout stream is sun-dappled perfection.
Horseback rides are also available along a scenic, leisurely trail and offer a great way to experience nature during your vacation. Riding is offered daily, March through November, with a shorter ride for kids, ages 3 to 11 available during the summer. The terrain is difficult in places, but these surefooted, gentle trail horses make the tough going much easier.
A Dogwood Canyon Adventure Pass is the best value for a day-trip to the park. Very inexpensively, you can hike or bike the self-guided, 6-mile trail, enjoy self-guided trout fishing, and take a Wildlife Tram Tour—an ideal way to experience the best of the magnificent Dogwood Canyon.
Season after season and month after month, this perfectly preserved tract of Ozark Mountain canyon is simply heavenly. Spring brings the gentlest greens, the pale pinks and whites of dogwood, the impossible purple of red bud blossoms against sleek black branches. Add the yellow of forsythia and the furry gray buds of pussywillow and the season is so perfect that you just want to stand and stare reverently, absorbing the beauty as spring sunshine thaws the winter from your bones.
As spring gives way to summer, canopies of green leaves cover bridle paths and Dogwood Canyon Nature Park hiking trails. It’s the perfect season to enjoy vacations, picnics, walks on the 6.5-mile, gently sloping trails, or for discovering beautiful Table Rock Lake. Fall is the season for a Jeep safari through piles of red, orange and gold leaves during your vacation. It’s the time for a spirited canter by horseback or for sitting back and enjoying the landscape from your seat aboard the Wildlife Tram Tour. It’s the perfect time for standing on the bank of a sparkling trout stream carefully placing a fly in the path of a curious — and one hopes, hungry fish. A dusting of snow brings the silence of winter to Dogwood Canyon.
But as the end of the year approaches, holiday music can be heard echoing from the canyon walls. The angelic sounds come from the candlelit Hope Wilderness Chapel and red cardinals and evergreen trees combine to create picture of Christmas-card perfection. Truth is, there simply isn’t an off-season or a bad time to visit Dogwood Canyon Nature Park.It’s one of those extraordinary places you quite simply must experience. It can be explored on foot, by bicycle, on horseback, or by carriage, tram or canoe.