It’s 35 miles south of Branson, but this private wildlife refuge is a wonderful destination if you want to do some hiking, biking, horse-back riding, trout fishing and more. This is the Ozarks at its finest, full of spring-fed streams, waterfalls, caves and wooded wilderness. In fact, Dogwood Canyon Nature Park is so pristine and well-kept, it’s more like a park than wilderness, especially when the dogwoods are in spring bloom. In addition to nature, facilities include a working grist mill with a general store, Canyon Grill Restaurant and patio. Dogs on leashes are allowed in certain areas.
The least expensive–and most intimate–way to experience its beauty is to hike or cycle with your own bicycle along its 6.5-mile paved pathway. There are also 2-hour wildlife tram tours that travel farther to take in a refuge for elk, bison, Texas longhorns and other wildlife (reservations required, and prices vary according to the season and time of day). On Saturdays May through September, you can even sign up for tram tours that include dinner.
One-hour horseback rides are available (limited to riders 8 and older at least 48 inches tall), as well as 5-hour rides for advanced riders. Other options include trout fishing for either release or to keep (fees apply; rental rods available) and Segway tours.
Admission allows you to hike or ride your own bike, but you pay extra for each of the other activities, which can change according to the season and even time of day. The park suggests calling to make reservations for the various activities, at which time you’ll be told how much it costs. Unfortunately, Dogwood Canyon can be quite pricey for families, but it sure is pretty.