This hidden gem not far from Highway 76 offers an unexpected slice of nature good for a hike or some R&R. At only 140 acres, the Lakeside Forest Wilderness Area manages to pack in picnic areas, woodland trails, rugged hill country overlooking Lake Taneycomo, and even an abandoned homestead.
At almost half a mile, the Owen Drive Trail is the easiest, leading from the parking lot straight to the Owen Homestead, built in the early 1900s and with an outbuilding, picnic tables and almost 2,000 feet of stone walls encircling the property (unfortunately, a fire destroyed the stone farmhouse, pictured below, which had been marked for restoration). Hikers looking for a challenge will want to take on the Bluff Trail, which is is half a mile one way leading down to Lake Taneycomo via 338 stone steps built by Mr. Owen in 1937-38. It joins the 1-mile Taneycomo Trail, which takes takes hikers past two caves, a grotto and waterfall in the rainy season.
The combined 4.7 miles of the five trails are all interconnected, so you can spend as little or as much time here as you wish. Take note, however, that trails are poorly marked, and there are many offshoots trampled by people who have probably been lost. And if you hike when there is snow on the ground like I did with my son, you’re likely to have the entire place to yourself.