For many years, we have enjoyed visits to the Ozark Mountains. This ancient mountain range offers amazing scenery, abundant wildlife, and many hidden wonders. During a trip to Top of the Rock, we learned about another scenic site that we wanted to see firsthand. A little research uncovered 10,000 acres of exploring that offers visitors plenty of natural experiences. Since we had planned a Branson trip, it made sense to add a stop at Dogwood Canyon Nature Park to our itinerary.   

An oversized map shows the path visitors can take as they explore Dogwood Canyon.

Miles of Nature

Dogwood Canyon is a little over 30 minutes southwest of Branson, Missouri. That makes it an easy day trip for those staying at one of the nearby resorts. Upon arriving, we found that the 10,000-acre park has tons of available parking. Our plan was to spend an extended amount of time at the park so that we could really explore. Single-day tickets are $15 per adult, and we decided to add bike rentals, which was an additional $15 each. At admissions, guests are supplied with color-coded wristbands that help staff recognize what you have purchased.

Getting Around Dogwood Canyon

They offer a variety of bike options, including plenty for the little tikes. The wide paths are designed to handle the combination of biker and hiker traffic. During our visit, it was a well-balanced split between walkers and riders. Little Indian Creek winds through the park and guests will cross the water multiple times during their trip. They also have trams running that utilize their own pathway, but there are spots where the paths combine and cross.

A covered bridge adds a level of nostalgia to a hike through Dogwood Canyon Nature Park.

Bridging the Gap

We found that Dogwood Canyon has a very relaxed atmosphere. With so much to see, we often found ourselves pulling over to take it in. This covered bridge is designed for foot traffic, so bikers have to dismount and push their cycles to the other side. Along the way, we noticed that the tram path cut through the creek. When one of the trams passed by, it kicked up a nice splash that was entertaining for riders and viewers alike.

You will find plenty of natural wonders during a visit to Dogwood Canyon.

Bluff-side Views

The fact that this park is built inside of a canyon makes it easy to find amazing views. Besides the over 6 miles of paved paths, there are another 9 miles of hiking paths. This lets visitors design their own unique visit. A few spots allow guests to get up-close views and even some elevated perspectives of the park. Tons of shade trees are the perfect place to take a break from your hike and just enjoy the scenery.

A chapel is a good space to relax and meditate.

Going to the Chapel

Most of the sights at Dogwood Canyon are focused on nature. We did find this cute little chapel just a short way down the path. A short break from our bikes was needed to check out the interior. The architect who designed this space was able to add another level of awesome by framing a nearby waterfall in the view you have down the main aisle. We paused for a few minutes to take in the sheer beauty of this place, before heading back to the main trail.

A reflection pond is filled with trout who respond actively to the fish food found nearby.

Scenic Break

At the far end of Dogwood Canyon, guests will actually cross into Arkansas. A roundabout signals time to head back to the start. Before we began that leg of our journey, we decided to rest up at Wish Bowl Falls. It is a good place to enjoy some serenity, even if there are others around. A couple of nearby picnic tables offer space for groups to have a makeshift picnic.

Fish Frenzy

The reflecting pool, at Wish Bowl Falls, is filled with trout. This seemed to be quite entertaining for everyone we saw visiting the area. Nearby fish food vending machines allow guests a chance to get a closer look at the fish. I went as far as submerging our GoPro for a close-up look at the school in action. Be aware that the video is actually upside-down, but I really liked the effect. I hope you enjoy it, as well.

The wide paved path makes it easy to get around Dogwood Canyon.

10,000 Acres of Exploring

It always surprises us that no matter how hard we scan the landscape, there are lots of sights we miss. Dogwood Canyon Nature Park helped us remedy our usual oversight since we had to return by the same path. On this portion of the excursion, we were able to spot some of the finer details in the park.

An old-time chuckwagon marks the place where we could find a picnic style dinner.

Dogwood Canyon Chuckwagon Dining

During the first half of our journey, we had spotted an area that featured a chuckwagon-style dining option. It was a little crowded at that point, so we decided to check it out on the return trip. After checking out the menu, we went in search of a table. Sure enough, the crowds had dispersed and we easily found seating that allowed appropriate social distancing space.

Lunch was served up at the chuckwagon during our visit to Dogwood Canyon.

Lunch Break

We knew that we would be dining at least once during our visit, so we had scoped out the various opportunities present at Dogwood Canyon. Near the entrance, there is a sit-down restaurant that features views of a 120-foot waterfall. There is also the option of dining on a nearby outdoor patio, but both of these spots had looked to be fairly popular. This chuckwagon picnic version was perfect for our pace that day. The menu is limited to most items that are easy to eat, which is exactly what we were wanting.

The Grist Mill holds a variety of artifacts from the Osage Indian tribes.

Indoor Exploring

Once we completed our circuit, we returned our bikes to the shop. Now it was time to do a little exploring in the main buildings near the entrance. As you are approaching the park, the Dogwood Mill captures your attention. On the outside, a 25-foot wheel spins from the force of the passing creek. Inside the gristmill, there are a variety of exhibits showcasing the heritage of the native Osage tribes that occupied these lands.

Mask wearing is something we got used to in 2020.

Masking Up at Dogwood Canyon

Moving indoors meant that we needed to mask up. There are spots on the outside where masks were needed, but we found plenty of space to distance ourselves during our bike ride. After exploring the displays we popped out on a patio for a view of the park. Across the way, we spotted a large treehouse that begged to be explored.

You will find examples of wildlife that have called this region home.

Animal Insights

Heading across the way, we found that the treehouse was closed due to the pandemic. While we were a little bummed out about it, we knew that it would be hard to keep the spaces sanitized with roving bands of kids. We settled for a visit to the Conservation Center, which is accessible by a swinging bridge. Inside there are representatives of the animals that currently and previously inhabited this region. We made our way through the building and down some stairs. It deposited us in the gift shop, where we selected a couple of mementos to remember our visit.

The authors rest up after a day of biking at Dogwood Canyon.

Dogwood Canyon Nature Park

By the time we made our way back to our car, we had spent about 5 hours at Dogwood Canyon Nature Park. The spaces and exhibits were able to keep us engaged the entire time. We would imagine that it might be the same for others. It would be reasonable to add another hour to our time, but that would probably be the maximum for us. Of course, by riding bikes instead of walking, we shaved off significant time on our journey. You may want to keep that in mind when planning your own visit to the park.

the authors signatures.

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