Lakeside Forest Wilderness Area is in the heart of Branson and offers a nature escape with 140 acres of wooded and rugged hill country. From its inception in 1998, the park was envisioned to be a showcase for nature and beauty in the Ozarks. With its proximity to Highway 76, it is very accessible to residents and visitors alike. After the acquisition of the Owen's Homestead in 2010, we have devoted time and energy to improving the park, including a new entrance feature. A large wooden log archway over an ornamental iron gate with a decorative native stone veneer welcomes visitors to the park. With sustainable concepts in mind, a plan was developed for a parking lot that will eliminate surface runoff by capturing the storm water in a state-of-the-art underground "water harvesting system". This water is then pressurized and supplies the water for an adjoining irrigation system. The 6,000 square foot parking lot made of donated permeable parking lot paver stones is complete, with a walkway made of trail pavers currently under construction, giving the park improved access to walkers from Highway 76. In the last two years, 1.3 miles of trail have been added, which now totals 4.4 miles of trails. More trails are planned in the future.
Picnic areas have already been added at the trail head, the Owen Homestead site and at the south end of the loop trail. Click here for a brochure, featuring a map of the trails and history of the site. A brochure copy is also available at the Branson RecPlex.
The Bluff Trail starts through an upland forest where mature trees dominate and the fairly level 3/10 mile trail makes for an easy walk to the steps. A set of 315 stonework steps lead down toward Lake Taneycomo. Fairly steep in design, this part of the trail takes some agility, along with a good pair of lungs and comfortable walking shoes. Many spots allow passage for only one person. The steps were built from 1937-1938. Inscribed in mortar on a step near the bottom are the building dates and the names of the workers, along with this testament of their hard work, “Let those who tread here not forget, that these steps were not made of stone and mortar alone, but of sweat, blood, and agony.” While walking the steps, you will see the first of two caves located in the wilderness area. At the bottom of the steps, the 1/5 mile Bluff Trail will take you by a grotto and waterfall and end at the Old Soldier's Cave. The total mileage for Trail 1 is 7/10 mile (one way).
The Ridgetop Trail winds its way through forest and glades, making a 1 3/10 mile loop. This fairly level trail best suits families with small children and folks who desire an easier stroll. About halfway down the trail is a picnic area with tables. Oak-hickory forest makes up much of the woodlands, and during the spring, blooming eastern redbuds and flowering dogwoods enhance the landscape with their striking contrast to the stark forest. Also, note the large cedar-like trees with multiple trunks called Ashe’s Junipers. These uncommon trees are unique to the glades.
7:00am to 7:00pm Summer
7:00am to 5:00pm Winter
Closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day
Rules and Regulations
1. Alcoholic beverages are prohibited.
2. Do not litter.
3. Weapons are prohibited.
4. Please stay on trails at all times. These trails have been designed to discourage erosion and harm to natural communities.
5. Please stay within park boundaries. Respect land owner's rights and private property signs.
6. No fires.
7. Day use only.
8. Destroying, cutting or removing gegetation, including wildflowers, is prohibited.
9. Foot traffic only. No motorized vehicles allowed.
10. Please keep dogs on a leash and clean up after them.
The Bluff Trail involves a strenuous one hour hike which includes 315 stone steps to the bottom and a difficult return climb. Be aware that surfaces may become slippery during inclement weather or depending of the season. Please follow the instructions below:
1. Use handrail at all times.
2. Children under age 8 must be accompanied by an adult.
3. Stay on the established trail at all times.
4. Running is not allowed.
5. Throwing or dropping of objects is prohibited.
6. Footwear suitable for wet walking surfaces is recommended (sandals, slick soled shoes and high heels are not recommended).
7. No animals allowed on steps, except service dogs.
8. Hiking the steps is not recommended if you have heart or breathing difficulties, have had recent surgery or illness, you are pregnant, you have a fear of heights, or any condition that may prevent you from strenuous exercise.
Currently, the City of Branson has 16 parks serving residents and visitors. These parks offer a wide variety of opportunities from swimming to nature trails.