For tourists to Branson who are wanting to spend summer days outdoors, getting out on Table Rock Lake is usually the first thing that comes to mind--and for good reason! There are so many fun things that can be done on Table Rock Lake (not to mention Lake Taneycomo!). Some people prefer to cruise the coves and explore hidden inlets on a pontoon, while others would rather catch a little adrenaline by tubing, water skiing, or wakeboarding. Others fall somewhere in the middle, challenging themselves with long trips along the shoreline in kayaks or canoes, or even on a paddleboard. However, though water activities might seem to have a monopoly on Branson’s outdoor offerings, there are actually plenty of fun, outdoor things to do in this area while keeping two feet on land! Today we’re going to cover a few of Branson’s lesser-known places to enjoy outdoor activities.
Table Rock Lakeshore Trail
From the outset, it’s important to recognize that Branson’s landbound outdoor activities often benefit from the lake even when they don’t directly involve it! For instance, those who enjoy the Table Rock Lakeshore Trail do not have to descend to the shoreline that sits only feet away, but the experience of walking the trail is greatly improved by views of Table Rock and the rhythmic lapping of waves on the bank. This two-mile paved trail is suited to those of all ages, from young families to the elderly, as it accommodates foot traffic, wheelchairs, bicycles, skateboards, and scooters. Work your way from one end of this shady trail to the other and back again, enjoying the grounds of Dewey Short Visitor Center, the Branson Belle, and Table Rock State Park as you go!
Ruth and Paul Henning Conservation Area
Ruth and Paul Henning, the latter of whom is best remembered as the creator of the Beverly Hillbillies and Green Acres, bought and donated the 1500+ acres that make up this conversation area in order to preserve the natural beauty of the Ozark Mountains. Branson residents and visitors continue to benefit from their gift by enjoying the scenic views and hikes that this area has to offer. Conveniently situated between The Shepherd of the Hills and the west side of Branson proper, the area offers several hikes which vary in length and range from easy to intermediate difficulty. The hikes can be enjoyed on their own (Streamside Trail (0.5), Glade Trail (1.1), and Homesteader Trail (3.9)) or combined into a single, 5.7-mile loop!
Just don’t forget to bring your water bottle if you decide to go on a longer hike--there might be streams along the way, but you don’t want to refill with natural water unless you have a filter designed for that purpose!
Okay, so we’re going to cheat: swimming at Moonshine Beach isn’t exactly a land activity. But isn’t there a difference between being “on the water” and enjoying an afternoon “in the water”? Regardless, if you’re not wanting to take a boat out on Table Rock, it can be tough to find an ideal place to grab some sun and enjoy the water. Moonshine Beach, close to The Chateau and Table Rock Dam, is our recommendation! Lay out your beach towels, open your umbrella, and let the kids play in the water while you read a good book! The protected swimming area provides a safe area for swimmers and is roped off by a floating barrier to ensure ideal safety. If you need to take a meal break, there are picnic tables and a large pavilion available, which sit close to a playground. One caution, however: we do recommend water shoes since some have said that the sand can be coarse and hot on your feet. However, that doesn’t take away from the fact that Moonshine Beach is a premier spot to relax for an afternoon during your vacation!
Though the lake is a major draw to the Branson area and a great place to enjoy the outdoors, don’t let yourself believe that Branson’s outdoor activities are limited to Table Rock! These recommendations represent just a few of the fun things you can do in this area without renting a boat. With a little more research, we’re certain that you could uncover dozens more!
Take a look at our additional hiking recommendations below: