If you’ve been to Branson, you know about the incredible live entertainment and exciting attractions, not to mention all of the tasty options for dining and the wide variety of shopping opportunities, this delightful destination has to offer! You most likely drove into Branson, either in your personal vehicle or with a bunch of excited guests aboard a motorcoach, and we’re sure you noticed the beautiful scenery along Highway 65. But, if the only venturing you’ve done outside your hotel has been to theaters, museums, and restaurants, you may not realize how much Mother Nature has truly blessed Branson.
In addition to the majestic rolling mountains of the Ozarks that are immediately obvious, there are lakes, gorgeous expanses of countryside that enjoy four gentle seasons of beauty, several breathtaking golf courses, and a nice variety of activities that take advantage of the scenic beauty that embraces the Branson area. You can float Taneycomo in a canoe or kayak, hike trails in state and national park lands and throughout the entire area, ride ATVs through the historic grounds of Shepherd of the Hills, zipline from Wolfe Mountain, across Lake Taneycomo, and in a variety of other nice outdoor settings, golf to your heart’s content, horseback ride, zip around Table Rock Lake on a personal watercraft, and throw out a line for a variety of bass and other fish abundantly available in Bull Shoals Lake. And this isn’t the entire list of ways you can dive into the great outdoors in Branson!
Scenery for the Active & Adventurous!
For anyone who actively loves the outdoors, Shepherd of the Hills Homestead & Adventure Park has a lot to offer. In addition to ATV rides, that can be taken for an hour or 90 minute tours, there is a ropes course, zipline canopy tours, and even a really cool area for your little ones - Lil’ Pete’s Playland. For a real thrill, check out the Vigilante Extreme ZipRider, and for kinder, gentler enjoyment of the outdoors, there’s a tram tour of the Homestead, as well as a perfect way to see miles of the surrounding countryside by taking a trip up Inspiration Tower - don’t worry, you won’t be climbing up the 240-foot tower, an elevator takes you to the observation deck. Another great option can be found just minutes north of Branson at Wolfe Mountain - Branson Zipline. They offer several canopy tours, a quick trip on the Blue Streak Fast Line, and Snowflex tubing down a hill covered in slick “snow” year-round. You can also enjoy a more leisurely and “lower” experience at Branson Zipline by taking the Wolfe Mountain Walking Tour. And speaking of walking...or maybe hiking, the Branson area offers miles of maintained trails throughout the two-county area, including those that follow the lake shoreline, those winding throughout the city and it’s many public parks, and off into the more heavily forested areas. A favorite of avid trail enthusiasts is the Lakeside Forest Wilderness Area on Roark Valley Road, accessed just a few yards from where Roark intersects with Highway 76, Branson’s famous “Strip.” Maintained by the city park system, this trail offers some gentle walking and quite a bit of rigourous hiking, as well as what’s probably the most gorgeously stunning view of Lake Taneycomo.
For more zipline experiences, there’s Adventure Ziplines right in the heart of the city of Branson neighboring the White House Theatre, and Indian Point Zipline, located on the same lake peninsula as the award-winning Silver Dollar City theme park. In Historic Downtown Branson at Branson Landing, you’ll find Parakeet Pete’s Zipline & Balloon Ride - their zipline zooms across Lake Tanecomo up to Mount Branson and back, and the balloon is perfect for those wanting a stunning view without floating away - it’s tethered. If ziplining isn’t your thing, but you still want a thrilling way to enjoy the Ozarks, check out the Runaway Mountain Coaster - it uses the natural topography to send you down a 3,000 foot curvy mountain track at speeds up to 30 mph!
Scenery for Lake Lovers!
The Branson area’s two enormous warm water lakes - Table Rock and Bull Shoals, as well as the cold water Taneycomo, are each incredibly special and offer different attributes for those who love scenic bodies of fresh water. The river-like lake that meanders from Table Rock Dam, along Branson Landing in Historic Downtown Branson, and eventually to the nearby town of Forsyth, before dropping over Powersite Dam into Bull Shoals - is the uniquely monikered, Lake Taneycomo. Pictured above, the lake’s name comes from “Taney” and “co” for “Taney County,” the county in which Branson resides, and “mo,” as in MO, the postal abbreviation for Missouri. This lovely lake is the result of creating Table Rock Lake when a dam was constructed on the White River, turning “Taneycomo” into a cold water lake, ideal for the incredible crop of brown and rainbow trout that thrive in the waterway.
Bull Shoals was the first lake created in the area by damming the White River, and it’s close to the same size as Table Rock - both boast more than 700 miles of shoreline and more than 45,000 surface acres of water. Swimming areas, marinas, boat docks and ramps, picnic areas, and other ways to publicly enjoy the water are available on both lakes - if you’re looking for a large expanse of privacy for a leisurely time in a pontoon or other boat on the lake, Bull Shoals is ideal. You can also venture out and look for privacy near inlets on Table Rock Lake, but it’s especially popular for folks who like to be around other people in a more party-like lake atmosphere. It’s still Branson after all, so if you’re really looking for the hard-partying vacation lifestyle, Table Rock isn’t that kind of experience. To take advantage of the clear warm waters of Table Rock Lake, State Park Marina offers rentals of pontoon, tritoon, slide, ski, and bass boats, as well as waverunners.
Leisurely Enjoying Branson’s Scenery
You don’t need to be an active outdoor enthusiast to appreciate the breathtaking scenery of the greater Branson area - if you hop in the car and venture out in any direction, you’ll enjoy a scenic drive. If you arrived from the north on your way into Branson, like most guests do, you’ll have missed the stunning scenery available just to the south. Get back on Highway 65 and head south towards the next-door-neighbor, charming town of Hollister, and beyond. You can exit at Ridgedale on Highway 86 and experience the breathtaking beauty of approaching a truly exquisite area of Table Rock Lake. You can remain on 65 and take in the increasingly more majestic grandeur of the Ozarks Mountains from the highway on down to Harrison, Arkansas. Also from Highway 65, just north of Branson, you can exit at the Ozark Mountain Highroad/F Highway. Head west and you’ll experience the five-mile stretch of the hilly Highroad that’s blissfully free of outdoor advertising - head east of 65 and you’ll travel along a scenic curvy F Highway and Highway 160 on into Forsyth, the Taney County seat, and find access for swimming, fishing, and other water sports in Bull Shoals Lake.
While on a scenic drive to the east of Branson, take a quick side trip to the quaint little village of Rockaway Beach; prior to the construction of Table Rock Dam, this small town was the tourism destination of southwest Missouri with many resorts enjoying swimming and other warm-water activities. It’s still a great place for trout and other fish, and one of the locals’ best-kept-secrets for dining - the La Pizza Cellar - it’s actually “down” inside what seems to be an honest-to-goodness large cellar, but the thin crust pizza is a favorite for anyone who’s discovered this gem! But you don’t need to drive to take a scenic “drive” around the Branson area; VIP Tours offers a great Discover Branson Tour aboard their sporty, luxury 18-passenger Mercedes Sprinter - a really fun way for a small family reunion or a big group of friends to see the area!
As you can see, there are so many wonderful ways to enjoy the scenery in Ozark Mountain Country - peacefully and leisurely driving or riding along, or actively and adventuresome by taking advantage of a wide variety of attractions and activities. And we didn’t even get into all the great golf in the area - watch for that in a future post! Regardless of your preferred method for viewing, on your next visit, don’t forget to indulge in the scenic side of Branson!