The hiking trails at Ruth and Paul Henning Conservation Area are popular with both Branson locals and visitors because of the variety they offer. Whether you have 20 minutes or two hours, you can enjoy a quiet walk in the woods and not worry about venturing far from town.
💭 Summary: The hiking trails at Ruth and Paul Henning Conservation Area in Branson are a great choice for those who don’t want to venture far from the city’s entertainment district. Trails range from quite easy to moderately challenging, and you can enjoy sweeping views from the parking area.
🧭 Where to Find It: The hiking trails at Ruth and Paul Henning Conservation Area are on Highway 76 just west of the Branson theater district. You will pass it on your way to Silver Dollar City or Shepherd of the Hills. I noticed that my phone’s map app is totally confused if I just put in the name, so I’d suggest typing in the Butterfly Palace which is only a minute away instead to ensure you get proper directions.
Important tip! The gates to the parking lot are usually locked around sunset, so be sure to plan ahead so you’re finished hiking before then with a little time to spare.
🌿Number of trails: There are two trail heads here. As you enter the parking area, one will be to the far right and the other to the far left.
On the right side, you’ll find the Dewey Bald Trail. On the left, you’ll find access to the Glade Trail, which connects to the Streamside Trail, Shane’s Shortcut, and the Homesteader Trail.
🗺️ Trail Map:
Map of the hiking trails at Ruth and Paul Conservation Area
🚻 Facilities: There is one bathroom on-site, near the entrance to the Dewey Bald Trail. It’s honestly more like an outhouse because the toilets are pit-style (no flush) and there are no sinks or even lights. It doesn’t smell great in there. Handy in an emergency, but I’d highly suggest going elsewhere if possible. You won’t find any running water on-site, so bring hand sanitizer or wet wipes, as well as bottled water if you’re doing the longer trails or hiking in the summer. There’s a White Oak gas station just a mile down the road towards town where you can use the restroom and pick up a bottle of water before hitting the trails.
Dewey Bald Trail at Henning Conservation Area
🌿 Trail Length: 0.6 miles round trip
⏲️ Estimated Time: 15 minutes
🗺️ Trail Map:
This paved trail leads out to an observation tower. The trip to the tower is mostly uphill and takes about 7 minutes. Although this trail is paved, the incline is a bit too steep to comfortably push a wheelchair or heavy stroller, and the pavement is cracked and uneven in places.
Although the map above shows six benches, I only counted four, some of which were in better shape than others.
Unlike the trails on the other side, this one doesn’t offer any great views unless you choose to climb the tower. However, it is a nice tranquil walk in the woods, and the wooded scenery is pretty.
These photos were taken in February, but be aware that if you visit in the fall, the trail is usually covered with leaves that can get surprisingly slippery, almost like walking on ice.
An idea of what the trail looks like in the fall.
When you reach the top of the hill, the trail makes a loop around the tower so it doesn’t matter if you go left or right at the fork.
The path on the left of this photo is the main trail, and the path on the right is if you head counterclockwise on the loop. Going that direction is a little less steep than going counterclockwise, but it’s not much of a difference.
The tower stairs are quite narrow and it does shake a bit as you go up, but you do get some pretty nice views from the top!
If you’re not a big fan of heights, you can totally fake it. I took this from only two flights of stairs up:
Not as dramatic as going up all 6 flights of stairs, but not a bad compromise if you don’t want to go all the way up.
This is an out-and-back style trail, so other than completing the loop around the tower, you simply return the same way you came. A good choice if you only have a small period of time but want a little walk in the woods, or if you’re wearing shoes that aren’t suitable to more natural trails.
Glade Trail and Streamside Trail at Ruth and Paul Henning Conservation Area
🌿 Trail Length: 1.1 miles and .4 miles respectively, or just under 1.5 miles if done together.
⏲️ Estimated Time: 50 minutes for the Glade Trail, or 1 hour for the Glade + Streamside trails together.
🗺️ Trail Map:
As mentioned above, you will find the entrance to the Glade Trail on the left part of the parking lot. To get started, you’ll descend about a dozen stairs from the little lookout area:
Be sure to stop for a moment and enjoy the view!
The layout of this trail is a little tough to explain, so let’s use the map:
The Glade Trail is represented in red above. After traveling that first little “intro” section, you’ll encounter a fork in the road about four minutes along the trail.
Lots of exposed tree roots on this trail! We’ll discuss the terrain in more depth below.
The first section of the trail is relatively flat and just a nice, easy stroll in the woods.
Although the Glade Trail is only about a mile long, the hills and rocky parts make it feel like the equivalent of a 4 mile hike on flat ground. If you’re traveling clockwise (aka going left at the fork in the trail), the trail starts out very easy and pretty but gets a bit steep and rocky towards the end. I *highly* recommend going to the right (counterclockwise) instead, so that you knock out the most difficult section first thing. No matter which direction you choose, you’ll have ups and downs, but I personally prefer to go *down* the steep, rocky part while I’m fresh and energetic rather than tackling it at the end when I’m running out of steam.
For the sake of this description, I’m going to describe the trail as if you are going counterclockwise as suggested. Just mentally reverse it if you’d like to got he other way.
Note: This sign at the fork in the trail is kind of misleading. It’s a loop, so either direction keeps you on the Glade Trail, and either direction will bring you to the Streamside Trail eventually. Not sure why they put that sign there?
After taking the right turn at the fork, the next tenth of a mile or so is by far the most rugged part of the trail. It’s all rock, and if it has rained recently they may be a bit slippery.
I definitely prefer to go down these rocky parts rather than up them!
After the rocky section, you pass through a flatter section that’s out in the sunlight. This section of the trail can be significantly hotter and windier than the rest, which is mostly shaded by trees.
I did have a brief moment here where I wondered if I was still on the trail. (I was. Whew!)
This is also the section of the trail where you get your first bench! (Hooray!) There are about 5 scattered along the entire trail, and I usually find myself needing a quick minute to rest and drink some water on at least one of them.
Less than half a mile after beginning the Glade Trail (.44 miles or about 17 minutes), you have the option to turn onto the Streamside Trail, which is the yellow loop on the map above. The first time I did the Streamside Trail I was fairly unimpressed, but when I did it again to research this post, the creek had a fair amount of running water in it and I found the trail a lot more enjoyable with the soft sound of water in the background.
I also fell in love with how moss seemed to line most of the trail, giving it a sort of storybook quality.
About halfway along the Streamside Trail, you can take Shane’s Shortcut to the 3.5 mile Homesteader’s Loop. I don’t currently plan to hike the Homesteader’s Loop, but I may eventually check out Shane’s Shortcut and update this post with info about it. If you’re interested in hiking the Homesteader’s Loop, the Missouri Department of Conservation has a brochure with interesting information about the trail that can be downloaded here.
The Streamside Trail comes back out on the Glade Trail about 1/10 of a mile away from where you left it. At this point you’re about .9 miles in, or about half an hour.
If you’ve been going counter-clockwise, this is where you finally have to do a bit of uphill walking.
I’m in love with this spot where tree roots basically act as stair steps.
The little overlook spot might not look impressive, but there’s a bench to relax on and panoramic views of the Branson area!
After the overlook (or before, if you’re going clockwise) there are several more breaks in the trees where you can take in pretty great views.
From this point back to the trail head, the trail is relatively flat and just a nice, pleasant walk in the woods.
Suggested Routes for the Hiking Trails at Ruth and Paul Henning Conservation Area:
*Easiest Route – Although the short, paved Dewey Bald Trail seems like the easiest option, I’d actually rank it 2nd easiest due to some steep sections. My real suggestion for the least strenuous trail is to take the Glade Trail out to the Observation Point, then turn and head back the way you came. If you’re going clockwise, that first section from the trail head to the lookout point is by far the easiest, and it takes about 23 minutes to walk out and back, which is about .8 miles round trip. It’s mostly flat(-ish) and just a pleasant walk though the woods. You do have to go down a few wooden steps to get started and the terrain is uneven, so it’s not stroller or wheelchair friendly, though.
*Nice Hike in Under an Hour– If you’re up for a bit more adventure but don’t have a ton of time (or stamina), do the red trail, and consider adding on the yellow one, too. The yellow trail isn’t particularly noteworthy, but it does add about 10-15 minutes onto your hike.
*The Long Hike Option– Looking for more time in the woods? If you do the loop created by combining four of the area’s five trails, you’ve got a six-mile hike. I haven’t personally done the Homesteader Trail, which makes up almost four of the six miles, so I can’t report back on how long it takes to do the whole loop, but at best guess it would have to be at least two hours.
The Missouri Department of Conservation has a topographical map of Ruth and Paul Henning Conservation area that you can download here.
Come back soon for my full guide to Hiking Trails in Branson!
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