Experience the beauty and adventure found at Dogwood Canyon Nature Park and Top of the Rock Ozarks Heritage Preserve
Unless they’re napping on the drive into Branson, travelers notice the Ozark Mountains’ limestone bluffs and rugged woodlands landscapes. Upon arriving, however, groups get immersed in the entertainment options, good food and great shopping, all in the heart of Branson. For a breath of fresh air, some tour planners include outdoor encounters to balance out their itineraries.
Top of the Rock Ozarks Heritage Preserve
Developed in 1920 as a country retreat by two wealthy Missourians, the property was purchased in 1987 by Bass Pro Shops owner Johnny Morris. Today, this 4,600-acre lakeside retreat encompasses stunning views and an outstanding list of activities. Long before the sunset slides into the horizon, groups will find plenty to do. If you’re a planner seeking to put a variety of options on the table for your group, Top of the Rock is for you.
Option one is the Lost Canyon and Cave Nature Trail, where you’ll see dramatic views of Table Rock Lake, unusual rock formations and gorgeous waterfalls. There are two ways to enjoy this two-and-a-half mile experience. A tour with golf carts seating four will take about 50 minutes. A walking tour on the trail, lasting just less than two hours, takes visitors across a 140-foot Amish bridge. Final destination for both tours is Lost Canyon Cave, which features a 40-foot waterfall. If the great outdoors is still calling, there are other possibilities available. Three options take full advantage of the scenic beauty of the Ozark Mountains and Table Rock Lake.
The Ozarks may be the perfect setting for golf courses. Some of the best names in golf architecture have added their names to courses. The Par 3 Top of the Rock is a Jack Nicklaus Signature course. Mountain Top Course is a unique 13-hole course designed by Gary Player. Johnny Morris and Tom Fazio combined on Buffalo Ridge, rated No. 1 course in Missouri by Golf Magazine. Ozark National, a Coore & Crenshaw design, opens this fall, and in 2019 Tiger Woods will have his first public course when Payne’s Valley makes its debut.
For those who would enjoy some time on the water, the marina’s veteran guides are ready to show you the best fishing spots. Table Rock Lake is nationally ranked for its bass and crappie abundance and the size of all breeds.
One of the newest additions to the complex is the Bass Pro Shops Shooting Academy. All skill levels are welcome, and shotgun, ammunition, clay targets, and required safety gear and instruction are provided.
To explore the Ozarks’ past, move inside to the Ancient Ozarks Natural History Museum. Newly expanded, it takes visitors from prehistoric times to the cave dwellers of the region, continuing with the Native Americans, settlement of the American West and the Civil War. Dramatic galleries with Native American artifacts and artwork provide a memorable experience.
A wide assortment of culinary options awaits groups, but the Osage Restaurant is a favorite. Sweeping Ozark views, original Native American artwork and an upscale menu of regional specialties are all part of the experience. Plan to make the Top of the Rock Sunset Service part of your itinerary. With Table Rock Lake in the background, a lone traditional bagpipe is played. The distant sound of a single cannon blast concludes this special moment.
For pricing, developing outdoor tracks for groups or more information, call group sales at 800-225-6343, or begin planning online at topoftherock.com.
Dogwood Canyon Nature Park
Near Top of the Rock sits a 10,000-acre spot with unmatched beauty, a paradise for adventurers. Regardless of fitness level, there is more than one activity to enjoy.
The 6.5-mile walking, hiking or biking trails put the Ozarks’ best landscapes on display, with plummeting waterfalls, limestone bluffs, an Amish-constructed covered bridge and clear, spring-fed waters with native rainbow trout. Bicycles are available for rent. No fishing license, tackle or rods? No problem. All are available for those wishing to try their hand at catching and releasing a brilliant rainbow trout. The new Fly Fishing Academy offers hands-on learning for anglers at all levels. From fly-casting clinics to multi-day schools to guided catch-and-release trips, there’s something for the enthusiast in every group.
To explore Dogwood Canyon off the beaten path is to go horseback riding. Veteran guides take guests on a leisurely ride featuring one scenic view after another. At 24-stall Little Indian Stables, riders will have an opportunity to meet their horse before beginning their adventure. Choose between the one-hour ride and 2.5-hour Little Indian Lunch Ride.
Segways have come to the canyon as technology meets the Ozarks. It only takes a brief training session to set riders on a 90-minute guided tour featuring park history and its most magnificent sites. For more experienced riders, a round-trip tour to the last waterfall on the trail, Wish Bowl Falls, is offered.
One of the more popular group activities is the Wildlife Tram Tour. This two-hour narrated tour places guests in a comfortable open-air tram. The journey begins along the canyon’s floor with views of waterfalls and towering bluffs. There are stops at the Hope Wedding Chapel and the Glory Hole to feed the fish.
Dogwood Canyon is very group-friendly. Most activities (excluding guided fly fishing) have group rates for 20+. Individual option packages may not qualify for a group rate, but are certainly a valued experience.
Call 417-348-3322 or visit Branson’s Dogwood Canyon Nature Park showcases the beauty of the Ozarks. dogwoodcanyon.org.