Lakeside Forest Wilderness Area
Posted on November 2nd, 2011
A few hundred yards south of the neon signs of the Dick Clark Theater lies a beautiful 130 acre parcel of land that is one of Branson’s most picturesque hiking areas. Tucked away but easy to find, the Lakeside Forest Wilderness Area is located on a bluff above Lake Taneycomo. The Lakeside Forest Wilderness Area consists of two woodland trails that cross the land that was once the Lyle Owen family homestead. The trailhead is located on Fall Creek road, only 100 yards off of hwy 76 (the Strip). There are trail maps posted at the trailhead.
The upper part of this trail is a 1/2 mile (one way) that winds through the forest. Here mature trees dominate and the fairly level terrain makes for an easy walk. Once you have passed through the woodlands, you will come to a wooden deck with a beautiful overlooking view of the While River Valley and Lake Taneycomo. Just past the wooden deck you come upon the old farmhouse of Dr. Lyle Owen. Near the farmhouse is the top of a winding fieldstone staircase, made of hand-laid stone steps that lead down the bluff toward Lake Taneycomo. Mr. Owens and several others worked for two years, 1937 and 1938, to construct these steps. Fairly steep in design, this part of the trail takes some care, as the hand-laid stone steps are a little uneven and of varying heights. At the bottom of the steps the path proceeds for another mile or so along the Lake. You will pass through a grotto formed by the slow erosion of the rock from a wet weather waterfall. A few hundred yards past the grotto you will find the entrance to Soldiers Cave, where legend has it that a Confederate soldier hid from Union patrols after the battle of Pea Ridge. The trail is much lest traveled past the cave and gets pretty overgrown. You must return the way that you came, but the scenery is so magnificent that you will be glad to retrace your steps. Notice the engraved stones at the bottom of the stone steps.
This trail winds its way through the woods and glades and features some scenic overlooks and a grove of uncommon Ashe Juniper trees. The 1 3/10 mile trail is fairly level and mulched, and is an easy stroll for families with children and folks who do not want to navigate the stone steps on Trail 1. A picnic area can be found halfway down the trail. Oak and hickory forest makes up most of these Ozark’s woodlands. During the spring, blooming eastern redbuds and flowering dogwoods are beautiful with their striking contrast to the forest. Depending on the time of year, you may see any of a vast array of flowering pants along the trails, as well as many species of animals.