Our rolling hills, verdant woodlands, sparkling streams, and miles of pristine lakes make the Ozarks a giant playground for outdoor adventure. Bike. Hike. Swim. Boat. Fish. Hunt. Waterski. Zip-line over the forest from the top of an Ozarks mountain. Ride the open roads on your motorcycle. Or simply soak up the sun in one of our many city parks with your favorite furry best friend. Adventure awaits only a short drive away.
Leisure Boating and Floating
So what if there’s not a seaside beach just outside our doorsteps—in the Ozarks, there’s water, water everywhere! Miles of lakes, rivers, and streams surround Springfield. You’ll find opportunities for fun in watercraft from high-end cabin cruisers, ski boats, and houseboats to personal watercraft and pontoon boats at any one of the region’s magnets for water lovers. Within an hour, you can be on the water at one of more than half a dozen boating lakes including the headliner, Table Rock Lake, where you’ll find boat dealers of all kinds, full-service marinas, wet and dry boat storage, and plenty of spots to anchor up for a day of relaxation. Quiet lakes like Beaver and Bull Shoals Lakes or Stockton Lake, a paradise for those with sailboats, are just an hour away. Or a 90-minute drive can put you on the Lake of the Ozarks for an exciting summer outing.
If you prefer a simpler boating experience, try our miles of rivers and streams. Nearly 40 inches of rainfall, mostly in the late winter and spring, bring the hundreds of Ozarks float streams to life, and the constant flow of cool, clear springs keeps the floating going almost year-round. Canoes, kayaks, and rafts are perfect choices for the National Scenic Rivers, which include the Current, the Jacks Fork, and the Buffalo. They provide hundreds of miles of floating and fishing streams, and even exciting whitewater runs, but with very little sign of development.
Hunting and Fishing
With our internationally recognized variety of trophy fishing opportunities and variety of hunting seasons, it is no surprise that Bass Pro Shops was founded and grown in the Springfield region. Within an hour, you can be on the water at one of more than a half dozen world-class bass and trout lakes including scenic Table Rock Lake. Or test your fly-fishing skills in some of the clear, spring-fed streams. Fishing holes like Bennett Spring and the North Fork of the White River boast some of the best rainbow and brown trout fishing in the country.
Hunting opportunities abound with deer and turkey seasons leading the way each fall. A nationally recognized Department of Conservation manages a variety of long hunting seasons for waterfowl and a diversity of wildlife. And with a Bass Pro Shops in Springfield and one in Branson, you’ll always have the latest gear close at hand.
Camping and Hiking
From leisurely strolls in nature to multi-day backpacking trips, Springfield and the Ozarks offer a multitude of hiking opportunities. Start within the city limits at the Springfield Conservation Nature Center and enjoy walking through a variety of ecosystems where you can catch a glimpse of a white-tailed deer or even a bald eagle. Build up to more scenic hikes in the Mark Twain or Ozark National Forests or in the nearby Buffalo National River. Within no time, you can be taking in views from high on the bluff or hiking to a secluded waterfall. Test yourself on the 165-mile trek on the Ozark Highlands Trail in northern Arkansas or the 140-mile Ozark Trail in southern Missouri. Whether you want to hook up your RV in a relaxing campground or get off the grid with your tent in the backcountry, camping opportunities are plentiful. Waste the day away soaking up the outdoors or use a campground as base camp to explore streams and hills especially in mid-October, when the best of the autumn’s colors are on display.
Thrill-seekers take heart—the Ozarks will amaze you with an abundance of possibilities. Just 2 hours to our south, the Boston Mountains in northern Arkansas contain high-quality sandstone climbing areas like Sam’s Throne or Cave Creek where you can set up top-ropes over routes ranging from 5.6 to 5.13. With Missouri known as “The Cave State,” amazing sights lie just under your feet. Commercial caves like Fantastic Caverns and Smallin Cave offer pathway tours or off-trail wild cave tours where you can really get inside these natural geologic wonders. Join a speleology club and gain access to all sorts of unique caving opportunities. Water and adventure go hand in hand here. When a solid rain hits the watershed, streams can become a whitewater playground, and the promise of kayaking and adventure canoeing bring out the paddlers. Summertime on the lakes brings wake boarders and water skiers out to test their skills. And you don’t have to be in the tropics to scuba dive. Keep your diving skills sharp exploring pristine area lakes, or head to Bonne Terre Mine where visibility is over 100 feet and the diving tours are listed by National Geographic as one of America’s Top 10 Greatest Adventures. If you prefer being high and dry, try flying above the trees on one of the ziplines around Branson. Each offers a variety of tours, and Zip Line USA puts you 350 feet off the valley floor flying across a 3,250-foot-long span, the longest in the United States.
More than 60 miles of bike routes for commuters helped earn Springfield the Bicycle Friendly Community designation by the League of American Bicyclists. Add to that 24 miles of greenway trail system running safely through Springfield—including Galloway Creek Greenway and South Creek Greenway—both of which have been designated National Recreation Trails by the National Parks Service. But the biking opportunities don’t stop there. The non-profit group Ozark Greenways has overseen the development of the Frisco Highline Trail, a 35-mile rails-to-trails project. Do the Frisco as a test run before taking a weeklong trip across Missouri on the 240-mile Katy Trail, the longest rail-trail in the nation.
Whether you have a need for speed or prefer to bounce around fat tires, you’ll find all sorts of biking in the Springfield area. Every road in Greene County is paved, and each weekend, bike clubs will be just out for the day or putting in training miles for a triathlon. Either way, we have plenty of hills to get you trained up. If getting dirty is more your style, 8 miles of specially designed mountain bike trails at Sac River Trails or 8.5 miles of the newly opened Two Rivers Bike Park await. Enjoy the thrills of bombing down through the forest on singletrack, or shred your legs climbing the rocky hillsides that challenge even the best mountain bikers.
Local, State, and National Parks
Springfield offers a great variety of natural escapes. With a dedicated sales tax for parks and trails, our city is nationally recognized by Sports Illustrated for our Parks Board and community commitment to recreation. Historic parks offer fantastic settings to unwind with picnics, playgrounds, pools, or just a stroll through the trees. Our 70 city parks provide an assortment of experiences with new options including the marquee Jordan Valley Park in the heart of downtown, Wilson-Rutledge Farm Park, and the Cruse Dog Park.
Head out of town just a bit, and you will find state parks like Busiek, Roaring River, Ha Ha Tonka, and Table Rock. Each is free to the public for a variety of activities from fishing and hiking to explorations of historic structures and the great outdoors. Privately owned Dogwood Canyon lets you explore nature at your own pace and is a favorite among locals especially when the fall colors begin to pop.
National forests and parks bring even greater opportunities to enjoy the natural surroundings. Find secluded spots in the Mark Twain and Ozarks National Forests, or engage in history with a visit to Wilson’s Creek and Pea Ridge National Battlefields. Hike and camp to your heart’s content around the Buffalo National River or the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, or explore some of the best floating rivers in the country preserved there.