One of our goals has been to explore as many of the great hiking trails in the Branson area as possible. All of the trails we’ve hiked have offered stunning views and great natural experiences, but none are as historically significant as the Murder Rock Trail inside the Communities at Branson Creek development. Since the development of the property and the Branson Creek and Murder Rock golf courses, access to the old pioneer-era road has gotten easier, and the company that manages Branson Creek, McMillan Communities, maintains a trailhead and improvements on the trail.
So presented with a beautiful Ozarks Spring day, we decided to cross this adventure hike off our to-do list. But first, a quick history lesson.
The Murder Rock Trail follows a historically important section of the old Springfield-Harrison Road, a 19th Century dirt road that was essential for travel and commerce in the pioneer days of Southern Missouri. Along this road on Pine Mountain, a number of travelers were ambushed and killed by robbers who hid behind rocks along the roadway. The area, 4-miles south of Kirbyville, became know as the “Murder Rocks.”
The most notorious of these robbers was Alfred “Alf” Bolin, whose outlaw gang operated during the Civil War and committed a number of thefts and murders in the area. Bolin and his gang also hid out in a cave below the road.
After Bolin himself was killed in 1863 by a Union Army trap, the legend spread of Bolin’s hidden treasure of stolen gold and silver, which members of his gang claimed was buried in a trove somewhere near Bolin’s Cave. 150 years later, the road and Bolin’s Cave are favorite spots for treasure hunters. However, no treasure has ever been found.
OK… enough history for now.
So we parked at the main trailhead on Branson Creek Boulevard, which is a gravel area about 300 yards past the Branson Creek golf course parking lot. Signs mark the trail and the parking area. The trail starts as a gravel road and heads eastward. The hike continues along the historic road for 2.5 miles until it dead-ends at JJ Highway. The trail is open for hikers, mountain-bikers, ATVs and equestrian riders.
All of the land is privately-owned, but is open to the public. The road offers spectacular views of the Branson Creek Development, features a small picnic area and good signage. The main trail is gravel-covered and is well-maintained.
Along the road you’ll also find the abandoned town of Melva, Missouri, which was a booming lead mining community in the 1880s and 1890s. After the railroad came through the area in 1906, the town donated land for a depot and became a flag stop for the railroad. All three of the town’s mines are still visible along the trail system: The Silver Moon Mine, the King Solomon Mine and the Josie B. Mine. The settlement along Turkey Creek was mostly destroyed by a tornado in 1920 and was completely abandoned a few years later.
The main trail follows the original path of the Springfield-Harrison road and has gentle to moderate inclines. It is improved and appropriate for practically any hiker. The side trails follow old mining roads and are significantly steeper, so expect some vigorous exertion as you ascend and descend from Pine Mountain.
Murder Rock Trail, 5 miles round-trip (est. 2 hours)
- Difficulty: Main Murder Rock Road Trail: Easy to moderate; Side Trails: Moderate to difficult
- Located south of Hollister and Kirbyville, between The Communities at Branson Creek and JJ Highway
- No camping or campsites available
- Trail located on private property, but open to the public
- The trail is open for hikers, mountain-bikers, ATVs and equestrian riders
- A trail map is available online at www.bransoncreekusa.com.