Fall Foliage Driving Tour
Fall Foliage Driving Tour
Distance: 60 miles
Time: 90-120 minutes
I wanted to take a driving tour of the area surrounding Branson to soak in as much of the fall foliage as possible, and the route I took on Oct. 27 didn't disappoint.
The majority of oaks and other hardwood trees were showing a mixture of yellows and golds with some leaves still making the transition from green. This yellow paintbrush across the landscape was interrupted by flashes of rust and red, and then deep greens from the occasional stand of evergreens.
My route made a loop around Branson, and took about an hour and half. Along the way there were many places to stop and take photos, and numerous public-use areas for picnics or walking a pet.
I started my drive at the Branson Chamber of Commerce Welcome Center at Highway 248 (Red Route) and U.S. Highway 65. Leaving the Welcome Center, I turned left onto Highway 248 and followed it to the right at the intersection of Gretna Road. When the "Red Route" turned left at Shepherd of the Hills Expressway, I went straight on Highway 248. The road leaves town quickly and narrows into a two-lane highway, and then climbs a ridge toward Branson Hills Parkway and the Ozark Mountain Highroad. Looking back and out the side window, I saw some great views of the city.
At the intersection of Highway 248 and the Ozark Mountain Highroad (Highway 465), I turned left onto 465 South. The four-lane highway, recognized as a scenic "Missouri Byway," provided some great mountain views with the Shepherd of the Hills observation tower perched on the horizon.
Highway 465 ends at West Highway 76. I exited and headed west on Highway 76 past Indian Point and Silver Dollar City. It was this stretch of highway, with the trees closing in on the roadway, that provided some of the most brilliant golds and vibrant reds, with leaves tumbling across the highway.
In Branson West, I turned left at the stoplight, and then left again onto Highway 13 south. Driving atop the ridge on the road to Kimberling City, I caught the first glimpses of the mountains giving way to Table Rock Lake. Within moments, I was in Kimberling City, where I stopped to grab a cup of coffee and take some pictures of the lake bridge set against the mountains and colorful foliage. The lake was shimmering with reflections of bright sunlight and the light blue sky.
I crossed the Kimberling City Bridge, and as Highway 13 climbed another ridge and continued toward Lampe, the trees seemed to close in on the highway, and I quickly noticed leaves presenting more deep gold, rust and crimson. Along the way, several Bradford Pear trees and maples were showing intense reds.
Passing Dogwood Canyon, I continued on Highway 13 until it dead-ended at Highway 86, where I turned left. The two-lane highway continued along a mountain ridge, and I was able to catch occasional glimpses of mountain valleys painted yellow. Highway 86 descends quickly toward the Long Creek Arm of Table Rock Lake, and much like the view at Kimberling City, I witnessed another breathtaking view of Table Rock Lake with the colorful mountains as a backdrop.
Highway 86 climbed away from the lake, and within a few minutes, I found myself back at U.S. Highway 65. I turned left at the stoplight and headed back to Branson.
View more photos from my driving tour at Flickr.