Best Places to See Fall Foliage

The Ozarks truly offers some of America's most beautiful natural scenery, particularly in the autumn when the fall foliage is at its peak. The leaves of various trees and shrubs turn colors at varying times, so Missouri's fall colors can last from four to six weeks. The major fall foliage players – maples, oaks, ashes and hickories – generally reach their peak colors around mid-October. Visitors and residents alike can take in the autumn beauty simply by driving Highway 65 south from Highlandville to the Arkansas line, but there are other favorite spots around Branson that allow viewers even more breathtaking sights.

Highway 165 Scenic Overlook

Just a few miles from the famous Branson 76 strip, the 22-mile loop offers many scenic views, and can be traveled by car in about 40 minutes. Throughout the twists and turns of highways 165 and 265, travelers can enjoy expansive views from the ridgetops, including a spectacular view of Table Rock Lake and Dam, the Chateau on the Lake and the Highway 165 scenic overlook. The drive is a great place to enjoy the fall colors and even take advantage of numerous photo ops. Just take U.S. 65 south from Branson and turn west on Highway 265, which turns north into 165 at Table Rock Lake.

Ruth and Paul Henning Scenic Overlook

Located just west of the intersection of Highway 76 and the Shepherd of the Hills Expressway north of Branson, the 1,534-acre Ruth and Paul Henning Conservation Area is the perfect location for spending some time with nature. The area features nature trails for hiking and bird watching, as well as a lookout tower. In fact, many of the natural wonders immortalized in Harold Bell Wright's "Shepherd of the Hills" can be found within the area now operated by the Missouri Department of Conservation. While taking a walk through the area provides opportunity to enjoy the fall colors, an even better few can be had at the area's scenic overlook.

Branson Scenic Railway

Experience the gorgeous fall foliage on a 40-mile roundtrip excursion through the Ozark foothills and tunnels. One of Branson's most classic attractions, the Branson Scenic Railway began as 239 miles of track constructed for the White River Railway between 1902 and 1905 at a then-cost of more than $12 million. In fact, the town of Branson is a product of this railroad. Today, passengers travel the Branson Scenic Railway aboard a collection of passenger cars that traverse the foothills of the Ozark Mountains. Riding this train is probably one of the most unique and memorable ways to enjoy the fall foliage.

Other Scenic Fall Color Spots

While the above attractions are some of the most popular and well-loved ways to experience the fall colors of the Ozarks, other favorite locations include:

  • Lakeside Forest Wilderness Area – Get up close and personal with the fall foliage by taking a hike on this trail bordering Lake Taneycomo.
  • Table Rock Lakeshore Trail – Located near the Dewey Short Visitor Center, the 2.2-mile trail features stunning views of the lake.
  • Branson Landing – Take a walk along the boardwalk path at the landing to enjoy gorgeous views of the Lake Taneycomo bluffs.
  • Driving tours – Take a scenic drive and walk along one of these tours passing areas chosen for their beauty.