Park Trails

at Bennett Spring State Park

Bridge Trail

  • Hiking

Length: .70 Mile View map

Bridge Trail was originally named for the picturesque bridge over a ravine located along the trail. The bridge was removed 2000.

The trail is almost entirely in upland deciduous forest with a full canopy of different kinds of oak and hickory trees. The trail overlaps at first with Oak- Hickory Trail as it leaves the nature center and follows a generally gentle grade up and along the hillside to the east. At the top of the hill, the trail intersects with Oak Hickory Trail off to the right. Bridge Trail continues upslope and around the ravine. Gradually, the trail turns north and follows a gentle slope down to the bottom where it intersects Whistle Trail.At this point, hikers can turn left and complete the remaining portion of Bridge Trail or turn right and continue along Whistle Trail. Wildlife usually seen along the trail include deer, squirrels, chipmunks, many kinds of forest birds, insects, spiders and many ticks.

Much of Bridge Trail’s tread is narrow, rocky in some places, with several areas along the trail that are grassy. 

History:  Much of the trail is likely prehistoric, but was used more frequently by people living in the area from the 1840s to present. A group of Green Thumb workers improved the trail during the early 1970s as part of development associated with the nature center.  At that time, the bridge and amphitheater were constructed. The amphitheater is located at the beginning of the trail near the nature center. The bridge was removed because the support timbers were rotting and full of post beetles. Plans to rebuild the bridge are reviewed annually. Portions of the trail have been rerouted and improved over the years for an easier grade and to avoid forces of erosion.

You may experience:

  • Natural surface, dirt, mud, gravel, shifting rocks, slippery surface, etc.
  • Rocks, roots and/or downed vegetation on trail
  • Physically challenging obstacles
  • Wood or stone steps
  • Steep grades and inclines more than 10 percent
  • Bluffs or drop-offs next to trail
  • Water/stream crossings without bridges
  • Occasional water over trail
Find the trailhead on the park map
Missouri State Parks Trail Rules and Etiquette
Length Estimated Hiking Time Type Blazes Trailhead
.70 Mile 30 minutes Loop Orange

On the hillside behind the nature center

Natural Tunnel Trail

  • Hiking

Length: 7.5 Miles View map

The trail’s signature feature is the Bennett Spring Natural Tunnel, which is 296 feet long and forms an S curve through the hill. Formed from Gasconade dolomite, the tunnel contains a large gravel creek bed. On its way to the tunnel, the trail crosses Spring Hollow and passes through many different habitats, including bottomland and upland forests, tall bluffs, sunny glades, small and large streams, and old farm fields. The trail is a combination of roads used by people living in the area from the 1840s to present and rugged wooded areas crossed by small streams. The wooded areas support abundant wildlife including deer, squirrels, chipmunks, many woodland birds and insects, including ticks. Several bluffs have interesting geologic features, tiny caves, sheer rock faces and deep overhangs with vines and other foliage.

The trail passes near a small cemetery that dates from the late 1880s and holds the graves of two families who lived in the area. Upstream from the natural tunnel is a large overhang that may have been used as shelter by earlier travelers. The trail overlaps with Savanna Ridge Trail for a mile along the west side of Spring Hollow. 

You may experience:

  • Natural surface, dirt, mud, gravel, shifting rocks, slippery surface, etc.
  • Rocks, roots and/or downed vegetation on trail        
  • Steep grades and inclines more than 10 percent
  • Water/stream crossings without bridges
  • Occasional water over trail
Find the trailhead on the park map
Missouri State Parks Trail Rules and Etiquette
Length Estimated Hiking Time Type Blazes Trailhead
7.5 Miles 4 hours, 20 minutes Loop Blue Off County Road 00123, past the cabins on the right

Oak Hickory Trail

  • Hiking

Length: .30 Mile View map

Oak Hickory Trail is so named because of it’s predominate deciduous forest type composed primarily of different kinds of oak and hickory trees. The trail follows a generally gentle grade up and along the hillside to the east of the nature center.

A set of wooden signs with numbers form stops for a self-guiding trail.  The signs interpret the forest life during spring and summer, animal life in the forest, and plants and animals of the fall climate. This trail is a favorite among school children, families with small children and other people who enjoy small, easy walks. Wildlife usually seen along the trail includes deer, squirrels, chipmunks, many kinds of forest birds, insects, spiders and many ticks.

Much of the tread is narrow, rocky in some places with several areas along the trail grassy. 

History: The west side of this loop trail was likely used frequently by people living in the area from the 1840s to present. A group of Green Thumb workers improved the trail during the early 1970s as part of development associated with the nature center. An amphitheater is located within the loop. Portions of the trail have been rerouted and improved over the years. In the 1990s when high winds closed the eastern portion of the loop, the trail was expanded to the east to include more of the top of the hill, to allow for a less steep walking path and include more of the bottomland forest at the bottom of the hill. A portion of the west side of the loop was also rerouted for an easier grade and to avoid forces of erosion.

You may experience:

  • Natural surface, dirt, mud, gravel, shifting rocks, slippery surface, etc.
  • Rocks, roots and/or downed vegetation on trail        
  • Wood or stone steps
  • Water/stream crossings without bridges
  • Occasional water over trail
Find the trailhead on the park map
Missouri State Parks Trail Rules and Etiquette
Length Estimated Hiking Time Type Blazes Trailhead
.30 Mile 20 minutes Loop Yellow

On the hillside behind the nature center

Savanna Ridge Trail

  • Hiking

Length: 2.5 Miles View map

Much of the tread of Savanna Ridge Trail was originally old roads and is therefore a hard packed gravel/grass surface; other trail sections are rocky in some places. The extended trail is narrow and winds through an open woodland formerly known as savanna. White Connector 1 divides the larger loop in the middle to allow for a shorter 2-mile loop.

The eastern side of this trail is combined with Natural Tunnel Trail.  From the trailhead, these two trails head west crossing Spring Hollow via a low water bridge and share a fairly wide path to the first of two junctions. The hiker then gets the option of travelling west uphill on Savanna Ridge Trail, which goes up a steep hill, then down toward a small tributary. The white connector trail defines the shorter option to the loop with a more or less east-west trail defined on the south primarily by a fence. The main trail crosses the creek via stepping stones, and travels an extra mile up the hill and around in a counter-clockwise direction before rejoining the white connector trail. A short distance downhill is a junction with Natural Tunnel Trail. Continuing in a counter-clockwise direction down a steep trail, re-crossing the tributary, and traveling along Spring Hollow closes the loop.

A creek divides the loop. Frequent rains make this a pleasant stop.  

Special Features: The trail winds along a ridge overlooking the east side of Spring Hollow. The open woodlands and glades are glorious with wildflowers during spring and fall. Ticks abound on the trail through the summer months.

History: The trail is a combination of roads used by people living in the area from the 1840s to present and became part of a road system that accessed ponds and grazing areas.  When the park purchased the property, the road became a 1 ½-mile loop trail called Spring Valley Trail. In the early 1990s (when additional property was purchased), the trail was extended across a small creek and up along the ridge of a long hill overlooking Spring Valley. At that time, the trail, renamed Savanna Ridge, became a larger loop of 2 ½ miles with the original small loop becoming the white connector trail. Portions of the extension trail were constructed by seasonal labor and volunteers. Flooding in the valley has caused problems with erosion at the eastern section, especially at stream crossings and steep hills. The area is occasionally burned to enhance the complex of open woodlands.

You may experience:

  • Natural surface, dirt, mud, gravel, shifting rocks, slippery surface, etc.
  • Rocks, roots and/or downed vegetation on trail
  • Steep grades and inclines more than 10 percent
  • Bridges and/or structural crossings
  • Water/stream crossings without bridges
  • Occasional water over trail
Find the trailhead on the park map
Missouri State Parks Trail Rules and Etiquette
Length Estimated Hiking Time Type Blazes Trailhead
2.5 Miles 1 hour, 15 minutes Loop Green Off County Road 00123, past the cabins on the right

Spring Trail

  • Hiking

Length: .60 Mile View map

Spring Trail travels in a generally north-south direction on the west side of the spring branch. The trail is so named because of its proximity to the main spring in the park – Bennett Spring. The trail goes along the stream branch from the spring to the dam at the hatchery area.

The trail travels along the base of the hillside where a five-acre natural area resides. Bennett Spring Hanging Fen Natural Area is named for its steep sloped seepage area, a fen, known for grasses and wildflowers associated with cold water. This area contains many of the wildflowers enjoyed along the trail. Other sections of the trail are a combination of woods, bottomland forest and stream habitats. Views of the spring, fishing activities, wildlife in and along the stream, historic structures and the hatchery are examples of what make this one of the most enjoyable trails in the park.

Much of this trail’s tread is narrow, rocky in some places, and can be muddy and treacherous under wet conditions. Several areas along the trail are grassy and may be flooded during high water

History: The stream side trail is likely prehistoric but was used more frequently by people living in the area from the 1840s to present. The Civilian Conservation Corps improved this trail in the late 1930s as part of overall improvements to the park. In their activity log, there is mention of widening the trail and evening the tread. The techniques used for the trail improvement included blasting rock faces and filling in low areas with rock work; the latter is visible in some areas. Concrete and rock drainage features, a concrete drain pipe and a stone and wood bridge were also built. The wooden portion of the bridge has been replaced with modern materials.

You may experience:

  • Natural surface, dirt, mud, gravel, shifting rocks, slippery surface, etc.
  • Rocks, roots and/or downed vegetation on trail
  • Wood or stone steps
  • Steep grades and inclines more than 10 percent
  • Bluffs or drop-offs next to trail
  • Bridges and/or structural crossings
  • Water/stream crossings without bridges
  • Occasional water over trail
Find the trailhead on the park map
Missouri State Parks Trail Rules and Etiquette
Length Estimated Hiking Time Type Blazes Trailhead
.60 Mile 25 minutes, one way Linear Brown Off County Road 00123, past the cabins, on the right, up the concrete steps

Whistle Trail

  • Hiking

Length: 1 Mile View map

This trail can be traversed in either direction; this description follows a south-north route. 

Whistle Trail travels in a generally north-south direction on the east side of the spring branch. The trail is named for the low water bridge that connects the picnic area to the main park; the bridge is so named because of the large tubes that resemble whistles through which the stream water flows. The trail runs along the stream branch most of the time, but allows access to some bluff tops as well. 

At the south end, the trail overlaps with Forest Trail. Whistle Trail divides at the south end of the bluffs, with one side of the trail traveling along the top of the bluff and the other along the base and next to the water. After these two trails reconnect at the north, the trail ascends a steep bluff and then gradually descends toward the picnic area to the north of Whistle Bridge. A short travel through the parking area of the picnic area leads to the continuation of the trail. Traveling north on this section leads through a bottomland area and then hugs the bottom of steep hillsides until connecting at the north end with a parking area near the Niangua River. A bridge at the north end allows for an alternative loop that returns on the linear trail. Several areas along the trail offer good overlooks to the valley.

Much of the tread is narrow, rocky and can be slippery when wet. The trail ascending and descending the bluffs can be treacherous under wet conditions. As frequent flooding can be detrimental, only daytime activities are now allowed in the area. Portions of the trail are inaccessible during high water.

History:  The stream side trail is likely prehistoric but was used more frequently by people living in the area from the 1840s to present. The Civilian Conservation Corps improved this trail in the late 1930s as part of overall improvements to the park. In their activity log, there is mention of widening the trail and evening the tread. The techniques used for the trail improvement included blasting rock faces and filling in low areas with rock work; the latter is visible in some areas. Portions of the trail travel through bottomland forest with sandy soils; these areas have been used for a variety of activities over the years, including growing crops (1840 to 1924), camping (1950 to 1980), and more recently as picnic areas. Near the bluffs, the trails were accessed by suspension bridges until 1918.

You may experience:

  • Natural surface, dirt, mud, gravel, shifting rocks, slippery surface, etc.
  • Rocks, roots and/or downed vegetation on trail
  • Physically challenging obstacles
  • Wood or stone steps
  • Steep grades and inclines more than 10 percent
  • Bluffs or drop-offs next to trail
  • Bridges and/or structural crossings
  • Water/stream crossings without bridges
  • Occasional water over trail
Find the trailhead on the park map
Missouri State Parks Trail Rules and Etiquette
Length Estimated Hiking Time Type Blazes Trailhead
1 Mile 45 minutes, one way Linear Red 1) North Trailhead, off of Bramwell entrance road at the bottom of the hill; 2) South Trailhead, at wooden steps intersecting with Hwy. 64A near the bridge. Parking is available at the Bennett Spring Nature Center