My childhood lack of interest in trout fishing developed my love of hiking, here at Bennett Spring State Park near Lebanon, Missouri.
Bennett Springs State Park is the first state park I’ve ever visited, and the place on this list I’ve been to the most. My parents are avid trout fisherman, and my lack of interest in fishing started my love of hiking. While fishing, my siblings and I would explore the trails of this well-kept and busy state park.
The park features a small nature center with Bridge Trail, a 0.70 mile loop trail behind it. Pick up a card with footprints or common Missouri trees at the nature center then take off on the trail to look for these markers. The trail is a great way for families to look for birds, insects, and occasionally deer among a typical Missouri woodland area. The namesake bridge was removed about 15 years ago, but the trail is a great follow up to the nature center.
Savannah Ridge Trail is an easier 2.5 mile rocky hike with plenty of opportunities to see wildlife and plants native to southern Missouri. The trail intersects with the longer (7.5 mile) Natural Bridge trail, so I would be sure to pick up a map from the park office to make sure you stay on course if you are planning to complete the 2.5 mile loop.
There are several other longer and shorter hikes to enjoy, making this park one to return to more than once in a season. From Joplin, the drive will be about 2 hours and takes I-44 East to Lebanon. Take the HWY A exit North, then follow the signs to the park. Weekends are busy, and if you plan on camping, visit the park website to make reservations in advance.
Bennett Spring is one of the best state parks close to home, and with almost 200 campsites, and 48 being full hookups (rare for Missouri State Parks), I’m sure we will be returning soon.