dogs on leash
In the mid-19th century, settlers found Bennett Spring to be an ideal spot for grist and flour mills. Today, most people come to Bennett Spring State Park to struggle with the rainbow trout, or just to marvel at the 100,000,000 gallons of clear, cool water that gush from the spring each day. The spring valley - once a popular camping ground for farmers waiting for their grain to be ground at the mill - still attracts visitors interested in camping, hiking and canoeing. A Bennett Spring "hike" can be a leisurely stroll along the tree-shaded spring branch, or an invigorating seven miles to tour an interesting natural tunnel. Those looking for less rugged pleasures will enjoy the rental housekeeping cabins, the public swimming pool and the park's rustic dining lodge. Fishing enthusiasts will be found casting their lines along the spring branch, while others visit the exhibits interpreting Missouri's springs and natural environment at the nature center. Now, at 3,216 acres, the state park that arose around Peter Bennett's spring continues to delight all comers.
Fun trip out to the natural bridge. Instead of the out and back, we took the west trail and it was poorly marked. We ended up on a service road with no recollection of ever passing an option to turn or did not see any blue blazers. Trail wasn't worth the added mileage. Would just do the out and back if we do it again.
We went in on the natural cave trail and tried to complete the loop instead of going down and back. We wound up on a service road and I still don't know how that happened. Luckily the service road ran back into the west trail and we were able to finish the loop. Next time we'll be going down and back since there really wasn't much to see on that leg of the loop.
My daughter (9 y/o) and I hiked this trail 6/30/2016. We are what I would consider hiking novices, but I have lived in the Ozarks for 37 years and I am very comfortable romping around outdoors. We started in on the western side and unfortunately had to skip the tunnel loop itself and head out on the east side of the trail due to incoming pop-up thunderstorms. However, coming out on the east side the trail was poorly marked in several spots and at least one part of the trail was completely occluded by dense, waist high vegetation for a bit. We could not see where or what we were stepping on. We have hiked other "moderate" skill trails but this one was significantly more difficult than others. The terrain is rough in places and there are several steep inclines/declines with shifty footing. Numerous large logs to cross. I would definitely recommend shoes/boots with good ankle support if your ankles are not accustom to uneven terrain. Also use a good bug/tick repellant. TONS of ticks and chiggers. Ticks checks are a must.
We completed approximately half of the trail in just under 2 hours. We will definitely return to complete the trail and to see the tunnel. But we will go in cooler weather perhaps when the vegetation is less dense and fewer ticks/chiggers.
On a warm 70 degree day in February, I hiked this trail with my dog for the first time. I would rate it more challenging than "moderate" due to some of the steep climbs and rugged terrain almost throughout.
I was fascinated by the variety of the scenery: woods, lots of stream beds, steep hills, rocky trails, and crazy-looking cliffs. It's hard to say a trail looks beautiful in the dead of winter, with nothing green or leafy, but I can image this one being pretty amazing in the summer or fall. I started on the west loop. It had one very steep climb and at one point I seemed to be up very high on a bluff.
The Natural Bridge is a real treat. If it's a warm day or you're overheated, the cool temperature inside the cave is delightful. I exited the back of the cave to pick along through the stream bed for a short while--there's no marked trail beyond the Natural Bridge.
We loved the cool water in many of the streams and at the Natural Bridge.
I returned on the east loop, which also had one very steep climb. A large section of this trail is a rugged, rocky path that must have been a creek or stream at some point. Even though it was flat, I really had to watch my footing on all of the rocks.
I did the full 7.5 miles in about 3 hours. I would definitely return and do it again, perhaps reversing the order of the loops.
**ignore the captions on my photos...somehow the same caption was applied to every photo.
Nice hike with some steep areas - took the west loop in which is poorly marked. At about 2.25 miles in you arrive at an old service road with no marking or signs - I thought it was the intersection of the east loop so I ended up traveling about 1/4 mile in the wrong direction on a clearly well traveled trail. I back tracked since I had seen no blue blazes. Until I reached the east/west intersection 1/2 mile later (clearly marked) I was not sure I was heading in the correct direction. Wonderful scenery, just wish it was better maintained on the west loop. Next time I will take the east track in and out.