A Walk in the Park

Bennett Spring State Park has more than 12 miles of trails for hikers to enjoy


After fishing, hiking is no doubt the most popular activity at Bennett Spring State Park. 

A number of different hiking trails are free and open to the public, ranging in length from less than half a mile to the 7.5 mile long Natural Tunnel trail that begins south of the spring. With such a variety in length, hiking trails are available to beginners and the very young to more experienced hikers who are ready for more of a challenge. Those trails include:

  • The Old Hickory Trail, a .3 mile loop and the Bride Trail, a .7 mile hike, both of which are located behind the Bennett Spring Nature Center.
  •  The Whistle Trail, a mile long trail that runs along the spring and up the bluff and begins at the Wooden Bridge near the Niangua River is also a popular trail. 
  •  The Trail Head offers two trails, the Savannah Trail is 2.5 miles and runs behind the cabins in the spring area and takes approximately 1.5 hours to complete. And finally, the Natural Tunnel Trail is the park’s longest and takes an estimated four hours and twenty minutes to complete. This last one features several small caves, bluffs and a water crossing before reaching the Natural Tunnel, the trail’s main feature.

According to Bennett Spring State Park’s Naturalist Resource Interpreter Patricia Chambers, the park’s trails are one of its most popular features. There are more than 12 miles of trails around the park. Chambers said that during the pandemic, people from all over the country have come to the park to hike them.

“…The hiking trails have remained popular this entire season as so many have sought outside activities during this time,” Chambers said. “We have even had a number of people stop in from the East and West Coasts, as they have explored the Lebanon area as a possible new home. That’s been impressive in that they want to check out Bennett Spring as one of our area’s best features as they consider moving to Missouri.”

Park visitors of all ages and backgrounds enjoy the trails, like Sean Willoughby of Kansas City, Mo., one of many who come from the state’s urban areas and Emily Perry, Grace Baker, Hannah Esther and Maggie Mebruer, who live just up Missouri 64 in nearby Lebanon. 

The trails also offer various levels of difficulty, making hiking available to the inexperienced as well as older, more skilled hikers. No matter the age and stage of the hiker, basic safety practices still apply like using sensible shoes, application of insect repellent and sun screen, and staying well hydrated, especially on the warmest days of summer. 

In the 2021 season, the Nature Center has offered a series of special Bird Hikes, including one each month this summer on hummingbirds, vultures and bald eagles. On Aug. 21, the last of those Bird Hikes will feature Songbirds and start at the Nature Center at 10 am. There is no registration required and from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., there will be related activities offered at the Nature Center, including information on the birds’ preferred habitat.


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