If you’re looking for a quick hike or some free fun for the kids, few things in Springfield MO can top the Springfield Conservation Nature Center. Located at 4601 Nature Center Way on Springfield’s southeast side just off Glenstone and Republic road, the Nature Center boasts interactive displays, a glassed in bird watching station, plenty of programs and both paved and non-paved hiking trails.
My son, Cole and I spent an hour hiking the long trail. It’s a mix of paved asphalt, chet rock, wooden decking and rocky outcrop trail. Parts of the hike are a little more challenging for small children and if it’s raining or has been, the trail will most likely be flooded over as it comes into close proximity with tributaries of Springfield Lake. There are other trails that keep away from the water and are handicap accessible as well. There are also plenty of sitting areas on every trail if you become tired or need a short break.
On our trip, we did not see very much wildlife, but the trails were busy with children, runners and other hikers like ourselves. I have seen wild turkey, deer, snakes, toads, frogs, salamanders and numerous types of birds. If you have time, I recommend sitting in the photo blind for a little while to see what unsuspecting animal may come for a drink in the lake.
The Nature Center offers numerous programs for all ages including Babes in the Woods for ages 0-2, Little Acorns for ages 3-6 and Storytime with Ms. Ladybug for ages 2-6. Teens also have special programs, sometimes for a nominal cost, every month. The center also offers hikes in different areas of Springfield and the surrounding parks like Fellows Lake and Bois D’Arc with carpooling available as well. The Primitive Skills Series is a must for any Bear Grylls fan as they cover different skills every season such as edible plants, outdoor safety, flint knapping and more.
https://nature.mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/places/springfield-cnc will bring you to their website for the Springfield location. You can download the bimonthly newsletter, get maps and directions and a host of other information about the Nature Center from this site.
I believe the best part about the Springfield CNC is that it is so close to our busy city. We are fortunate to be able to very quickly get away and find peace and quiet (unless they are working on James River Expy) and reconnect with nature. Children never get tired of watching for animals, seeing birds feed at a feeder, or discovering what is behind the next bend in the trail and adults shouldn’t either.