Autumn in the Ozarks offers a spectacular show of fall color as the foliage begins its annual transformation. The “hills and hollers” around Table Rock Lake offer up vivid scenery, making it a visually outstanding getaway for everyone.
This year’s foliage spectrum is expected to be especially vibrant. Why? Table Rock experienced moderate summer temps with significant rainfall—two key factors in producing impressive fall color. This means you can expect a kaleidoscope of colors filling the treetops and blanketing the ground—the blazing reds, oranges and yellows boldly contrasting the patches of green and the blue lake and skies.
The fall show of color begins in early October, starting with ash and dogwood trees, along with sumac and Virginia creeper. As the month progresses, the abundant oak, hickory, and maple trees will join the party. Peak foliage viewing is usually the last two weeks of October and the first 10 days of November, so plan your trip accordingly.
Keep up-to-date on the fall color progression with the Missouri Department of Conservation Mobile APP’s weekly fall color forecasts from the middle of September through October.
The vibrant fall colors immerse the rugged Ozarks hills with blazing hues, providing you the opportunity to stop for some excellent photo ops along the two routes highlighted below. Before you jump in the car, be sure to mark these scenic spots on your map or GPS along the driving routes:
The center is adjacent to the dam, so you’ll get easy access and a panoramic view of the main lake and its distant shores.
A prime vantage point for excellent views of the densely wooded hillsides rolling into the lake.
Babbling creeks, grassy meadows teeming with wildlife—just about every corner of Dogwood Canyon’s 10,000 acres of Ozark beauty is picture perfect. Plan on spending a few hours here if you can make time for it.
Approximately two miles north of Shell Knob, this spot is great for a quick stop while traveling down Highway 39. Pull off (east side of Hwy. 39) to see far and wide, and make sure to set your camera on a wide angle to capture the expansive glory.
You’ll find beautiful sugar maples and oak trees as bold as the sunsets along with a neat little gazebo to help frame your photos. Many of the main characters portrayed in Shepherd of the Hills lore rest here.
Capture exciting shots of the James River channel, which is set against rock bluffs and outcroppings.
Just a short jog off Highway 276, this is a popular lookout that provides a downstream view of Table Rock Dam and its tailwaters. Keep your eyes peeled for bald eagles.
You’re probably asking yourself: How am I going to get to all these special spots? Well, we’ve done the work for you by mapping out two great routes you can take to catch all the scenic sites of the fall spectacular of colors. The following fall foliage drive tours assume you are making a round trip beginning at the Table Rock Lake Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center (14226 State Hwy 13, Kimberling City, MO 65686).
(Estimated drive time: 55 minutes)
Take in great vistas of the lake while making your way across the Table Rock Dam.
Beginning at the Table Rock Lake Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center, proceed south on Hwy. 13 across the Kimberling City bridge spanning Table Rock Lake. Go approximately 13 miles to MO Hwy. 86 East. Take MO Hwy. 86 East approximately 12 miles to U.S. Hwy. 65 North. Take U.S. Hwy. 65 North for three miles and turn left (West) on MO Hwy. 265. Follow MO Hwy. 265 for 12 miles until you reach MO Hwy. 76. Take MO Hwy. 76 West for nine miles. Turn left on MO Hwy 13 at Branson West. Take MO Hwy. 13 South for approximately four miles to the Visitor Center.
(Estimated drive time: 2 hours)
Travel through parts of the Mark Twain National Forest with spectacular stands of deciduous forest.
Beginning at the Table Rock Lake Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center, proceed north on Hwy. 13 for approximately eight miles to MO Hwy 76 West. Turn left on MO Hwy 76 West and proceed for 22 miles to travel through parts of the Mark Twain National. Take MO Hwy. 39 South for 14 miles. You will pass through Shell Knob and over the Shell Knob Bridge across Table Rock Lake. At Carr Lane, turn left on MO Hwy. 86. Follow MO Hwy. 86 for approximately eight miles. Turn left on MO Hwy. 13 North. Follow MO Hwy. 13 North for 10 miles to the Visitor Center.
To really capture the best of Table Rock Lake’s fall foliage, take a boat tour. Either bring your own vessel, or rent one from the numerous marinas around the lake. The views are incredible with picturesque bluffs and hillsides around every bend that practically spill color into the deep blue lake.
“It’s not rare to find a majestic American Bald Eagle soaring high above the vibrant foliage.”
Set hard against the beautiful Ozark Mountains, the lake extends 79 miles upstream and offers some 800 miles of shoreline—most of which is covered with hardwoods bursting in fall foliage. Minimal shoreline development, coupled with a keen sense of maintaining the natural beauty of the lake, provides an idyllic experience in nature’s own grandeur. Gather up your crew, a thermos of hot chocolate and just cruise.
Definitely follow the primary channels and look for the hidden treasures as noted on the Nautical Tour Map below. It’s not rare to find a majestic American Bald Eagle soaring high above the vibrant foliage, along with lots of other wildlife along the lakeshore. The most important part is to take your time and explore.
October is the month to celebrate autumn in all its splendor. The biggest celebration: Silver Dollar City’s National Harvest & Cowboy Festival, September 14–October 29. Explore the creations of more than 125 visiting craftsmen from around the country, from pottery, artwork and jewelry to traditional mountain crafts. Another special treat is listening to Violet Hensley play the fiddle. Known as the “Stradivarius of the Ozarks,” Violet turns 100 years old on October 21, 2016. You’ll hear plenty of other great music, too, and it’s a blast to participate in a good old-fashioned barn dance.
The Fall Festival of the Arts, presented by Table Rock Art Gallery, is aptly entitled "Color Explosion!" and features local artists who work in a variety of media, from oil painting to woodcarving and photography. Each piece you purchase comes with a personal story that carries with you.