Places to Explore

Springfield Conservation Nature Center Trails

We’ve been wanting to try some of the trails at the Springfield Conservation Nature Center, and finally made it a priority. I’m so glad that we did! The trails are beautiful and well-kept, and you really do feel like you’re in a magical, serene, leafy nature world, even though the entrance to the center is literally right off of the expressway.

The trails start to the left of the Nature Center, so I found it best to park closer to the building for when little legs would be tired at the end. Plus, there aren’t any stroller-accessible sidewalks from the back of the parking lot to the front where the trails begin, so you have to walk in the street if you part in the back. 

I wasn’t sure how my girls would do just going on a hike, even though they are great walkers and like to be outside, so I made a few simple scavenger hunt cards and brought them with us. It gave them a goal to achieve on the hike, and also encouraged them to pay attention to everything around them. They had a blast. We took the Boardwalk Trail, which is paved and 1/3 mile long. It was a perfect length for three tiny humans and I was able to push the littlest in a stroller since the entire path was paved. (Note: Not all of the paths are paved, but you can get a trail guide inside the Nature Center that tells you which ones are). The trail goes downhill pretty quickly, meanders over a little boardwalk on the water (which proved perfect for finding frogs!) and through some really pretty woods. Animals that have been sighted (not all by us) include deer, turkey, mink, muskrat, reptiles, amphibians and insects, plus 180 species of birds.

The only downside for little kids on this trail is that you have to go back UPHILL on the way back when their legs are more tired. We stopped on a little bench on an observation deck at the end of the hike to share a snack, and then spent the next hour in the nature center looking at the exhibits, playing with the animal puppets and climbing on the bear and frog statues.

The lady working at the front desk was so pleasant and kind. Before opening the door for us on our way out, she let the girls choose stickers, and then wanted to show them “something cool” outside the front doors, which ended up being a caterpillar and chrysalis. They had never seen anything like that before, so it was cute to watch their reactions, and I was so thankful for the staff member who took a few minutes to share her knowledge with my kids.

We plan to try the Savanna Ridge Trail next time, and I’m sure it will be just as good. Maybe we’ll bring a picnic or a bug-hunting magnifying glass or another special game to play while we walk, but the point is that we’ll keep exploring. The nature center and the trails are great ways to open conversations about plants and birds and outside sounds. Best of all, it’s FREE! So, on the next not-too-hot/not-too-cold day, put everyone in tennis shoes and go on an adventure!

UPDATE: Great tip from Sarah: “The Nature Center offers backpacks at the front desk that you can “check out” that contain binoculars, a magnifying glass, an electronic identifier, a map, and a clip board for making rubbings.” This is amazing!

What You Need to Know:

  • Ages: All ages
  • FREE
  • Hours:  
    • Summer Nature Center Hours (March 1 – October 31):
      • Tuesday – Saturday: 8:00 – 5:00 pm
      • Sunday: 12:00 pm – 5:00 pm
      • Monday: CLOSED
      • Trail Hours: 8:00 am – 8:00 pm
    • Winter Nature Center Hours (November 1 – February 29):
      • Tuesday – Saturday: 8:00 am – 5:00 pm
      • Sunday and Monday: CLOSED
      • Trail Hours: 8:00 am – 6:00 pm
    • (Note: The Nature Center and trails are closed on New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving  and Christmas)
  • Address: 4601 S. Nature Center Way, Springfield, MO
  • Phone: 417-888-4237


  1. sarah

    Hi Alicia! I’m one of your friendly neighborhood librarians from Midtown Carnegie! Loved the post about our branch! We are so happy to have your little family and keep them entertained! I want to let you know too, as a fellow mom, I recently discovered that the Nature Center offers backpacks at the front desk that you can “check out” that contain binoculars, a magnifying glass, an electronic identifier, a map, and a clip board for making rubbings. It was so cool and kept my three kids entertained and engaged, and almost made that hill bearable!

    1. Alicia

      Thank you for your comment, Sarah! I’m so glad that you wrote and that you mentioned the backpacks – what a great idea! I’m looking forward to trying that next time with my kids. They will LOVE it. If you have any other ideas, please continue to pass them along!

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