Bennett Springs State Park: An In-Depth Family Adventure Guide

Bennett Springs State Park: An In-Depth Family Adventure Guide

Family getaways are always a great time to bond and create lifelong memories. Whereas resorts and beaches offer great escapes, nothing beats state parks when it comes to diversity. In state parks, you can fish, camp, hike, cycle, kayak and so many other fun activities.

Made of up to 92 state parks, Missouri is a budding destination for adventure enthusiasts from all over the globe. One of the highlights of the Show-Me state is Bennett Springs. Nestled in the heart of the Ozarks, Bennett Springs State Park is a picturesque haven that offers a perfect escape for families seeking a day of outdoor adventure and relaxation.

Known for its stunning natural beauty, crystal-clear spring waters, and diverse recreational activities, Bennett Springs Park provides an ideal setting for families to connect with nature and create lasting memories together. In this article, we are going to look at what makes Bennett Springs State Park such a revered family destination;

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What you need to know about Bennett Springs State Park before going

Bennett Springs State Park, situated in Bennett Springs, Missouri, just twelve miles west of Lebanon on Highway 64, is a public recreation area that beckons nature enthusiasts and outdoor adventurers alike. At its core lies the magnificent Bennett Spring, a natural wonder that contributes an impressive average daily flow of 100 million gallons into the Niangua River.

This abundance of crystal-clear water serves as the lifeblood of the park, creating an idyllic setting for a diverse range of activities. From the thrill of fly fishing to the tranquility of camping, canoeing, and hiking, Bennett Springs State Park invites visitors to immerse themselves in the beauty of the Ozarks while enjoying an array of recreational pursuits. Here is what you need to know before visiting the park;

Bennett Springs State Park on Google Map:

1. How much does it cost to enter Bennett Springs State Park?

Bennett Springs State Park doesn’t charge a dime on entry fees. However, visitors who want to fish within the park will have to pay some fees to get daily fishing tags or licenses. Campers also part with a nominal fee to access campgrounds.

2. Is diving in Bennett Springs State Park allowed?

Diving enthusiasts seeking an underwater adventure will find Bennett Springs State Park to be a hidden gem, offering an extraordinary diving experience. Under optimal conditions, the crystal-clear waters of Bennett Spring attract experienced divers eager to explore its depths. The suitability of the dive is influenced by the water flow rate, with anything above 155 cubic feet per second considered challenging.


Divers must present proof of certification before they are cleared to dive. The diving season, spanning from November 1 to late February, limits the number of divers to six per day. While recreational diving is allowed up to 85 feet (26 meters), the spring’s greater depths remain largely unexplored due to a constriction at that depth.

3. What is the best time for trout fishing in Bennett Springs?

Bennett Springs State Park has a strong trout fishing reputation, drawing anglers from far and wide to its pristine waters. The main highlight is the Bennett Spring, a meandering stream that runs through the heart of the park and is regularly stocked with vibrant rainbow trout.

Fishing enthusiasts can indulge in this activity year-round, with the spring and fall seasons being the best seasons for trout fishing. The cool, clear waters of Bennett Spring create an optimal environment for trout hatchery.

What to do in Bennett Springs State Park

We have composed a list of things to do in Bennett Springs State Park to help you plan your family vacation to this Missouri gem;

1. Go trout fishing in Bennett Springs

Trout fishing at Bennett Springs is a unique and exciting experience, thanks to the park’s dedication to maintaining a thriving trout population. As one of the state’s four cold-water hatcheries, Bennett Springs primarily focuses on the production of rainbow trout.

From March 1 to October 31, anglers need both a fishing permit and a daily trout tag to cast their lines into the pristine Bennett Springs. The daily trout tag, priced at $4 for adults and $3 for youth 15 and younger, can be obtained at the park. During the season there is a daily limit of four trout.

During the November through February catch-and-release season, the annual trout permit takes precedence over the daily trout tag, with fishing permitted from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm CST, Fridays through Mondays. Catch-and-release fishing is the rule during this season, with only flies allowed as lures.

Anglers have the opportunity to engage in trout fishing across three distinct zones, each with its own set of regulations. Zone 1, extending from the hatchery dam upstream, is reserved for fly fishing enthusiasts, creating a serene and challenging environment.

Zone 2, from the hatchery dam to the whistle bridge, welcomes both flies and artificial lures, offering a diverse fishing experience. Finally, Zone 3, stretching from the whistle bridge to the Niangua River, caters to a broader range of bait options, allowing soft plastic unscented bait, natural, and scented bait—excluding flies and artificial lures.

2. Learn more about Bennett Springs at the Nature Center

The Nature Center is an educational hub, inviting visitors to delve deeper into Missouri’s springs and the surrounding natural environment. Here, a wealth of knowledge awaits, presented through engaging exhibits that illuminate the unique ecology of the region.

The center is staffed with experts who are passionate about sharing their insights, offering a range of nature programs that cater to visitors of all ages. From informative exhibits to guided nature walks, the Nature Center provides an immersive experience that enhances one’s understanding of Bennett Springs Park’s diverse ecosystem.

3. Go swimming and picnicking in Bennett Springs State Park

Bennett Springs State Park extends its allure beyond fishing and hiking, inviting visitors to cool off on a hot day in the refreshing waters of its swimming pool. This amenity provides a perfect respite, allowing both kids and adults to splash and play in a serene environment.

The park allows its visitors to savor the beautiful outdoors by making use of the designated picnicking areas scattered throughout the park. These spots provide an idyllic setting for picnicking, allowing families and friends to unwind, share delicious meals, and create lasting memories amidst the park’s picturesque surroundings.

4. Hiking in Bennett Springs State Park

A hiking adventure at Bennett Springs State Park promises a captivating journey through its diverse landscapes. The park has a network of hiking trails that wind through its scenic beauty, offering a close encounter with the rich flora and fauna that call this natural haven home.

From easy, family-friendly paths to more challenging trails that appeal to seasoned hikers, Bennett Springs accommodates visitors of all skill levels. Here are the top hiking trails in Bennett Springs State Park;

0.1 Spring Trail

The Spring Trail at Bennett Springs State Park offers a captivating journey along the meandering course of Bennett Spring, immersing hikers in a tapestry of natural wonders. As you traverse this 0.6-mile trail, you’ll encounter a vibrant display of wildflowers adorning the path, painting the landscape with a riot of colors.

The trail provides a front-row seat to the spring itself, offering glimpses of its crystal-clear waters and the rhythmic dance of fishing activities along its banks. Keep an eye out for the diverse wildlife that calls the stream home, adding an element of excitement to the trek.

0.2 Natural Tunnel Trail

The 7.3-mile Natural Tunnel Trail offers an enchanting hiking experience, drawing outdoor enthusiasts to witness the awe-inspiring natural tunnel, a 296-foot-long S-shaped wonder. As you embark on this trail, be sure to bring flashlights if you’re eager to explore the mysterious depths of the tunnel. The trail takes you on a journey that retraces your steps, bringing you back to the starting point.

The trail itself is a blend of dirt roads and rugged woods, providing a true sense of adventure. Along the way, hikers encounter small streams, adding an extra layer of natural beauty to the trek. The Natural Tunnel Trail is an immersive experience, weaving together unique geological formations and picturesque landscapes for an unforgettable hiking escapade.

0.3 Savanna Ridge Trail

The Savanna Ridge Trail beckons outdoor enthusiasts to embark on a delightful 4.2-kilometer loop adventure. Offering a relatively easy path, this trail captivates hikers with its scenic beauty, taking about 1 hour to complete. Open year-round, this trail showcases its natural splendor in every season, making it a picturesque destination at any time.

0.4 Bridge Trail

The 2.1-kilometer out-and-back trail is an invigorating experience for outdoorsy families. Moderately challenging, it provides a perfect balance for those seeking adventure without an overly strenuous trek. Taking an average of 40 minutes to complete, this trail is a haven for camping, fishing, and hiking enthusiasts.

Where to eat in Bennett Springs State Park

Bennett Springs State Park has only one dedicated restaurant.

1. Bennett Springs State Park Restaurant

Its menu includes breakfast, lunch, and dinner options to satisfy your cravings after a long day of exploring the park. Located near the park store, the restaurant is open from March 1st until October 31 every day from 7 a.m. until one hour after fishing for the day ends.

There are also several restaurants close by ready to attend to your cravings. Here are the best restaurants near Bennett Springs State Park;

Bennett Spring Dining Lodge on Google Map:

2. The Gravel Bar & Grill at Sand Spring Resort

Dining at The Gravel Bar & Grill is not just a culinary experience; it’s a celebration of locally sourced, high-quality ingredients and a testament to the Glendenning family’s commitment to excellence. Located 1.6 miles from Bennett Springs State Park in the heart of Lebanon, The Gravel Bar & Grill welcomes both resort guests and visitors to savor the delights of their menu.

The Gravel Bar & Grill on Google Map:

3. Cornerstone Subs and Pizza

Dining at Cornerstone Subs and Pizza is a culinary experience that begins with the commitment to quality evident in their freshly made dough, crafted from scratch every morning. The restaurant’s dedication to providing a diverse menu ensures that there’s something for everyone.

Whether you’re in the mood for a classic Sub Sandwich (Hoagie) filled with fresh ingredients, a flavorful pizza bursting with toppings, a satisfying Stromboli, or a crisp and refreshing salad, Cornerstone has you covered.

Cornerstone Subs & Pizza on Google Map:

4. Lunch Box Café

Dining at Lunch Box Cafe is a delightful experience for those seeking a blend of delicious treats and a warm, inviting atmosphere. The menu boasts an array of tempting options, including delectable chocolate chip cookies, indulgent chocolate cookies, and scrumptious biscuits that cater to every sweet tooth. Pairing your meal with a cup of their great coffee elevates the dining experience.

The Lunch Box Cafe on Google Map:

Where to stay at Bennett Springs State Park

At Bennett Springs State Park, you’ll find a range of lodging options to suit every preference. Whether you prefer the rustic charm of a cabin, the comfort of a motel, the convenience of a duplex, or the immersive experience of camping under the stars, the park has you covered. If you prefer alternative options, there are also several hotels located near the park.

1. Hotels

0.1 Hampton Inn Lebanon

Located 11 miles from Bennett Springs State Park, the Hampton Inn Lebanon offers a convenient and comfortable stay for travelers seeking a perfect blend of accessibility and relaxation. For those with a sweet tooth and a liking for adventure, the renowned Hersheypark is just a 40-minute drive away, offering an enticing experience with candy coasters and delightful treats.

Hampton Inn Lebanon on Google Map:

0.2 Holiday Inn Express & Suites Lebanon

Nestled just 11 miles away from Bennett Springs State Park, the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Lebanon is the perfect accommodation for families eager to explore the wonders of Lebanon.

Strategically positioned within proximity to Hershey’s Chocolate World (29 km) and Hersheypark (30 km), this IHG Hotel offers a convenient hub for both nature lovers and thrill-seekers alike. The 2-star hotel boasts a range of amenities, including a fitness center to keep guests active and energized.

Holiday Inn Express & Suites Lebanon, an IHG Hotel on Google Map:

2. Cabins

Immerse yourself in the charm of Bennett Springs State Park by choosing to stay in one of the three cabins nestled within its breathtaking landscape. A unique blend of history and comfort awaits, as the cabins were constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s, adding a touch of rustic authenticity to your stay.

3. Motels and duplexes

For those seeking a comfortable and convenient lodging option at Bennett Springs State Park, the 18 well-appointed motel rooms within the park offer a perfect blend of amenities and tranquility. Each motel room is equipped with essential comforts such as refrigerators, heating/air-conditioning, linens, and TVs, ensuring a cozy stay for families.

The duplexes, nestled in a quiet cul-de-sac area at the center of the park, provide a serene retreat. These units feature two bedrooms with queen beds, accommodating up to 4 adults, with some offering Murphy beds for added flexibility.

Those seeking a riverside escape can opt for the river duplex cabins, offering a restful setting near the Niangua River. These units boast two bedrooms, each with a queen bed.

The centrally located four-plex units provide accommodation for 4 adults, featuring two bedrooms with a queen bed in the main bedroom and two twin beds in the second bedroom.

4. Camping

Bennett Springs State Park has five well-equipped campgrounds catering to a variety of preferences. From basic to electric and sewer/electric/water campsites, the park provides options to suit every camper’s needs. Services such as reservable sites, a dump station, showers, and laundry facilities ensure a comfortable stay.

Please Note: Water services are available from April 15th through October 15th. While Campground 1 remains open year-round, Campgrounds 2, 3, 4, and 5 temporarily close from November through February 24th, so visitors need to plan their camping adventures accordingly.

A visit to Bennett Springs State Park promises a perfect blend of outdoor recreation, natural beauty, and family bonding. Whether you’re casting a line into the clear waters, sharing a picnic under the trees, or stargazing around a campfire, Bennett Springs Park offers a memorable experience for families seeking a refreshing retreat into nature.

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