A picnic area at Lost Hill Park in north Springfield is framed by golden leaves in the fall. (Photo by Sony Hocklander)

Lucky for locals, winding trails and greenspaces are found throughout the Queen City, and that’s especially true near Springfield’s north boundary. This sixth Neighborhood Guide focuses on the area north of Kearney Street between Kansas Expressway and Glenstone Avenue. Since we already shared northeast and northwest Springfield guides, this completes our trio of roundups for staycation-worthy activities north of the city’s more urban gathering places. (Not that we won’t offer guides to those fun areas, too!)

Spring and summer are great times to enjoy local landscapes, of course, but these areas make great spots for families to burn off energy during fall and winter months, too. Whether you enjoy cycling or walking trails, exploring creeks and caves, revisiting local history or talking to animals, you’ll find plenty to do outdoors in north Springfield. Plus, we know exploring might leave you wanting a treat — we’ve got you covered there, too!  

What are neighborhood guides? (Click to expand story)

We help you to explore our town with Neighborhood Guides, an occasional series highlighting five places with something fun to do, see, eat or drink in a selected section of Springfield. Last time, we visited far south Springfield. This time we explore the far northern area.

We’d love to hear your suggestions of neighborhoods or spots to highlight. Send ideas to Managing Editor Brittany Meiling at bmeiling@sgfcitizen.org

Fulbright Spring Trail

A scenic bridge on the Fulbright Spring Trail crosses the South Dry Sac River near the David C. Murray Trailhead in north Springfield. (Photo by Sony Hocklander)

When it comes to creating treasure from trash, not much beats the Fulbright Spring Trail, part of the Ozark Greenways now connecting four city park spaces in north Springfield. Whether you walk it or ride it, explore all of the trail or just a portion, the completion in 2020 of the trail section between David C. Murray Park and Lost Hill Park is a gift to Springfield’s community. That mile-and-a-half connector makes it possible to follow the trail nearly seven miles from Ritter Springs Park in northwest Springfield, through Murray Park, continuing to Lost Hill Park then ending at Truman Elementary School and park. (A quarter-mile of unconnected trail also runs along Valley Water Mill Park in northeast Springfield.)

Other than a few places like the underpass at Missouri 13, the trail meanders beautifully through open prairie grass meadows, over bridges, past interesting rock formations and along the South Dry Sac River. Today it’s a lively habitat for wildflowers and woodland birds and critters.

A connecting section of the Fulbright Spring Trail was completed and opened in 2020. (Photo by Sony Hocklander)

To enjoy the new section, start at the David C. Murray Trailhead where the paved path follows the South Dry Sac, crossing over the stream via a scenic bridge. From there it winds through the woods, popping out into meadowland as it continues toward Lost Hill Park. It’s just as easy to start at Lost Hill Park and reverse your trek.

Learn how the landfill was brought back to life (Click to expand)

That the connecting trail exists is something of a nature Cinderella story. The nearly $500K project recaptured the former Fulbright Landfill filled with noxious, toxic domestic and industrial waste. Through many partnerships in conjunction with the national Environmental Protection Agency, and following a decades-long remediation action plan developed in the early 1990s, the land was returned to its natural beauty.

Knowing its wasteland-to-wonderland transition makes us appreciate the Fulbright Spring Trail even more. In fact, its new-section backstory helped the Greenway earn recognition as a National Recreation Trail, an honor bestowed last spring.

Where: Multiple trailheads connecting Ritter Springs Park, David C. Murray Park, Lost Hill Park and Truman Elementary School and park; a small separate portion is at Valley Water Mill Park

Online: Ozarkgreenways.org

Contact: 417-864-2015  

Lost Hill Park

Lost Hill Park in north Springfield is a 60-acre natural-use area on land once farmed by the Owens Family. (Photo by Sony Hocklander)

For a rural experience in a beautiful public greenspace, Lost Hill Park is worth a drive if you don’t live close. It’s so appealing, don’t be surprised to see people with cameras for landscape photography or family and senior pics. Landscapes are easy to capture in the 60-acre natural resource area where the creek-like South Dry Sac River and paved or gravel trails wind through forest, wildflowers and tall grass prairie meadows.

A natural stone arch is one of many geologic areas of interest in north Springfield’s Lost Hill Park. (Photo by Sony Hocklander)

The park also features geologic formations including bluffs, caves and natural arches, plus remnants of the former Owens family farm, including an old silo, rusty farm equipment and the roofless ruins of an outbuilding. When the Sac is high, some trail spurs may be difficult to navigate where it crosses over the stream at low-water bridges. During warm spring months, it attracts waders and splashers. When the water dries up, areas of the riverbed reveal fascinating rocky formations carved into pools and holes over the years by fast flowing water. Park your car near the silo and ruins to have lunch at the tree-shaded picnic tables or to get on the Fulbright Spring Trail. There is also a small playground.

Wondering how the park got its quirky name? According to the Park Board, it refers to a raised area that once overlooked the South Dry Sac. When the river changed course, that area became a “lost hill” surrounded by a floodplain.

Where: 4705 N. Farm Road 151

Online: Parkboard.org/losthillpark

Contact: 417-864-1049

Doling Park

The historic Doling Park in north Springfield has picnic shelters, playground equipment, a lake and cave, trails, and includes a family center and museum. (Photo by Sony Hocklander)

With gorgeous green space, historic structures, a museum, bustling family center and a colorful story, Doling Park on the city’s far north side is a community gem. If you haven’t been in a while — or ever! — put it on your day-out playlist. One of the city’s 10 historic parks, visitors enjoy paved walking paths, nature trails, a pretty lake, playgrounds, picnic shelters and visiting Giboney Cave, which the Park Board occasionally opens for tours. The park is large enough you won’t feel crowded but contained enough to easily explore.

It’s also home to the Doling Family Center, an indoor fitness and recreation facility accessible with membership or day pass. Like Chesterfield Family Center on the southwest side, it features a gym, indoor track, weights and cardio equipment, fitness classes, a game room, pickleball courts and more. It also houses the Doling Indoor Aquatics Center with a zero-depth entry pool that kids will love for its waterspouts, slides, water-brella and other fun features, plus lap pools and whirlpool that adults enjoy. In an adjacent building, the Northview Center is bustling with no-cost activities and meals for area residents ages 55 and older.

A rock wall from the 1930s skating rink remains standing in historic Doling Park in north Springfield. Beyond the wall are the Doling Museum, Doling Family Center and the Northview Center. (Photo by Sony Hocklander)

By now you may be asking yourself, “what doesn’t this park have?” Oh, there’s more! History buffs love this park also for its back story — a series of chameleon-like evolutions from 1840s Giboney family homestead to becoming the park it is today. Its story is told through the Doling Museum, open from April through October on the site of the old 1930s skating rink. One stone wall of the rink remains standing nearby — a visual reminder of this park’s unique personality.

Get a snippet of Doling Park history (Click to expand)

Doling Park is named for merchant James Marshall Doling who bought the land from John Giboney in the 1880s. Doling was the first to create a park for public use, complete with lake, ice skating, bath houses, a multi-story slide and more. In 1907, Doling sold the park to Springfield Amusement Company, which developed the land into an amusement park with skating rink, roller coaster, arcades and more. The Park Board purchased the land in 1929. Leased to William Morrison and his wife, it continued to operate as an amusement park (with a rebuilt 1930s stone skating rink) through the late 1970s. The current Doling Family Center and Northview Center opened in 2003, and in 2006, the Doling Museum opened to share the park’s story through thousands of photos, original artifacts from the amusement park and videos of yesteryear park activities. Learn more about the Doling Museum and historical postcards here.

Where: 301 E. Talmage St.

Online: parkboard.org/dolingpark

Contact: 417-864-1049 for the park; 417-837-5900 for Doling Park Family Center

Dickerson Park Zoo

Dickerson Park Zoo. (Photo by Dean Curtis)

Where else can you talk to the animals, learn about habitats and smile at a monkey or two? Dickerson Park Zoo has provided wildlife encounters for area residents for nearly a century. In fact, the zoo will celebrate its 100th birthday in 2023!

A small tot and his mom feed the giraffes at Dickerson Park Zoo. (Photo courtesy of Dickerson Park Zoo)

More than 450 animals from around the world are found at the zoo, which also hosts education classes including “creature features.” You’ll find lions, tigers and bears (oh my!), emus and elephants, kangaroos and kookaburras, not to mention playful river otters. Over the years, Springfield residents have helped to name baby animals including several giraffes. Feeding giraffes is a favorite stop for many a youngster.

Dickerson Park Zoo announced in fall 2022 its capybaras recently had a litter of pups. (Photo: Dickerson Park Zoo)

In another habitat, Turkey and Sequoia — a pair of capybaras (the largest living rodents) — are new parents after Turkey gave birth to a litter of four pups in mid-October.

While spring and summer are prime zoo seasons, fall is a beautiful time to visit. The zoo is open with shorter winter hours, too, unless walkways are covered in snow or ice. In fact, when cabin fever makes your kids start acting like wild animals, a brisk walk at Dickerson makes a great winter outing.

Where: 1401 W. Norton Road

Online: dickersonparkzoo.org, facebook.com/DPZoo

Contact: 417-833-1570

Echelon Coffee

The locally owned Echelon Coffee at Glenstone Avenue and Kearney Street offers coffee drinks, breakfast and lunch items, and more. (Photo by Sony Hocklander)

We love discovering small locally owned coffee shops and Echelon Coffee at the corner of Glenstone Avenue and Kearney Street is a treat. Tucked in front of the Double Tree Hotel, it’s easy to reach for folks who live nearby or visitors planning a day out in the area. Friendly staff greet visitors walking in or driving through, and the menu is robust enough for breakfast or lunch. If you like local, so do Echelon owners Joe and Megan West who incorporate the wares of other local businesses including Prairie Pie and Millsap Farms.

Cyclists will enjoy subtle nods to the sport with menu names like The Sprinter (ham, cheese and strawberry preserve bagel sandwich), The Leadout (toasted turkey BLT) and The Climber (salad with walnuts, cranberries and goat cheese). Friday through Sunday they serve biscuits & gravy — B & G to aficionados — and the everyday menu features muffins, their “house poptart,” breakfast burritos, bagels, oatmeal, smoothies, kombucha and more.

A fresh muffin and hot chai latte from Echelon Coffee make a nice treat to enjoy at Lost Hill Park. (Photo by Sony Hocklander)

And, of course, they serve brewed coffee, lattes and espresso and using No Coast Coffee roasted beans which are also sold in the store. The menu changes some with seasons and fall offerings include Campfire Cocoa, Candy Apple and P.S. I Love You (their version of pumpkin spice).

Sony Hocklander

Sony Hocklander is a freelance journalist, video storyteller and photographer who produces creative content through her small solo business, Sony Hocklander Creative LLC. When she’s not telling community stories, she loves wandering the Ozarks outdoors with a camera in hand. You can follow her on Twitter @SonyHocklander and on Instagram @shocklander or email her at: sonyhocklander@gmail.com More by Sony Hocklander