Hartford to Branson Road Trip Guide


Hartford, the capital city of Connecticut, while appearing initially to be totally modern is, in fact, one of the oldest in North America. Founded at the start of the seventeenth century, it has a long and fascinating past with connections to many legendary historical names. Explore the streets of Hartford and among the more contemporary structures such as the Connecticut Science Center, you'll discover centuries-old, characterful buildings like the Old State House and the Wadsworth Atheneum Art Museum.

While the city may have changed drastically over the ensuing years, it was in a Hartford suburb that Mark Twain was inspired to create his iconic novels. The Mark Twain House, his elaborate home during that era, is now a National Historic Landmark and museum and is a must-see for any fan of history, architecture or literature. There is more to Hartford than history too. Built on the banks of the Connecticut River, the city has excellent sporting opportunities that include rowing, boating, fishing or hiking, jogging, and walking along the many miles of paved trails running adjacent to the waterway. Cyclists can enjoy peddling along part of the East Coast Greenway bicycle trail that intersects the city.

While it may be tempting to not travel much further than the Talcott Mountain State Park or the neighboring Penwood State Park, both of which are just west of the city, why not activate your own latent creative muse by hitting the highway in your rig and keeping a diary of your journey? Make a week-long RV road trip from Hartford to Branson in Missouri and, while covering almost one thousand four hundred miles and motoring through several states in a week, you'll see lots of new things that could well ignite your creative spark.

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Road trip length: 7+ days
Recommend rig: any
audience: all

Point of Interest

Fahnestock State Park

Motor away from Hartford on the I 84 westbound and you'll have a scenic start to your road trip as you drive between the Mattatuck and Naugatuck State Forests. Once you've traveled a hundred or so miles, pull in at the Fahnestock State Park near Shenandoah to camp out for the first night, enjoy some outdoor recreation and basically, chill out after being in the city. The state park sits on the edge of the California Hill State Forest and has a large campground for RVs. While there are no utility hook-ups, there are showers and restrooms on-site.

As well as relaxing by your rig or making the most of the Canopus Beach Complex on the shores of Canopus Lake, there are endless activities to participate in at the park. Trek some of the hiking trails in the fourteen thousand acres of parklands, go kayaking, canoeing, bird watching, fishing or mountain biking. If you're taking your road trip from Hartford to Branson in the wintertime, you can cross country ski or go snowshoeing or sledding. All the fresh air and exercise will have you waxing lyrical when you put pen to paper later in the day.

Lacawac Sanctuary

Once you've crossed the state border and are in Pennsylvania, take a rest break at the Lacawac Sanctuary. The nature center is located in Ariel Lake. You can get there by turning off the I 84 at junction 20 then traveling a couple of miles north along Ledgedale Road which leads onto Sanctuary Road where you'll find the gated entrance. The sanctuary is open to the public seven days a week from dawn to dusk.

Get inspired by nature as you set out on one of a network of trails on the sanctuary's five hundred plus acres of terrains. The trails wind through a variety of landscapes from forest to marshland and around the shoreline of the glacial and National Natural Landmark, Lake Lacawac. There are trails suitable for all levels of hiker from an easy quarter of a mile to a more strenuous three miles. All the trails are digitally interactive and you can scan bar codes placed at intervals with your smartphone to retrieve information on what you're seeing. If you left your phone in the rig, you can pick up a map and some brochures from the visitor center.

Stan Hywet Hall

If you're a fan of the TV show Downton Abbey or read historical fiction, you'll not want to motor past the Stan Hywet Hall without stopping to take a look. The hall is situated on North Portage Path in the city of Akron, Ohio. There are two parks nearby, the Cuyahoga Valley National Park to the north and the Portage Lakes State Park to the south, that both have suitable campgrounds for RVs if you decide to pitch camp in the area.

The Stan Hywet Hall is a beautiful, Tudor-revival manor house set in seventy acres of formal gardens that is now a museum. The very elegant property was the home of the owner of a tire and rubber company, but wouldn't look amiss in the green fields of England and belonging to the landed gentry. Tour the various furnished floors then go into the kitchens and servants quarters before exploring the amazing conservatory full of tropical plants. It's a real eye-opener into how the other half lives.

Alum Creek Lake

Alum Creek Lake is a reservoir that covers over five square miles of Delaware County in Ohio. It's a tranquil and scenic lake that stretches almost as far as the eye can see. The lake lies within the boundaries of the Alum Creek State Park and while it's an ideal quiet get-away spot to camp for a couple of days, there's plenty of outdoor recreation to get involved in there too.

The campground in the Alum Creek State Park has almost three hundred campsites and can cater for rigs up to eighty feet in length. It's equestrian and pet friendly too. It is best to reserve your pitch in advance, but if you don't there are a few campsites that are kept free to be allocated on a first-come-first-served basis.

Whatever time of the year you're making your road trip from Hartford to Branson, there's plenty to do around Alum Creek Lake. The lake has a good stretch of beach, though it does get busy when the weather is good. The fishing is first-class whether you cast your hook in the summer or go ice fishing in winter. Hike the trails or buzz around them on a snowmobile, go trekking the thirty-eight miles of bridle paths on your mount or just sit by your rig to watch the sunset, the lake is a pleasant place to be that could well have you scribing a few verses of poetry.

Indy Acres Paintball

If you've ever felt inclined to pen a screenplay or write a crime novel featuring a shoot-out, why not get in some first-hand experience of action at the Indy Acres Paintball Park. The park is located on Raymond Street in the city of Indianapolis in Indiana and has some amazing courses that will get your creative juices flowing. Park up your rig, get kitted out, then get ready to stalk your target.

The Indy Acres Paintball is great for adults as well as kids over the age of eight. The combat courses are set out in wooded areas, in a re-constructed trailer park or among abandoned structures. There's plenty of places to hide while you're working out your team tactics, reloading your pistol or wondering who is around the next corner. If you ever wanted to be an FBI agent, an undercover cop or a star in your own action-packed movie, this could well be the chance you've been waiting for.

Cataract Falls State Recreation Area

As you're motoring towards Branson on your week-long RV road trip, take time away from the highway and pitch camp in the Cataract Falls State Recreation Area. Located in the Indiana countryside, the recreation area's Poplar Grove campground is a superb spot and has electric hook-ups whereas the Sunny Acres Campground at the site has only primitive facilities. Get there by taking junction 41 off the I 70 and heading south through Cloverdale.

The Cataract Falls State Recreation Area is situated on the side of Mill Creek just a short hike from the stunning Cataract Falls on the south-easterly tip of the serpentine Cagles Mill Lake. Stop by the nature center to grab a trail map before trekking through a landscape teeming with flora and fauna. Rent a boat and take a relaxing float over the picturesque lake or cast a hook from the fishing pier. After a few hours, you'll start to feel just like Huckleberry Finn.

Exotic Feline Rescue Center

As you travel through Indiana on your RV road trip from Hartford to Branson, pull in at the Exotic Feline Rescue Center near the town of Center Point. Tours of the installation don't take longer than an hour so you won't be off route too long before you're hitting the highway and continuing your journey again. The center has a large parking facility so you'll have no problem finding a space to leave your rig while you go inside to answer the call of the wild.

Inside the Exotic Feline Rescue Center, there are more than one hundred big cats that have rescued from domestic or abusive situations. From bobcats to pumas to panthers and tigers and lions there are one or more of almost every species of exotic feline in existence at the sanctuary who sadly, because of their previous situations, are not able to be released to the wild. That said, none of the animals are tame so you'll only be able to look at them and not interact with them.

Silver Dollar City

As you continue on your road trip, you'll be rolling down the I 44 through Missouri alongside the northern border of the Mark Twain National Forest. There really is no escaping America's literary giant on this trip, but if you're a fan of zombie movies set in theme parks rather than cultural novels set in the boondocks of Missouri, you'll enjoy Silver Dollar City. While there are no zombies at the park, it's still a fun place to spend the day before arriving at your final road trip destination of Branson.

Silver Dollar City is an 1880s style theme park so it has a historical atmosphere as well as having plenty of first-class adrenaline rides. With thrills as diverse as the American Plunge which drops five stories in as many seconds to the Electro Spin and the Powder Keg roller coaster, there's lots to choose from. Aside from the rides, the city has resident artisans creating top-quality handicrafts, live shows, and even cookery classes. Not everything at the theme park is man-made either. Marvel Cave is a huge limestone cavern five hundred feet below ground that takes an hour to explore. It's even more impressive if you go down at night guided by lantern light.


Branson in Missouri is one of the state's main tourist destinations. There's an incredible amount of great things to do there that merit spending a couple of days pitched up near the city so you can make the most of the day and nighttime activities.

Visit the Titanic Museum, Ripley's Odditorium or the Hollywood Wax Museum before strolling the lakefront downtown area, then have a fantastic night out at Dolly Parton's Stampede or Dick Clark's American Bandstand Theater. A better and more entertaining place than Branson to end a road trip in would be hard to find.

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