Top of the Rock

Top of the Rock

We just returned from the perfect family vacation over the 4th of July at the Cliffs at Long Creek – part of America’s Premiere Wilderness Resort – Big Cedar in Ridgedale, Missouri. We have been there several times before, but this time seemed to be the best yet, with the addition of Top of the Rock. If you’re familiar with Bass Pro Shops, you may know that its founder – Johnny Morris – never does anything half-way. It’s top quality or it’s nothing. That’s probably why it took so long for the Top of the Rock to open. He wanted to make sure it was perfect… and GORGEOUS!

Top of the Rock (Jack Nicklaus Signature Course) and Buffalo Ridge (Tom Fazio Designed Course) – are two extremely difficult (and quite expensive) golf courses for the non-professional golfers amongst us. My husband and son-in-law played Buffalo Ridge and said yes, there are actual buffalo (behind a fence) on part of the course. Multiple sand traps and water hazards on both sides of the fairway don’t offer much wiggle room for the less-experienced golfer, but our twosome had a blast losing their balls all over the absolutely stunning course. The sand traps contain some of the whitest sand they had ever seen and several balls went in – never to be seen again. I think it was an experience neither will soon forget. And even with a cart, they got a great workout with the far-from-level landscaping!

Top of the Rock – and Big Cedar Resort for that matter – showcase the stunning beauty of The Ozarks and offer visitors a rustic elegance that one wouldn’t normally associate with the Branson area.

We decided we would go for it and have dinner at Osage Restaurant (fine dining) which offered a great menu with lots of choices and a better kids menu than most other restaurants around the area. We had a crew of nine including three kids, so we opted to eat at 5:00 p.m. so we wouldn’t disturb the serious fine-diners who may show up at later times. We all tried something different, from the short ribs to the rack of lamb, the fried chicken to the salmon and they were all wonderful. It had rained a couple hours before, which presented us the perfect opportunity to dine on the patio with cooler temperatures and stunning views. This was definitely worth every last penny we spent, especially given the fact that the prices, while a little expensive because of the choices we made, were only slightly above what other places would have been, and where else would you get these views!!!

When you drive up to the gate at the Top of the Rock, there is a $10 charge (per car). For that fee, you park and get a shuttle ride to the Top and a voucher for $10 to spend anywhere while you are there. So if you go just to look around it will cost you $10. We were told by friends who came a couple days before, that if you plan to dine at “normal” dining times, sometimes the shuttle gets bogged down as diners all finish up about the same time and valet parking may be the better route. Valet parking will cost you $15 (plus tip) and you won’t get the voucher, but it may be worth it if there are impatient folks in your party. Since we were so early and didn’t really care if we had to stay up there a few extra minutes, we took the shuttle. Turns out one pulled up when we opened the doors, so we didn’t have to wait at all.

In my infinite wisdom I decided to leave my purse at home and totally forgot about the camera, so when we returned the next day to do the Lost Canyon Cave tour, I took the photos for this post. Unfortunately, the Chapel does not open until 5:00 p.m. so I wasn’t able to get any closer.

Fortunately, however, I returned the following February and remembered to check the hours to visit the chapel, so we got in! A quick update and this blog post has more photos! Needless to say, it’s fabulous. Don’t you agree?

The next day we came back to do the Lost Canyon Cave and Nature Trail tour. Although you can walk, there were eight of us (three children) so golf carts were our mode of transportation. What a great time and some beautiful scenery! It was $25 per adult and $12.50 for kids, and of course the kids had to have miner’s hats for the cave part, but everyone had a blast and the falls were gorgeous!

The bridge that we are about to go over in the golf cart below deserved a little more play-time. During my trip in February, I took a few more shots of that gorgeous thing!

The photos directly above are testament to the fact that no matter what time of year you visit, this is a beautiful place. And more things are being added as we speak.

We ended at the museum, which was really incredible, although a little advanced for the smaller kids.

“The Ancient Ozarks Natural History Museum, built by Johnny Morris, to share the rich history of the Ozarks and the animals and people who came before us. The Museum is a major part of Top of the Rock, drawing visitors back to a time when massive animals roamed the area. Featured items in the Museum include a woolly mammoth, a saber tooth cat, giant ground sloth skeletons and prehistoric cave bears. The Museum houses one of the largest collections of Native American artifacts in the world and showcases the geological history of the Ozarks. In the “Ancient Predator” exhibit, animals like the hell pig, bear dog and terror bird return to life in dioramas created with the help of Blue Rhino Studio, the firm that assisted with the exhibitions in the renowned Chicago Field Museum. Through artifacts, images, text and video you’ll learn about the Ozarks and the people and animals who lived here over 12,000 years ago up through the Civil War era. Nowhere else can outdoor enthusiasts, families and history buffs experience, in chronological order, the history of the Ozarks documented so thoroughly.” – READ MORE about The Ancient Ozarks Natural History Museum HERE.

It was an absolutely wonderful day! I hope you enjoyed the recap as much as I enjoyed writing it!

Next stop: Eureka Springs, AR

Happy trails,

Barbara Olson

Barbara Olson

Indian Echo Caverns

Indian Echo Caverns

Dogwood Canyon, MO

Dogwood Canyon


  • Peggy

    Yes, Barb, we were at the Top of the Rock last fall—totally amazing! Your photos are truly breathtaking! You were absolutely spot on with capturing the beauty!

    July 27, 2015 at 7:13 am
    • Barbara Olson
      Barbara Olson

      Always a pleasure to hear from you Peggy!

      July 27, 2015 at 10:39 am
  • Peggy

    Beautiful photos and interesting narrative!

    July 6, 2015 at 9:25 pm
    • Barbara Olson
      Barbara Olson

      Thanks Peggy! Have you been there yet?

      July 6, 2015 at 9:41 pm

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