10 Best Hikes in Arkansas

10 Best Hikes in Arkansas

Posted by Paul Miller on Apr 2nd 2018

Lush forests, towering bluffs, crystal-clear lakes and streams, the beautiful Ozark Mountains, and stunning rock formations are just a few of the natural wonders waiting for hikers who hit the trails in Arkansas. With hundreds of miles of trails passing through picturesque wilderness, “The Natural State” is sure to impress both beginner and expert level hikers. So, in no particular order, here are 10 hikes in Arkansas that shouldn’t be missed.

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1) Whitaker Point Trail – Upper Buffalo Wilderness

Our first hike is one of the most popular in the entire state due to its relative ease and amazing views when you reach the end. At 3-miles, round-trip, this trail is quite easy with only a small change in elevation, making it a great option for any level of hiker. However, there are some steep drop-offs and slippery areas, so perhaps leave small children at home for this one.

The trail takes you past small waterfalls and through a spectacular deciduous forest before following a narrow ridgeline. The end of the hike is at a rocky outcropping, also known as Hawksbill Crag, named because it resembles the head of hawk sticking out over the Buffalo River Valley. Be sure to be careful out on the crag, as the sheer drop on either side can be deadly if you aren’t careful, but the views are just amazing.

2) Seven Hollows Trail – Petit Jean State Park

Another popular destination is Petit Jean State Park, the first state park in all of Arkansas. The Seven Hollows Trail is one of the best in the park and is a 4.5-mile loop that passes by waterfalls, unique rock formations, and alongside sandstone bluffs. The highlight is passing through The Natural Bridge, a rock arch any amateur geologist will love. Also enjoy small waterfalls and rock pools as you explore narrow canyons and shallow caves. Even though the trail is somewhat short, the rocky terrain and constant ups and downs make this trail a bit challenging.

3) Yellow Rock Trail – Devil’s Den State Park

During the fall, Devil’s Den State Park is a great place to view the magnificent colors of the changing trees. And one of the best trails to do it on is the Yellow Rock Trail. A moderately difficult, 3-mile, each way hike takes you to Yellow Rock, which juts out over the Lee River Valley, with spectacular views of the state park and surrounding Boston Mountains. For a longer hike, continue on the trail another couple miles to get to the Conservation Corps Overlook and see the first structure built in the area by the Civilian Conservation Corps back in the 1930’s. Be aware that this is a very popular trail so it might be crowded.

4) Butterfield Trail – Devil’s Den State Park

For a more thorough exploration of all the wonders of Devil’s Den State Park, hop on the 15-mile Butterfield Trail Loop. Pass by waterfalls, bluffs, pristine mountain streams, a diverse landscape, and dense forest on your way around this great loop. Most of the trail is in isolated wilderness as you hike through the Ozark National Forest, so be sure to take your time and enjoy the seclusion you can find on this trail. Most people choose to spend at least one night on the trail and there are several designated campsites along the way. However, for an enthusiastic hiker, the entire thing can be done in a single day. If you choose to camp, be sure to pick up a permit at the visitor center before hitting the trail.

5) North Rim Trail – Mount Magazine State Park

If you want to hit all the high points in every state, be sure to take the North Rim Trail and make it to the top of Mount Magazine. At 2,753 feet, the summit provides great views of the surrounding forests and valleys. The trail is only 2.2 miles, each way, but does have some steep inclines. Even though it is moderately difficult, even the occasional hiker should have little trouble making it to the peak.

The trail is quite beautiful, passing through dense forests and across a few streams with views of rocky bluffs poking through the tree line on your way up. The official top of the mountain is Signal Hill, but dense forest covers most of it, blocking most of the panoramic views. However, Cameron Bluff Overlook, less than a mile from the summit, is a great place to soak up some of the great vistas.

6) Hemmed-in- Hollow Trail – Buffalo National River

To visit the highest waterfall in the Arkansas, which is also the highest waterfall between the Rocky Mountains and the Appalachian Mountains, take the Hemmed-in- Hollow Trail to Hemmed-in- Hollow Falls. The waterfall is 210-feet high and careens over white cliffs and is most beautiful during the spring and summer, after a heavy rainfall. For all the photographers out there, the best time to get a good picture of the falls is in the morning, so you might have to start the hike just as the sun begins to rise.

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The trail is 2.5-miles, each way, and is pretty difficult. To get the falls, it is all downhill, with a 1,400-foot elevation change. Remember that the way back is going to be entirely uphill, so be prepared for a workout. If you want an easier route, kayak or canoe the Buffalo River to Jim Bluff and pick up a short, half-mile trail that leads directly from the river to the falls. For something more unique, take this trail in the winter. The mist and spray from the falls will freeze, making an interesting icy dome-like structure at the base.

7) Lost Valley Trail – Buffalo National River

Another hike in the Buffalo National River Area is one of the most popular, and for good reason. Stunningly beautiful waterfalls set against verdant forests make this hike a family favorite. The hike is only 2.3-miles, roundtrip, and accessible for any level of hiker. Viewing wildflowers in the spring or changing foliage in the fall, there is no bad time to take this hike. Travel through a narrow box canyon before arriving at 53-foot high Eden Falls. For some extra exploration, bring a flashlight and head inside Cob Cave and marvel at the unique rock formations and smaller waterfall entirely inside the cave.

8) Indian Rockhouse Nature Trail – Buffalo National River

Our last hike in the Buffalo National River Area is for the historians out there who also love nature. The Indian Rockhouse Trail is a 3-mile loop that takes hikers past an abandoned zinc mine before passing by a small waterfall. However, the highlight of the trail is the ancient Indian Rockhouse Cave. The large cave cut into an imposing bluff was once used by Native Americans of the region more than 500 years ago. As you continue along the trail, a rock depression is often filled with water during the spring and summer and adventurous hikers can take a chilly dip in the “natural bathtub.” Before finishing back at the trailhead, you pass by an old rock quarry used by the Civilian Conservation Core to build many of the structures in the area during the 1930’s.

9) Little Blakely Trail – Lake Ouachita

For a longer hike, maybe even a weekend backpacking trip, head to Arkansas largest lake. The pristine waters of Lake Ouachita welcome hikers who complete the entire 18-mile Little Blakely Loop or just a smaller part of it. There are 5 different loop trails located on the eastern shores of the lake and any one of them makes for a great day hike. But if you want something a little more challenging, connect with all 5 for an epic couple of days. The trail is mostly flat and well- maintained, making the distance the only real challenge during the hike. However, be careful along the trail, as mountain bikes are permitted.

10) Eagle Rock Loop – Albert Pike Recreation Area

At almost 27-miles long, the Eagle Rock Loop is the longest loop trail in Arkansas and draws hikers from near and far. The Albert Pike Recreation Area is often referred to as the one of the most gorgeous areas in all of Arkansas. The Little Missouri River cuts through the area and tall bluffs, waterfalls, rock formations, and undisturbed swimming holes are just a few of the amazing things you can expect along the trail.

The trail crosses the Little Missouri River nine times and climbs over nine different mountains, so be sure to have water shoes and hiking boots in your pack, and expect a few-leg burning sections as you cross over the mountains. Be sure to take your time as you go through the Winding Stairs portion of the trail and admire the rock outcroppings and impressive bluffs along the river. Most people are able to finish the hike in 3 days, with 2 nights along the trail. There are many campsites along the trail, mostly next to the river, so enjoy a swim after a long day of hiking.

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