Arkansas Hiking

OHT Sections Sections 4 and 5: Lick Branch to Big Piney – Day 1

The weather has been beautiful around here and what with Christmas wish list items being found under the tree it was time for another hike, and this time a hike like no other. I looked at the sections that lay immediately ahead of me and saw that section 4 of the Ozark Highlands is one of the longest on the trail at almost 30 miles from Lick Branch to Ozone. I did the math and figured at a good pace that was a two day hike for me, packed full of fast walking with 15 miles per day. I talked to some friends and they were interested in meeting me for section 5 at Ozone so I figured why not really go for it and add on another 20 miles with an aim of 50 miles total in four days. (more…)

Hawksbill Crag

My daughter Phoebe (a.k.a. PB) and I made the trip to Hawksbill Crag a couple weekends ago along with my mom and dad. For as popular as this sight is it comes as a surprise to most that I have never been there. According to the Tim Ernst guidebook it is one of the most popular day hikes in Arkansas. Its location and “need to do” on my day hike list made it the perfect outing for this December Saturday afternoon. PB was not interested in going, a spongy cartoon grabbing her attention, but knowing what was good for her and needing some time with her I gave her a little nudge and she moved along.


Lost Valley Trail Photos

A friend made the trek to Lost Valley Trail this weekend and captured these two awesome photos.


Ozark Highlands Hiking Trail Section 3 Cherry Bend to Lick Branch – Day 2

We woke up pretty early for day two. My tent is orange so when the light dawns it always at first seems brighter and later than it really is. We had some coffee around the fire then packed up for the trip. I pulled my first aid kit out and secured a knee brace/wrap for my ailing knee. It was not hurting that bad in the morning but I figured better safe than sorry. Hud managed to catch the sunrise with the camera. We had hoped the cold morning air and rising sunlight would produce a fog over the valley that Spy Rock overlooks for the sake of some good pictures but no such luck.


Ozark Highlands Hiking Trail Section 3 Cherry Bend to Lick Branch – Day 1

This was by far my favorite section of the Ozark Highlands Trail to date. The scenery was excellent throughout and we hit it at a perfect time of the year as the leaves off in the upper elevations gave access to tremendous views of remaining colors over the lower elevations. It is a strenuous trail but of the first three sections I have hiked so far this one was easily the least taxing physically. There are a couple of deep descents throughout the course but only a handful of ascents and those are measuring no more than 500ft and usually not even that much.


Ozark Highlands Trail Section 2: Day Two

I woke up pretty early on day two. It was cold out and very nice in the tent and sleeping bag and as the light had not quite dawned I hung out a while longer in there. Eventually I mustered up the diligence to get dressed and jump out into the clean cool air. It took a while to get the fire going that morning as there had been a heavy dew. I had to find some paper out of my backpack for kindling.


Ozark Highlands Hiking Trail Section 2: Day One

The weather is turning cool and with that the colors of the Ozarks are starting to sparkle in the leaves so this past Friday was a good time to hit section 2 of the Ozark Highlands Trail. Most of the guys who did section 1 with me wanted to do this one but schedules did not work out so I was on my own. That was ok. I was kind of in the mood for a nice solo hike. The section 1 hike was my first group hike except for those I have done with my son. About halfway through the section 2 trail I realized I had been spoiled a bit. I have taken a liking to the group aspect. It’s not just the conversation but the hike itself is more efficient with the right group of guys. The pace is more consistent and the requirement for caution and safety can be lightened just a bit as you rely on each other to cover your back. On your own you have to give a lot more consideration to every decision, realizing that one bad move can have significant ramifications out there in the highlands miles away from anyone else.


Hike in Mountain Home, AR This Weekend

When it comes to outdoor recreation and good family fun, Mountain Home, Arkansas is usually best known for its fishing, swimming and golf courses. But with a wealth of rich settings including lakes, bluffs, and not to mention the Ozark Mountains, there are some terrific hikes out there as well. No outdoorsman or nature lover should miss out on taking advantage of the opportunities to hike into the Ozarks if you are in this area.


What I Learned on Section 1 of the Ozark Highlands Hiking Trail

My son runs cross country and after every meet we always ask him what he learned, what he could have done better. The same goes for hiking. One of the things I like about hiking a trail as strenuous as section 1 of the OHT is that I am pushed to many of my limits and can find areas where strength or adjustment is needed. A good assessment and debrief should be in order as I finish each of section of the trail. Theoretically, by the time I get to the end of the Ozark Highlands Hiking Trail there should be a good deal of proficiency in my outdoor competency and hiking. I know I have already grown and improved through the hiking completed so far so this stands to reason. Here are some things that I have found in need of tightening in my hiking excursions after this trip.


Devil’s Den State Park Campout

I took my little girl for a campout this past weekend at Devil’s Den State Park. We did a brief hike, she led the way, up the side of one of the ridges, grilled some beef over the fire and concluded the night with s’mores. All in all a great evening that will pay dividends for years to come.


Ozark Highlands Hiking Trail Section One – Day 2 – Lake Fort Smith to White Rock Mountain

We didn’t oversleep on Day 2 as much as we were just slow to get around. Dawn broke over the camp and Joseph had been up most of the night shivering and trying to figure out ways to get warm. One by one we each got up and made our way to the fire. At just about the time the coffee pot was done percolating no one thought to stand by it for monitoring and the water boiled over causing the pot to fall into the fire. So of course we had to get another pot going and wait for that. In all of our enjoyment of the fresh morning air and campfire coffee we ended up not getting off until around 1130, surprising even ourselves by our slowness. We marched up the creek we had camped near until we found some water deep enough to fill our bottles up, then onward we went.

Ozark Highlands Hiking Trail Section One – Day 1 – Lake Fort Smith to White Rock Mountain

To begin with it is safe to say that this was the most strenuous hike I have been on to date, especially day 2 of the hike. Prior to this experience,e the Centerpoint Trail return trip out at the Buffalo River was at the top of this list but now falls to a distant second. As I look on the topo maps for the sections still to go on the OHT, I think this is a trend ahead for me.


Gearing Up – Ozark Highlands Trail Section 1 Prep

The Ozark Highlands Trail (OHT) runs at a minimum at 165 miles but can probably be counted a lot longer than that as it has various spurs that include some of the prettiest areas of the state of Arkansas. Depending on weather conditions the trail holds loads of swimming holes and waterfalls plus a lot of bluffs, rock walls and caverns, as well as overlook vistas in the heights of the Ozarks. Fall and autumn are some of the most popular times to hike the trail due to the pallet of colors that covers the Ozarks during late October and November. Winter is good too as the absence of leaves in the canopy presents a wealth of views for miles and miles at some points. A lot of the terrain is pretty wild meaning heavy chiggers, snakes, and brush in the summer not to mention low water supplies. (more…)

The Ozark Highlands Trail – A Journey Begins

So a whole season of hiking is in front of me. I have reached the point where day hikes are not enough and I am running short on 20 milers to stretch across a weekend excursion. When I first got into hiking I saw the Ozark Highland’s Trail and looked at it as the granddaddy of hikes in Arkansas. It stretches from between 160-180 miles depending on who you talk to. It covers some of the prettiest areas of the state of Arkansas. It’s incredibly private and yet because of its daunting mileage seems to be avoided to some degree by a lot of hikers. If I had 2-3 weeks I thought, that’s what I would want to do. Two to three weeks is not very likely to free up in my schedule though and even if it did I don’t know how I could justify that size of journey against other priorities.


Butterfield Trail at Devil’s Den State Park in Northwest, AR – A Great Hiking Trail

The Butterfield Trail at Devil’s Den State Park is one of the best trails in Arkansas for new hikers and a treat for those more experienced as well. Mileage on the trail ranges between 15-17 miles depending on who you talk to and how it is measured. The trail loops through the State Park and the bulk of it is very quiet, full of solitude following rivers, ridges, bluffs, rock formations and more.


Buffalo River

This is a nice report the local PBS station did on the Buffalo National River. This is one of the great hidden gems of the Natural State.

Buffalo River Trail

Here is another video from AETN about the Buffalo River Trail in Arkansas. This is a national treasure hidden in the Ozarks.

Lost Bridge Loop

The Lost Bridge Loop is a 5 mile trail with some terrific scenery set on Beaver Lake east of Rogers, AR. The trail includes bluffs, ridge lines, some nice rock formations and even a small cavern. Most notable to this trail is the old homestead site of the Schraeder family. The family lived and farmed here until the early 20th Century and a sign tells their story as well as provides details on what was once there. You will also see a lot of overhangs that served as shelters for American Indians through the second half of this trail. (more…)

Video: Lake Leatherwood Hiking Trail Dam

Lake Leatherwood Trail

The Lake Leatherwood Trail is located near Eureka Springs. The trail features include a dam made of cut limestone rocks and an old quarry from which that limestone was gathered. Lake Leatherwood also serves as a park of sorts so you will find some pavilions and cabins when you first enter in. The trail itself tapers off from all of this though and you can count on a more rustic feel as you move along. To prove this, the trailhead has a sign that warns of wild hogs that are in the woods. I did not see any when I hiked this one but I did see where they had been bedding down behind the dam. Don’t be deceived by the thought of wild hogs. They should not be messed with. (more…)

King’s Bluff Pedestal Rocks Loop

A couple of months ago I submitted a post on the King’s Bluff Pedestal Rocks loop in central Arkansas. Here are a few more photos of that one taken by my friend Steve who was on the hike. Steve is an expert photographer so it was kind of a treat to have him there on such a good day for photos.


Featured Trail: Redding Spy Rock Loop Ozark Mountains Arkansas

Photo from

This 8.5-mile loop trail is located 18 miles north of Ozark, off Arkansas Highway 23 and was featured in Backpacker Magazine, so I am told, some years back. You will get a beautiful drive through the Ozarks on your way to the trail head at the Redding Campground. The trail itself is just a little over 6 miles but there is a side trail you will not want to miss that will take you to Spy Rock.

I did this one early October and there was still a lot of greenery on the trail but there are likely benefits to hiking it in any season. I could see fall and winter making a nice time to hike during leaf off and especially after a good rain as there was a lot of potential for waterfalls when I was there. The campground itself does not have any services except toilets that I noticed. The trail is somewhat maintained but I would bring a map (see link below) to be safe as the markers were a bit dated and faded and I had a hard time locating them once the sun started to set. (more…)

Two Great Books for Hiking in Arkansas

Whether you are new to the trails or an old pro, you need tools to make your hiking experience successful. Chief among these tools are knowledge of where the good hikes are at. Here are two books by Arkansas native Tim Ernst that I highly recommend you invest in for your hikes. I have listed them in the order that I would buy them if you can only get one. Tim includes personal accounts, narratives and information on the best views for each of the trails. Most of my first year of hikes came out of these books and I have rarely hit the trail without one of them.

Arkansas Hiking Trails

This popular guidebook is the most complete resource available on Arkansas hiking trails. It contains 78 maps and complete descriptions of trails all over the state – from short nature walks, to long-distance backpacking trails, and lots of others in between. It covers all of the major trails, plus many unheard of ones that lead to spectacular scenic areas. There is information about hiking, camping, equipment, and other useful subjects. Tim Ernst has hiked more trails in Arkansas than anyone, and his advice will be valuable for anyone who hikes, or wants to. It makes a great gift! The foreword was written by former President Bill Clinton. Click here to order>>


Buffalo River Hiking Trails

This bestselling guide (#4 – updated September, 2010)) has complete descriptions of over 30 hiking trails in the Buffalo River Area (including Hawksbill Crag). These trails range in length from less than a half mile, to more than twenty miles. There are even descriptions of how to get to some of the most scenic spots that don’t have developed trails to them. It contains 25 maps, many mileage logs and elevation profiles, information on camping, bugs, trailhead parking areas, scenic spots, area history, a complete month-by-month weather guide, tips on equipment, plus a whole lot more. The foreword was written by the late Neil Compton, the man who led the fight to save the Buffalo River. This book is the perfect companion for anyone who wants to hike in the Buffalo area for an afternoon, or for an entire week. Written by Tim Ernst, who lives in the Buffalo River area and hikes its trails nearly every day. Click here to order>>



Hogscald Holler: A Coming of Age Tale on the Trail

Earlier this week I posted a set of five great swimming hole/hikes in Arkansas. One more is due that the family and I discovered today. Hogscald Holler is a great little hole hidden off a cove on Beaver Lake and was the setting for a perfect afternoon hike and swim today. It is just barely a hike. We found ourselves jumping in, drying off and then hiking off to different areas around the lake. The lake is clean, the trails have some nice rock formations and even a few waterfalls, and there are some great diving cliffs along the lake walls (just be sure to check before you jump).

There is also a rope swing hidden up along one of the trails. We might have missed it except several party barges pulled in from the lake and the passengers took time swinging off. It has been literally decades since I took a rope swing into water and my kids have never done it so of course we headed that way. (more…)