The Ozark Highlands Trail is quickly becoming one of my favorite destinations for day hiking or backpacking. The trailhead on this side of the 165-mile trail is at Lake Ft. Smith State Park. The park is nestled in the Boston Mountains on the shore of Lake Ft. Smith. You will find the trailhead behind the park office. The first two mile section of the trail follows along the shoreline offering up some scenic views of the lake and surrounding mountains.
I packed my overnight gear with enough food to sustain me on this warm, 50 degree day in January. Overnight temperatures were forecasted to be in the low 40s, so I jumped at the chance for a relaxing solo trip.
Glad I made the trip. I stayed warm and comfortable in the hammock. Enjoyed a nice Mountain House meal of sweet and sour chicken. Tried out the new Trangia stove and windscreen. I just might be a convert to alcohol stoves.
White Rock Mountain has been on my target list of places to see along the Ozark Highlands Trail. Saturday’s high temperatures were slated to be in the mid 60s, so I motored down to have a look at this remote Arkansas landmark. I drove several miles of forest roads in the Ozark National Forest to get to the trail. There are a number of places to jump on the OHT. One of the best is the parking area at Shores Lake. You can catch the trail from there and make the climb to the White Rock Mountain Summit. Here’s a pretty decent map of the forest roads near White Rock Mountain and Shores Lake.
The view from the top is magnificent. There are picnic tables and flat rocks to enjoy a lunch or snack while taking in the panorama. Take a look at the rental cabins on the mountain. Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps back in the 1930s, any of these cozy cabins would make a nice weekend getaway.
Shores Lake has a nice campground, shelter house and a boat launch ramp. You can bet I’ll be back this summer for some fishing and kayaking.
It was a day that cried out for a walk in the woods, so I settled on making my first trip to the legendary Hawksbill Crag. The elusive County Road 5 leading up to the trailhead is steep and narrow. A 4-wheel drive or all-wheel drive is recommended. As I finished my lunch on the crag, I met two enthusiastic, local hiking groups. Both shared a wealth of information on area trails, rivers and road bike opportunities. Be sure to visit my friends at www.takahik.com and the TrailBlazers at www.thcfs.com.
This is a popular trail and destination. Count on seeing a good number of people along the way. As always, I experienced hospitality and good trail manners from everyone I met. I am told one of the hikers with the TrailBlazers is 85 years young. That’s all the inspiration I need to stay active.
This crag, also know as Whitaker Point, extends hundreds of feet above a lush forest valley and offers a stunning view as well as a great spot to eat lunch, take photos and enjoy the weather anytime of year. Check your map and GPS before you leave. County Road 5 or Cave Mountain Road is your turnoff from Highway 21 just south of the Boxley Baptist Church. It is not marked. You’ll turn right on a narrow dirt road just before the Buffalo River Bridge.
There is no shortage of neighborly, outdoor enthusiasts in NW Arkansas. Thanks to a tip from a couple on Cave Mountain Road, I topped off the day with a stop at the Tim Ernst photo gallery and open house. Now, get out and hike!
After last week’s near rainout on the Butterfield Trail, I figured a redo was in order. My friend Lori and I made the Saturday Adventure on a beautiful Friday morning. We hiked down to one of several popular backcountry campsites, explored a rocky crag that many have used for a camping shelter and enjoyed the trickling water falls, thanks to recent rain showers.
The Butterfield is a nice 15 mile loop trail if you start in Devil’s Den State Park. You can also begin 3 miles in at the trail crossing on State Highway 74. There is a place to park, but you’ll need a permit from the Devil’s Den visitor center.
We stopped for lunch and boiled a cup of tea at Blackburn Creek then took the forest road straight up hill to the west side of the Butterfield loop making a nice 5.6 mile day hike out of it.
This is a rocky and moderate to difficult trail. Be sure to bring plenty of water, a map, compass or GPS and stay on the marked trails.
The I-540 drive into the scenic Boston Mountains offers breath-taking views of dramatic, forested peaks, tranquil farm valleys and rocky creek beds. A short, 40 minute drive from Springdale, AR takes you to Devil’s Den State Park, nestled deep in the Lee Creek valley. After a short exploration of the state park, I headed to the visitor center to get a permit to hike the Butterfield Trail on Saturday. Named for the historic stagecoach line that ran through the area, the Butterfield Trail is a 15 mile loop that is designated as a backpacking trail. Waterfalls, rocky crags and wide vistas also make it an excellent day hike. The rain shortened my hike to just under 5 miles but not before I took some photos from a high vantage point on this heavily wooded trail. Devil’s Den is one of the oldest state parks in Arkansas. It will take several visits to explore the rustic beauty of this area. Can’t wait to go back.
Chigger bites and few sore muscles were worth the trip to Boxley, Arkansas for this 10 mile, out-and-back day hike on the Buffalo River Trail. This is the western end of the 38 1/2 mile Buffalo River Trail that runs from Boxley to Pruitt.
There are still plenty of prairie grasses on the glades, so I might have been a shade early in my eagerness to get out. Smith Creek was dry and there wasn’t a drop of water to be found on the trail but it was a wonderful hike. I saw plenty of whitetail deer, an armadillo and caught a glimpse of the elk population down in the valley between Boxley and Ponca.
Only minutes east of Rogers, AR, add Hobbs State Park as yet another outdoor treasure in NW Arkansas. With over 12,000 acres of management area, many sections of the park are shoreline to Beaver Lake. There are over 30 miles of backcountry trails and I chose 4 miles of the Pigeon Roost Trail for the Saturday adventure.