Arkansas, often referred to as “The Natural State,” is a hidden gem for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. With its diverse landscapes, including lush forests, rugged mountains, and pristine rivers, Arkansas offers a wide range of hiking experiences for all skill levels. In this article, we’ll explore the top 10 hiking trails in Arkansas, each with its unique natural beauty and adventure waiting to be discovered.
Best Hiking Trails in Arkansas
Here is a list of the hiking trails mentioned in the post with their names in bold and locations in italic:
- Ouachita National Recreation Trail Location: Ouachita National Forest, Western Arkansas
- Buffalo River Trail Location: Buffalo National River, Northern Arkansas
- Hawksbill Crag Trail Location: Upper Buffalo Wilderness Area, near Ponca, Arkansas
- Pinnacle Mountain State Park Location: Little Rock, Arkansas
- Cedar Falls Trail Location: Petit Jean State Park, near Morrilton, Arkansas
- Flatside Pinnacle Trail Location: Flatside Wilderness Area, near Little Rock, Arkansas
- Lake Ouachita Vista Trail (LOViT) Location: Lake Ouachita, Western Arkansas
- Devil’s Den State Park Location: West Fork, Arkansas
- Ozark Highlands Trail Location: Ozark National Forest, Northern Arkansas
- Richland Creek Wilderness Area Location: Witts Springs, Arkansas
Ouachita National Recreation Trail
Location: Ouachita National Forest, Western Arkansas
The Ouachita National Recreation Trail, spanning over 223 miles, is one of the longest hiking trails in the southern United States. This challenging trek takes hikers through the beautiful Ouachita Mountains, featuring a variety of terrains, from rugged peaks to serene lakes. A popular section of the trail is the Winding Stair Mountain, which offers stunning panoramic views and access to crystal-clear streams.
Buffalo River Trail
Location: Buffalo National River, Northern Arkansas
The Buffalo River Trail is a 37-mile-long trail that follows the meandering Buffalo National River, the first designated national river in the United States. Hikers can enjoy stunning views of towering limestone bluffs, lush forests, and the clear waters of the Buffalo River. The trail can be divided into smaller sections, providing opportunities for both day hikes and extended backpacking trips.
Hawksbill Crag Trail
Location: Upper Buffalo Wilderness Area, near Ponca, Arkansas
Hawksbill Crag, also known as Whitaker Point, is an iconic rock formation that juts out from the bluff, providing a jaw-dropping view of the surrounding wilderness. The 3-mile round-trip trail to Hawksbill Crag takes hikers through a picturesque forest, culminating in a breathtaking vista overlooking the Buffalo National River below.
Pinnacle Mountain State Park
Location: Little Rock, Arkansas
Pinnacle Mountain State Park, located just outside Little Rock, is a popular destination for hikers looking for a quick escape into nature. The park offers several trails of varying difficulty levels, with the West Summit Trail being the most challenging. This 1.5-mile hike leads to the summit of Pinnacle Mountain, offering panoramic views of the Arkansas River Valley.
Cedar Falls Trail
Location: Petit Jean State Park, near Morrilton, Arkansas
The Cedar Falls Trail in Petit Jean State Park leads hikers through the heart of the Arkansas River Valley. The 2-mile round-trip hike takes you to the base of Cedar Falls, a stunning 95-foot waterfall. This picturesque trail winds through dense forests and includes a breathtaking overlook of the valley.
Flatside Pinnacle Trail
Location: Flatside Wilderness Area, near Little Rock, Arkansas
The Flatside Pinnacle Trail is a 3.6-mile hike that takes you to the top of Flatside Pinnacle, offering incredible views of the surrounding wilderness. Located just an hour from Little Rock, this trail features a variety of terrain, including rocky outcrops and tranquil forests.
Lake Ouachita Vista Trail (LOViT)
Location: Lake Ouachita, Western Arkansas
The Lake Ouachita Vista Trail, or LOViT, is a 40-mile-long trail that winds around Lake Ouachita, one of the largest man-made lakes in the United States. The trail offers stunning lake views, dense woodlands, and opportunities for camping and water activities. It’s a fantastic option for both day hikes and extended backpacking trips.
Devil’s Den State Park
Location: West Fork, Arkansas
Devil’s Den State Park, nestled in the Ozark Mountains, boasts a network of hiking trails that cater to a variety of skill levels. The Yellow Rock Trail, a 3-mile loop, offers a picturesque overlook of Lee Creek Valley and the Ozark hills. Additionally, the Devil’s Den Trail winds through a unique sandstone crevice cave formation, creating an otherworldly hiking experience.
Ozark Highlands Trail
Location: Ozark National Forest, Northern Arkansas
The Ozark Highlands Trail is a 218-mile-long trail that provides an immersive experience through the Ozark National Forest. The trail takes hikers through serene forests, over rugged mountain terrain, and along pristine rivers and streams. A particularly picturesque section is the Big Piney Creek, which offers opportunities for swimming and camping along the trail.
Richland Creek Wilderness Area
Location: Witts Springs, Arkansas
The Richland Creek Wilderness Area is a hidden treasure in the heart of the Ozarks, known for its pristine waterways, towering bluffs, and unique rock formations. The area offers numerous trails, but the Richland Falls Trail is a popular choice, leading hikers to two stunning waterfalls, Twin Falls and Richland Falls. The area is a bit off the beaten path, making it perfect for those seeking a remote and less crowded hiking experience.
In conclusion, Arkansas is a haven for hikers, with its diverse and picturesque landscapes providing endless opportunities for outdoor adventures. Whether you’re exploring the Ozark Mountains, following along meandering rivers, or hiking to breathtaking waterfalls, Arkansas offers a wide range of hiking experiences. These top 10 hiking trails in The Natural State provide a glimpse into the stunning and diverse hiking opportunities that await in this often overlooked gem. So, lace up your hiking boots, grab your backpack, and embark on an unforgettable journey through the natural beauty of Arkansas.