Arkansas, my home state, is an underrated gem. In my opinion, one of the best ways to experience its undiscovered beauty is by walking the hiking trails in Arkansas.
We may not have soaring mountains and pounding waves but Arkansas has a glory all its own. Get out on an Arkansas hiking trail and you will find that this state is craggy and rocky, forested and lake dotted. It has meandering rivers, fern covered hollers, and lots of critters.
The scenery from a hiking trail in Arkansas is gorgeous and occasionally grand, but more often breathtakingly intimate.
The best times to hike in Arkansas are from late September through early May. An Arkansas summer tends to be oppressively hot. Most locals spend their outdoor time during the summer months near, on, or IN the water. It’s just not a pleasant season for hiking!
If you are hiking to waterfalls be aware that many of those in the state are wet weather falls. In other words they dry up when there hasn’t been much rainfall. In Arkansas this dry season typically coincides with summer/early fall but not always.
Just check the amounts of rainfall in the area or ask a local if the streams are flowing.
Hiking trails in Arkansas tend to be rocky and many trails have steep sections so trekking poles or a staff as well as a sturdy pair of shoes can be helpful. Boots aren’t necessary, but a decent trail shoe is!
The trails that I am mentioning in this post are day hiking trails in Arkansas. They range from easy to moderate to difficult. Some are great for all ages and abilities while others would be dangerous for children. Some allow leashed dogs while others don’t allow dogs at all.
In other words, please do your own research before you head out on the trail to make sure that it would be appropriate for your personal level of fitness as well as appropriate for those who might be accompanying you!
Happy Hiking! Enjoy these gorgeous hikes in Arkansas!
Best Day Hiking Trails in Arkansas
Whitaker Point aka Hawksbill Crag
This is certainly the most recognizable hiking trail in Arkansas. Photos of the iconic “hawk’s bill” of Whitaker Point have graced many magazines and have even been featured in movies.
Hawksbill Crag is located in Newton County in the Ozark National Forest. The road to the trailhead is gravel and steep but we have made it numerous times in a 2 wheel drive vehicle. Just take it slow and easy.
The trail itself is moderate. It is an in and out trail of 2.9 miles round trip. One you get to the trailhead you walk downhill for a bit and then the trail flattens out. Which means that the hardest part is coming back up that incline on the way back.
So, it’s not a particularly difficult hike, but that said…you’ve probably seen the photos…this is not a place for children.
I’ll be honest, I have a bit of a fear of heights and I stay WAY back from the edges. A drop from this bluff would likely be fatal so, be careful!
One thing to know about Hawksbill Crag? It’s popular, y’all.
If you go on a pleasant weekend you will find that the hardest part of the hike is finding a parking spot. I suggest starting early and going during the week if at all possible.
Lost Valley would get my vote for the most beautiful hiking trail in Arkansas. In fact, the entire area surrounding Lost Valley is stunning. It is located in the Boxley Valley area which is definitely worth exploring.
This is a 2.3 mile out and back trail. As I mentioned it is gorgeous and I’m not the only one who thinks so. Lost Valley Trail is the most popular trail in the Buffalo River area and therefore is often pretty busy.
It is ranked as moderate but is actually quite easy until almost the end.
In wetter weather at Lost Valley Trail you will be walking along Clark Creek which you will notice is sometimes bubbling along beside you and then will disappear under the ground for a bit and then reappear.
You will encounter a lovely natural bridge with a little waterfall tumbling out of it. (pictured below) Often you will be able to walk under the bridge and out the other side.
There are also moss covered rocks, high bluffs, and gorgeous woods. As you get to the end of the trail you will encounter Cob Cave which is a gigantic, thrilling overhang.
At the very end of the trail is Eden Falls which is a lovely waterfall tumbling over moss and fern covered rocks into a pool below. The falls come out of a cave that you can actually go in to if you have lights and don’t mind crawling and getting a little wet and muddy.
There is a SECOND waterfall inside the cave.
Lost Valley is an Arkansa hiking trail that you should not miss!
Cedar Falls Trail at Petit Jean State Park
Petit Jean is a wonder of a state park with multiple trails, lakes, a restaurant, cabins, a lodge, and gorgeous views. The most famous trail in Petit Jean (and second only to Whitaker point in the state) is Cedar Falls trail.
Cedar Falls Trail starts behind the Mather Lodge and leads down, down, down to a flat stretch up to the glorious Cedar Falls which tumbles 95 feet off the mountainside into a pool.
This trail is only 1.9 miles out and back and ranked as moderate, but remember that you went down into the canyon at the start. The way out is up, up, up.
Seven Hollows Trail at Petit Jean State Park
Seven Hollows Trail, also located at Petit Jean State Park is my favorite hiking trail in Arkansas because it has a bit of everything. Along this trail you will find a natural bridge or two, towering bluffs, burbling streams, tree covered hill sides, a grotto waterfall, and incredibly diverse plant life.
Seven hollows is a loop trail with an official length of 4.5 miles that is ranked as moderate. The spur to the grottos adds under 1/2 mile and is definitely worth taking especially when the water is flowing.
Mt. Nebo Rim Trail
There are plenty of great trails at Mt Nebo State Park for both hikers and bikers. The rim trail is my favorite. It follows the upper rim of the mountain and has great views almost all the way around.
The Rim Trail is a 3.6 mile loop that is rated moderate. It starts just behind the visitors center and can take the trail either to the right or left.
In my opinion the hike is easiest if you turn right and take the loop clockwise. It’s not terribly steep but there are some ups and downs that will give you a bit of a workout.
You will pass several side trails off of the rim trail that you can take to a waterfall, a pond, and even historical sites but be aware that these spur trails tend to be steep ones that go up and down the mountain rather than around.
Sunset Point and Sunrise Point are two gorgeous overlooks along the trail where you might even encounter hang gliders.
Hemmed in Hollow Trail
This is a tough hike! Hemmed in hollow is a 5+ mile out and back trail in the Buffalo River area near Compton that is has about 1300 feet of elevation. The way out is uphill and definitely strenuous.
Even though it is difficult, this Arkansas hiking trail is popular due to its beauty.
Hemmed in Hollow Falls happens to be the tallest waterfall between the Appalachian Mountains and the Rocky Mountains. It drops over 200 feet off the side of a cliff and falls through the air in a secluded canyon.
The water comes down in a full but narrow stream and you will notice that it dances in the wind.
You will want to bring some snacks or a lunch to enjoy the canyon as well as to fortify yourself for the walk back up. There are also some pretty views and other small cascades and waterfalls to notice on this hike.
If you are floating the Buffalo River you can pull over and walk about 1/2 mile to get to hemmed in hollow.
This is a wet weather fall so make sure water is flowing before you make the trek.
Glory Hole Trail
I know I keep saying that certain hikes are my favorite, but I have to say it again…Glory Hole Trail is one of my favorite hiking trails in Arkansas.
The trail head begins off the side of the road near the town of Deer, Arkansas and is very popular during times of wet weather. It can even be hard to find a place to park on the weekends. Many people pull over to the side of the road which is less than optimal.
I would suggest going during the week if at all possible. But even if you have to search for a spot to park it is worth it. This is a stunning hike.
This is a 1.9 mile in and out trail. You will begin on a wide path that descends into a little valley.
In a short distance you will begin walking near Dismal Creek which is nothing like its name. It is a bright little stream with cascades and small waterfalls tumbling off of rock ledges. Just before the 1 mile mark you will see the creek disappear into what seems like solid rock.
Be careful in this area as people have fallen off the ledges here. A scramble down and around will lead you to a large overhang where you can see the stream pouring through the rock above and then making it’s way into a wooded valley full of boulders.
The entire area is magical!
P.S. If you ever get a chance to visit glory hole during one of Arkansas’ infrequent freezes it is a sight you will never forget!
Sugar Loaf Mountain Summit Trail
This is a fun Arkansas trail because it happens to be in the middle of a lake.
Sugar loaf mountain is an island that rises 1,000 feet out of beautiful Greer’s Ferry Lake. It gets its name from the rock formation on the top of the mountain that resembled a sugarloaf. (which was the way sugar was sold back in the day)
You can take your own boat out to Sugar Loaf, paddle a kayak about a mile out to the mountain, or you can take the ferry from Fairfield Bay Marina. Be sure to check the ferry departure times.
The Sugar Loaf Summit trail goes steeply up a staircase from ground level and then flattens out and makes about a 2.4 mile loop around the mountain.
The views of the lake are amazing!
Falls Branch Trail at Lake Catherine State Park
Falls Branch Trail is an easy to moderate trail that is also good for children. Definitely go in wet weather. This one tends to dry up pretty quickly.
Falls Branch Trail is a 1.7 mile loop trail in Lake Catherine State Park near Hot Springs National Park. The trail begins at the campgrounds in the park and I like to hike it counter clockwise. You will cross a stream on several small wooden foot bridges, seeing a nice overlook and some mini waterfalls.
Eventually you will come to Falls Creek and then the waterfall. The pool below the fall is jewel like and you will often see people swimming here.
Much of the remainder of the trail has nice views of Lake Catherine.
Centerpoint to Big Bluff Goat Trail
You will see this hike which is located in the Buffalo River Wilderness Area called Centerpoint, Big Bluff Trail, Goat Trail or any combination of the three. Most locals tend to call it the Goat Trail.
This hiking trail in Arkansas is a complete stunner but is also considered to be the most dangerous in the state. It is rated as difficult and is absolutely, positively not for children, anyone with balance problems, or anyone afraid of heights.
Goat trail is a 6 mile out and back trail located near the lovely town of Ponca, Arkansas. It is downhill on the way in so, of course up hill on the way back.
The first couple of miles meanders through lovely forest without any true vistas, but keep going. This trail has some of the most amazing views in the state! About the time you think you are not going to see anything you will take a fork to the right and…
You are on the edge of Big Bluff.
When they say “big” they mean it. At 550-ft tall, Big Bluff has the distinction of being the tallest sheer bluff face found between the Rocky and Appalachian mountains.
The outcropping on the bluff is called the Goat trail. This is a narrow trail with a bluff on one side and…well…nothing but views on the other. It is basically a ledge trail. I will say that it is a little wider than it looks in photos, but still, BE CAREFUL!
The views from here of the Buffalo River are magnificent.
Collins Creek Trail
This is a shorter, less than 1.5 mile, out and back trail that is good for children.
It is located near the Greer’s Ferry fish hatchery and includes a cascade that comes from a pipe at the bottom of Greer’s Ferry Lake. The cascade is beautiful and COLD.
The pipe pours approximately 40,000 gallons of 50-degree into the creek every hour. This cool water coupled with the shade of the forest makes this a perfect summer time respite.
You will follow the trail along the creek and across a couple of bridges, past a playground for children, a camping area, and eventually come to the Little Red River where you can spend some time fishing or watching the fly fishermen.
If you are hanging out near the river do listen for the sirens which indicate that they are opening the dams upstream and the water might rise fairly quickly.
Pinnacle Mountain West Summit Trail
If you are looking for a hiking trail in Arkansas with a bit of a climb and scramble then this is your trail.
Pinnacle Mountain State Park is an amazing park to explore. It is located on the west side of Little Rock.
The west summit trail starts at the park picnic grounds and makes its way to the top of Pinnacle Mountain. It is a 1.5 mile out and back trail that is rated as difficult.
It may not be a long trail but it is steep. You will be winded on the way up and will definitely have to watch your footing on the way down.
In the beginning the trail is a fairly normal mountain trail. Uphill, yes, but with switchbacks and the footing isn’t too difficult and stairs are provided for some of the steeper areas.
However, as you get closer to the top of the mountain you will come to a section of rocks, boulders really, that you will have to scramble up. Some of the heights differential between boulders are large enough that you might find yourself using hands and feet to navigate them.
After getting through this area you are almost to the top. And the top is worthwhile! There are gorgeous views on every side.
Now you just have to carefully navigate your way down the boulder field then you are home free to the bottom of the mountain.
I’ve climbed Pinnacle dozens of times and every time there is someone much older than me trekking up and down for exercise so don’t be afraid of it! Just be prepared!
I hope that you enjoyed this list of the best hiking trails in Arkansas. It is such a pretty and interesting state. I encourage you to get out and experience Arkansas on a hiking trail.
Thanks for stopping by!