I know what you may be thinking, Arkansas, really? Personally I feel that the state gets a bad rap. Upon telling my coworkers I was going to Arkansas for a long weekend their immediate reply was, why would you go there it’s full of rednecks? Well ladies and gentlemen I can confirm that the state is indeed not full of rednecks and most people had all of their teeth.
Arkansas is actually called the “Natural State” and is known for its beautiful scenery. It is also the only state in the US that mines diamonds. This post focuses on the Ozark National Forrest and the wonderful hiking it has to offer. The trip took a total of 4 days and approximately 1,300 miles however that includes driving to and from Houston, which is a 14 hour round trip.
Day 1: Hot Springs & Little Rock
Hot Springs National Park is a 1 hour, 55 mile drive from Little Rock. Downtown Hot Springs is a beautifully preserved Historic District with eight historic bathhouse buildings and gardens along the main street. The city is named after the natural thermal water that flows beneath the town. It is important to note that there is no volcanic activity in this region and the water is heated through percolation through the earth’s surface. There are several locations in the town where you can see steam rising from the hot water emerging from the springs.
For a spectacular view of Hot Springs and the surrounding national park elevate yourself 1,256 feet above sea level at the Hot Springs Mountain Tower.
Little Rock is the capital of Arkansas, if you are looking to rest your weary head you need to look no further than “The Empress of Little Rock” a luxury boutique bed and breakfast (http://theempress.com/). Built in 1888 in true Victorian style the now bed and breakfast boasts 9 suites with all the modern luxuries of today while staying true to its heritage.
Upon arrival you will be greeted by the friendly staff and given a tour of the property. Don’t let the tails of ghosts frighten you, from what I understand they are all very friendly. Be sure to check out the secret poker room located in the attic and spend some time relaxing in the secret garden. A two course breakfast is served at 9am daily in the dining room in what can only be described as a Downton Abby experience. You will certainly feel like a Lord or Lady eating off fine china with Victorian silver wear while being served by your personal butler.
Day 2-3: Ozark National Forrest
The main reason for my trip to Arkansas was to visit the Ozark National Forest which covers 1.2 million acres and is located in northern Arkansas, about a 2 hour drive (128 miles) from Little Rock. There are many outdoor activities located within the forest including camping, hiking, swimming, fishing, kayaking, and scenic drives. Hikes you won’t want to miss include:
The Glory Hole Falls
One of the most impressive and famous waterfalls in Arkansas is the naturally occurring Glory Hole Falls. The hike is approximately a 2 mile round trip and is fairly easy, however be careful as you approach the falls as it is often damp and can become quite slippery. At most times of the year there may be nothing more than a trickle, but if you are lucky enough to catch some rain the falls turn into something quite spectacular. I was lucky enough to catch the falls at their optimum time, the results are nothing short of breathtaking.
Whitaker Point Trail (Hawksbill Crag)
The hike to Whitaker Point is a three mile round trip and offers breathtaking views of the valley. Step out onto the ledge, if you dare, and breathe in the clean forest air. You will need to take a buddy with you on this adventure if you want some impressive photos to show your friends and remember the occasion.
Fun Fact: Disney filmed the opening to “Tuck Everlasting” here.
The Pedestal Rock hike is a 2.8 mile loop and offers spectacular views of the unique pedestal rock formations. Formed over eons from wind and water erosion, you will see unique mushroom shaped columns as well as waterfalls, small caves and shelters inside the bluff. The loop is very easy and it is a relaxing hike.
Alum Cove Natural Bridges
The Alum Cove trail is approximately 1 mile long and is a moderate hike. The trail leads to one of the largest natural bridges in Arkansas which spans over 130 feet. The trail leads you across the bridge and then loops back underneath it, this is where you will get the most impressive photos. If it has been raining you may also see a waterfall.
Where to stay
Accommodation is limited in this area, I stayed at the Cedar Rock Lodge which is a house located in the heart of the Ozarks. Rates are very reasonable and the location for hiking is perfect. http://www.cedarrocklodge.org/
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