One thing about North Texas summers is that no matter where else you go, it’s going to be cooler. I recently spent a week hiking the Ozarks in the mountains of Arkansas. It was hot, but not 100 degrees.
My excursion started at Devil’s Den State Park, south of Fayetteville. I’ve been there before, and the hiking trails are spectacular. The two most scenic trails are Yellow Rock and the Devils Den Caves trails. The caves are home to millions of bats, and hikers can’t actually go in the caves for concerns over disturbing the bat habitat. The trail meanders for about two miles, and returns you to the parking area by Lee Creek.
Yellow Rock trail can be hiked from the bottom or top of the mountain. There are trailheads in both locations. I choose to start at the top, primarily because that’s the only place in the park I was able to get a cell phone signal. The destination was the scenic overlook, which provides a beautiful vista out over the entire Devil’s Den valley. There are several branches of this trail, and it’s fairly easy to get lost, which I did. But eventually I found my way to the overlook. The view was worth the workout.
From Devil’s Den I drove about three hours to Petit Jean State Park, northwest of Little Rock. Petit Jean is Arkansas’ oldest park, dating back to the 1920’s. As with many parks in Arkansas and Texas, most of the development work was done in the 1930’s by workers with the Civilian Conservation Corps. There is a monument in memory of the CCC workers.
Petit Jean has eight trails, ranging from short but difficult, to long and fairly easy. The most popular hike is the Cedar Falls Trail. It descends into the valley from a starting point at the Mather Lodge. This trail can be strenuous in spots, and a good set of supportive hiking boots is recommended. The trail follows the creek bed to a spectacular view of Cedar Falls.
The Seven Hollows trail is fairly long, over four miles, but a fairly easy hike. It provides shaded canopy deep in the woods, and leads to you some unique rock formations, including Natural Bridge, Turtle Rocks and the Grotto. Allow plenty of time, maybe a half-day, and pack in plenty of water.
Arkansas is a beautiful state, and the mountain parks are the best of the best. If you like hiking, these sites are highly recommended.