The Ozarks expand across the states of Missouri, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. The region is home to state parks preserving the natural beauty of local mountains, trails, waterfalls, and wildlife. Hiking is the best way to engage and appreciate the sublime beauty of the Ozarks. Winding through footpaths, climbing over rough terrain, or stopping to listen to the birds, hikers are at one with nature. Lace up your hiking boots, lather on bug repellant, and grab your water bottle as we visit the best hikes in the Ozarks.
High Banks Twin Falls, Arkansas
In the Ozark National Forest, in northern Arkansas, is the High Banks Twin Falls trail or simply, High Banks Twins. The 0.4-mile trail is an easy 15-minute stroll through the woods. To see the falls at their peak, it is best to visit after heavy rainfall. Hikers visiting after heavy rain should be cautious as the easy trail becomes more challenging with slippery rocks and muddy terrain. To reach the falls, parking is available at the High Banks Canoe Launch located off Arizona Highway 215 along the banks of Mulberry River. After parking, walk east along the main road to a small bridge. Following the trail upstream, hikers will be rewarded with parallel plunging waterfalls.
Other recreational activities include fishing and canoeing along the river. The path welcomes hikers to bring their dogs along to stretch their legs. Some spots along the path are lease free and are to be used with caution. The High Banks Twins Falls is a tranquil reward after an easy hike among natural beauty.
Whitaker Point, Arkansas
Whitaker Point is a moderate 3-mile hike through lush terrain and is a popular destination year around. The trail begins at Whittaker Point Trailhead along Cave Mount Road or County Road 5. During peak seasons of spring and fall, parking is limited as the parking area is small. When the parking area is full, visitors can park alongside the road.
In spring, the trail is full of wildflowers filling the air with a sweet fragrance. The trees are lush, with green leaves providing overhead shade in summer. Fall brings the colorful foliage of reds, browns, orange, and yellow. Bare trees in winter provide uninterrupted panoramic views. Along the trail and at its peak, the Whitaker Point Trail provides scenic spots inviting hikers to sit and enjoy the view.
Pedestal Rock Loop, Arkansas
Pedestal Rock Loop is a 2.4-mile hiking trail with steep slopes and places to rest along the way. The trail is recommended for those with experience and proper hiking footwear. The looped trail provides hikers with an Arkansas geology lesson with colorful layers of sediment formed by centuries of weathering. Hikers will also marvel at the unique pedestal-shaped rock formations where the trail received its name. About a mile along the trail, a road to the left veers off the main trail. Following this trail leads to needle-eye caves that experienced hikers can climb through and explore.
Pedestal Rock Loop is accessible from Highway 16, just 6 miles east of Pelsor, Arkansas, in the Pedestal Rocks Scenic Area. A small gravel parking lot, a picnic area, and a basic toilet are located at the start of the trail. Hikers wishing to continue their hike can hop onto the 1.8-mile Kings Bluff trail located next to the Pedestal Rock Loop. The switchbacked trail ends at a large bluff with a stunning view of the valley, the Ozark National Forest, and the Kings Bluff Falls. With stunning geological wonders and magnificent waterfalls, seasoned hikers will be rewarded for their arduous climb year around.
Devil's Canyon Scenic Area Trail, Arkansas
In the Ozark National Forest, near Mulberry, Arkansas, is the Devil's Canyon Scenic Area Trail. The 4.6-mile trail is a moderately challenging route and can be completed in under 2 hours. The trail loops through a forested canyon with two majestic towering waterfalls along the way, Devil's Canyon Falls and Devil's Canyon Junior Falls. Although the scenery is lush and impressive, the hike is not easy. With bushwacking and abrupt changes in elevation, Devil's Canyon Scenic Area Trail is an exhausting trek. Large boulders along the creek greet hikers along an eastern path to a small creek. A short distance downstream is the first waterfall.
Heading downhill, hikers will meet the second waterfall. At the waterfall's base, hikers are rewarded with the soothing sounds of falling water. Continuing downhill to a creek, and then uphill leads back to the parking lot. Although driveable, the road into Devil's Canyon is intimidating. High-clearance vehicles are recommended to tackle the entire route to the small dirt parking lot. Parking is also acceptable on the side of the road. Devil's Canyon Scenic Area Trail is a grueling, ear-popping trek through the woods, rewarding hikers with impressive waterfalls.
Glory Holes Falls Trail, Arkansas
Glory Holes Falls Trail is a well-maintained trail with no official trailhead or dedicated parking. A few miles south of Edwards Junction of the Ozark National Forest, the 1.8-mile trail leads to the unique Glory Hole Falls. Parking is on the side road off Highway 16. The trail starts with an old road leading to a trail intersection. Taking the road to the right, hikers are led on a steep slope. Going down will feel easy, but it will be a challenge hiking back up.
Hikers have a choice between following the path above the creek or wandering down to follow alongside the creek. The lower path is rougher terrain but yields stunning smaller waterfalls and cascades. Glory Hole Falls is situated about a mile into the hike. The waterfall gushes from a stream flowing through an opening in the overhang of a cave. A visit to the waterfall is best after heavy rainfall when water will cascade abundantly. The picturesque magic of Glory Hole Falls welcomes hikers to explore year around.
King River Falls Natural Area, Arkansas
Between the Springfield Plateau and Boston Mountains lies the Kings River Falls Natural Area. The trail begins and ends at the parking area, just creating a flat 2-mile loop. The parking area is small, easily located, and marked with a Kings River Falls Natural Area sign under a mile up the road. Warm weather is the perfect time of year to visit this trail. A visit to the falls requires a picnic and bathing suits for a delightful day in nature. While hiking along the trail, alluring cascades moving around and over boulders provide the perfect photo. Bird-watching will delight even the youngest in the group.
The frequently used trail resulted in an easy route to follow. Families with children can easily maneuver the flat terrain through forest cover along the Ozark's uniquely flowing Kings River. The river is a clear mountain waterway flowing south to north, ending in the 10-foot King River Falls. The river below the falls provides a swimming hole to cool off before hiking back to the car. With natural beauty, cascading falls, a swimming hole, and tree cover providing a shady route, King River Falls Natural Area is a family-friendly hike.
Long Pool Falls, Arkansas
Families and large four-legged companions can easily tackle the one-mile trail through the forest to Long Pool Falls. Hikers to Long Pool Falls begin at Long Pool Recreation Area near Dover, Arkansas, on the southern edge of the Ozark National Forest. The recreation area sits along Big Piney Creek offering visitors camping, swimming, canoeing, floating, and fishing, surrounded by the natural beauty of the forest.
The campground at the recreation area consists of three loops, offering 40 sites. Loop C is available from May to October, offering water and electric hookups. The other loops are basic campsites without any hookups. Public restrooms with flushing toilets and hot showers are available for everyone. The start of the trail to the falls is located off Loop B of the camping area. Hikers will encounter a smaller fall known as Low Long Pool Falls on the way to Long Pool Falls. Cascading double falls combined with outdoor recreation make Long Pool Falls a perfect vacation destination after heavy rainfall.
Centerpoint Trail To Goat Trail To Big Bluff, Arkansas
The trail has many names, such as Big Bluff Trail, Centerpoint to Goat Trail, and Goat Trail. The official trail name is Centerpoint Trail to Goat Trail to Big Bluff. From Centerpoint Trailhead to Big Bluff is a 3-mile out-and-back trip, meaning hikers will return on the same trail. Hiking to Big Bluff is downhill. Conserving energy for the steep trek back is important to avoid exhaustion. Save snacks and water for the uphill hike back! A downloaded map is essential for this hike as cell service is unreliable.
Hikers will find parking for the trail located at Centerpoint Campground. The trail begins in the Ponca Wilderness and progressively descends to the Buffalo River. The descent offers breathtaking panoramic views of the river and Ozark Mountains. Due to the narrow and steep terrain, hikers will need to start early in the morning to complete the hike. Lusch foliage in spring, summer, and fall provides the best views. The trail is closed during winter. Although camping is permitted along the Centerpoint Trail, it is prohibited on Big Bluff. Aptly named, The Goat Trail to Big Bluff is narrow, dangerous, and not for the faint of heart.
Sam's Loop Trail, Arkansas
Beginning at Sam's Throne Campground parking area, the Sam's Loop Trail is a 3-mile looped trail near Mount Judea, Arkansas. The moderately challenging trail leads hikers along a steep wooded path to the magnificent Sam's Throne overlooking Big Creek Valley. The throne is a rock formation covered in trees on top of Judea Mountain. Exposed rocks on the throne are a popular destination for rock climbing. It is not unusual to see climbers hanging off the side of the cliff.
For an overnight stay, Sam's Throne Campground consists of six primitive campsites. The campsite is free to use and reservations are not required. The tiny campground is a serene hideaway with a beautiful mountain backdrop. Nestled in the woods of the Ozark National Forest, summer's greenery and fall's colorful foliage are the best times to visit Sam's Loop Trail. Surrounding trees provide overhead cover and a shady spot to escape the sun. Sam's Loop Trail is a quiet place to calm the mind and reconnect with nature.
Ankle Express Trail, Oklahoma
Greenleaf State Park in Oklahoma is home to the daring Ankle Express Trail. The 5-mile hike includes a suspension bridge over Greenleaf Lake that challenges the bravest hikers. The trail begins at the Deer Run campground with parking for a few cars at the trailhead. More parking is available in the state park. At the trailhead, the path winds through the forest until colliding with US-10. A short walk along the road and across the dam leads back to the official trail. Hikers should proceed with caution as crossing the dam can be slippery.
Hikers will continue around Greenleaf Lake and cross a creekbed to reach the suspension bridge. When the bridge is open for crossing, daring hikers are rewarded with stunning views of the park while dangling over the water. The Ankle Express Trail is best visited during drier colder months. Hikers tackling the trail in warmer weather should lather on the bug repellant to fend off ticks. While Greenleaf State Park offers many trails to explore, the Ankle Express Trail provides a daring experience for hikers looking for a thrill.
Elephant Rocks Natural Area - Braille Trail, Missouri
In Belleview, Missouri, the Elephant Rocks Natural Area is a dedicated trail to provide a safe sensory experience for visitors with visual or physical disabilities. This paved trail is made for a sturdy walk along a 1-mile loop and is wheelchair accessible.The large maze of giant rocks clustering together resembles a herd of elephants, thus giving the trail its name. The trail leads visitors on a walk through the massive rocks.
Interpretive stations are available with text in braille along the path. The stations detail the local geology, history, fauna, and flora. Carpeted areas and hand ropes signify changes in the pathway. A short spur off the trail guides visitors to the ruins of an old quarry site where the red granite rocks of Missouri were quarried in the late 1800s. Visitors can also stop by a picturesque pond formed by the quarry. The Elephant Rocks Natural Area is a unique inclusive trail for visitors year around.
Hikes through the Ozarks range from easy flat terrains to strenuous heart-pumping climbs. Thrill seekers face challenges while hiking along cliffs and bridges. Being prepared with snacks, water, bug spray, and proper footwear is a must to be safe along the trails. Recreational activities combined with stunning panoramic scenery enhance the outdoor experience. Whether camping, swimming, fishing, floating, or rock climbing in the Ozarks, these trails offer the best hiking adventures.