Why the Ozarks?


Yellow Rock Bluff, Arkansas

While selecting photos for a presentation to the Trailblazers of Fort Smith, I realized the Ozarks could hold their own following the High Sierras of California. The day of the program, photos transitioned smoothly from the John Muir Trail to the Ozarks and the audience appreciated the beauty and uniqueness of both regions without any “let down” as we moved into the Ozarks.

Why the Ozarks?

How about an extended hiking season and a variety of beauty? When mountainous regions around the United States are becoming impassable due to snow, the Ozark Mountains are beginning their long hiking season with a fall transformation to red and golden foliage.


Alley Spring, Missouri

Lake Alma Sunset

A fall sunset over Lake Alma in Arkansas

Fall leaves on rock

Fall color on sandstone

As winter approaches and leaves drop, majestic vistas and towering rock formations are revealed.


Pedestal Rocks Scenic Area, Arkansas


wild iris

Seasonal rains bring beautiful waterfalls year round but especially in the spring when wildflowers sparkle throughout the region, especially in open glades and along steep hillsides.



Long Creek Falls, Missouri


Shepherd Spring Waterfall at Lake Fort Smith State Park, Arkansas

Natural springs flow year-round, often showing some of their most lovely character during the “off season” of winter. You’ll also find smaller crowds in the Ozarks during the winter months.


Cascade below Maramec Spring, Missouri

I’m often asked my favorite trail. My answer is, “The last trail I hiked.” While I do enjoy the larger than life bucket-list trails offered by California, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Montana, I always look forward to returning to the Ozarks. They hold their own in comparison with landscapes anywhere in the United States. If you’re looking for scenic beauty, an extended hiking season and smaller crowds, explore the Ozarks!


Clifty Creek Natural Arch, Missouri


Kessler Mountain Rock City, Arkansas


Big Spring, Missouri


Young hiker taking in the views near Whitaker Point, Arkansas


Early morning coffee in the Ozarks

5-Star Ozarks cover

If you want to explore some of the trails pictured in this post, check out Five Star Trails: The Ozarks.

Three Day Hikes – One Fine Day

I typically like hiking a long section of trail and camping along the way.  I think of day hiking as what I do around the Lake Alma Trail, training for “real” hiking trips. My wife and I spent the weekend in Jasper at the Arkansas House, an old, but clean establishment with two great restaurants on either side of us.

Walking to the Arkansas House

Walking to the Arkansas House

My goal was to do some day hiking.  I was feeling particularly guilty about two of the hikes.  As a backpacker, I should probably have my Arkansas citizenship revoked for the following two infractions: First, I have only hiked Whitaker Point (Hawksbill Crag) once, and that was over sixteen years ago.   Second, I have never hiked to Hole-in-a-Rock Falls (Glory Hole Falls). Yesterday I corrected these deficiencies and hiked both trails as well as Lost Valley.

It was a wonderful day. I began with the familiar trail, Lost Valley. Sometimes the drive to the trailhead provides some visual treats.  I had to stop a the little community of Low Gap and take a picture of this historic church and their restroom facilities right next to the church.


Ladies' facilities poised on the edge of a bluff next to the church.

Ladies’ facilities poised on the edge of a bluff next to the church.

I wanted Lost Valley all to my self.  By beginning early, I got my wish.  As I left the trail following my hike, cars began pouring into the parking lot.  Below are a few photos from this hike.

Eden Falls from a distance.

Fifty-foot Eden Falls from a distance.

This was my first visit to the Eden Falls Cave.  I didn’t crawl into the room I’m told has a 30-foot waterfall since I wasn’t equipped for caving.  I did enjoy doing some light-painting with my flashlight and a 15-second exposure.

Inside Eden Falls Cave

Inside Eden Falls Cave

Next on the agenda was Whitaker Point.  I drove up Cave Mountain Road and drove a hundred yards past the trailhead before finding a spot to park.  People were everywhere, but it was fine.  I was glad there would be someone on the crag to add perspective.

I didn’t anticipate that gymnasts would be doing handstands on the crag.  I was glad they didn’t try anything close to the edge.  How I do hate getting involved in rescue work…

Handstand on Hawksbill Crag

Handstand on Hawksbill Crag

Met a nice couple from Fayetteville.  Their dogs were cooperative and let me snap a shot of them looking at the crag.

A couple looking at Hawksbill Crag in the distance.

A couple looking at Hawksbill Crag in the distance.

One of my favorite outcroppings is just past Hawksbill Crag.  After taking a photo for a family on this bluff, they agreed to let their daughter pose for a photo.  I like the way those two leaning stones are supporting each other near the edge.

Young hiker taking in the views and staying away from the edge.

Young hiker taking in the views and staying safely away from the edge.

Parking on Cave Mountain Road was challenging.  The drive back down off of the mountain was also tricky with so many cars approaching in the opposite direction.  It was a slow 6-miles out.

Parking on Cave Mountain Road.

Parking on Cave Mountain Road.

It was now early afternoon, and I realized I hadn’t had breakfast or lunch.  I snacked through the day and never felt hungry. Anyway, no time for a meal with so many beautiful trails to see.

From Whitaker Point, I drove out to Hole-in-a-Rock Falls, also known as Glory Hole Falls.  No worries about finding the trailhead, just watch for the cars parked along the highway. This hike was almost all road walking until the last little bit.

As I approached the falls, I realized that the afternoon sun was aimed right at the falls.  With the strong sunlight and crowds of spectators, my best option was to focus on the “hole in the rock” itself.  Between setting up a shot of that and taking pictures for families and friends crowding around the waterfall, I stayed pretty busy.

The hike out was a pleasant climb, and I felt great relief that I had now made my first (but not last) visit to this famous Arkansas waterfall. IMG_4233rr