If you have seen pictures of Arkansas, you have probably seen pictures of Whitaker Point. The scenic spot, also known as Hawksbill Crag, is probably the most iconic picture of The Natural State.
A great book and trail guide for this area is Tim Ernst’s “Buffalo River Hiking Trails.” And a great map is the National Geographic map of the west end of the Buffalo National River. Both of these trails are on it.
Whitaker Point is located in the Ozark National Forest in the upper Buffalo River area. A short hike will take you to the famous rock. Another great short hike in that area is the Glory Hole Trail. A few weeks ago, my friends met up in the area, and we hiked both trails.
Several in our group had never hiked to Whitaker Point so we decided we should include it in our day’s activities.
Whitaker Point is also referred to as Hawksbill Crag because the crag that hangs over the cliff is distinctly shaped like the bird’s bill.
The hike to Whitaker Point is fairly short providing that you don’t get lost. We got lost … umm, twice. According the Buffalo Outdoor Center, the trail is three miles round trip.
Finding the trail
The trailhead is located south of Ponca. If you travel from Ponca, go south on Highway 43 to Highway 21. When you get to the Highway 21/43 intersection, keep straight, or south, on Highway 21. After you cross the Buffalo River at Boxley, go right on a dirt road numbered 9560. From that road travel six miles up the mountain. The road is a little rough and steep in places so beware.
Hiking to Whitaker Point
In the Ozarks the trails mostly begin at the top of mountains and descend. That is because what we call the Ozark Mountains is a plateau eroded years ago which created the rugged terrain. But fortunately the Whitaker Point Trail only descends a little ways before leveling out. The hike back to trailhead is not so bad.
We got to a point where the trail crosses a small creek. The trail goes to the right, but we thought it went to the left. So we went left and started immediately going uphill. I can only assume we ended up on a old roadbed because it was wide like one. When we got to what we determined to be the end of the road, we saw a trail going to the right.
We decided to backtrack and find the trail, because the trail to the right didn’t look like an established trail. When we got back to the creek, we found the correct trail. Shortly after you cross the creek, the trail splits. You have the option to follow closely to the bluff, or further away from the edge on what we called “the high road.”
If you are not afraid of heights the trail along the bluff is beautiful and provides a perfect viewing spot of Hawksbill Crag.
On our return trip, we got mixed up again. We were on a trail with blue marking. I still don’t know what that trail was because it wasn’t shown on my map. It was nice to see something different, but we were getting tired. We ended up on a dirt road and took a left on it, which led us back to our cars.
Glory Hole Falls
Glory Hole Falls is one of the most unique waterfalls. The water carved a hole into a rock overhang, and the water literally flows through the rock.
Finding the trailhead
The Glory Hole Falls trailhead is located right on Highway 21. If you are traveling south from Ponca or Whitaker Point, you pass Highway 16 to your left. The trailhead is a few more miles down the road, also on your left. There is no sign visible from the highway, so you will have to look for the cars along the road. I drove past it and had to turn around. Lagena blew past us, even though we were waving at her.
Hiking to Glory Hole Falls
The beginning of trail is however marked and there is a visible sign at the entry point. According to the Buffalo River Regional Chamber of Commerce’s website, the trail is just two miles round trip.
This trail also seems like it is an old road and is wide and easy to walk on. The last little bit of trail, the part that takes you down under the falls, is uneven and rocky so be careful here.
Just before you get to the falls, the trail makes a 90 degree angle at a creek. It is a really pretty creek and worth your time to veer off the trail to look at it.
A little ways further and you can see the top of the falls. This is really neat. The water just flows down into the rock like it does in a sink or bathtub.
From the top of the falls, we walked around the rock shelf and under it to view the shower of water below. It is extremely neat to see.
The bottom of the falls is a great place to have a lunch break, which we did. The only problem was we were such a large group that we had problems finding a flat place big enough where we could all eat together. We ended up sitting in a line on a large rock, but it was perfect.
Arkansas staple day hikes
If you are exploring Arkansas, both of these trails are great day hikes. We hiked a total of six miles that day, but remember we got lost. We also drove there and back in one day to meet up. These are perfect short day hikes to explore if you are camping in the area.
They are relatively easy trails (if you don’t get lost I highly suggest the map). Whitaker Point is a great trail for those who may not be in the best shape for extensive hiking. The Glory Hole Trail is good, but can be treacherous at the end, so trekking poles or a good hiking stick is advised.
But if you are visiting Arkansas and want a taste of the state or you have lived here all your life, these two trail are staples to The Natural State.
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