Hiking at DeGray Lake State Park is a great way to explore the diverse wonders of the park. When most people think of DeGray Lake State Park, they think of being on the lake, but the park also offers nice hiking trails. With five hiking trails, visitors can wander through unique areas of the park and learn about the ecosystem of the southern Ouachita Mountains.
One aspect of DeGray Lake that I love is that you can see characteristics of the Gulf Coastal Plain and Ouachita Mountains. Sandy soil and towering pines are typical of the Gulf Coastal Plain while babbling brooks and rocky beaches remind you that you are still in the Ouachita Mountains. Hiking at DeGray Lake State Park also provides you with numerous opportunities to catch glimpses of wildlife.
Each trail is fairly short, with the longest being a mile. In addition to being short, they are all easy to hike and are great for most physical abilities.
For a pamphlet of the park, click here.
Green Heron Trail
The Green Heron Trail is roughly a mile-long lollipop loop. It begins behind the Visitor Center and is a nice wide, flat path that is great for viewing wildlife.
You begin by walking from the mowed yard of the Visitor Center into the thick forests of the Ouachitas. It kind of has the feel of a children’s book, where you walk into another world.
You will immediately pass a pond to your left. When I hiked the trail, it was covered in a green algae film, that was quite pretty. Shortly after you pass the pond, you cross a bridge and get your first glimpse of the lake. The is a great place to keep your eyes out for wildlife and waterfowl.
At mile 0.2, you come to an intersection. This is the end of the “stick” of the lollipop loop. There is a sign that points you toward the right to complete the trail. However, if you choose to go to the left, you will end up back at the same spot.
After you make a right at the intersection, the trail heads back toward the lake and follows it pretty closely for a little bit. At mile 0.3 there’s a spur trail to a watchable wildlife station where you can hike and view the wildlife that calls DeGray Lake home.
Once you complete the spur trail, make a right to finish out the Green Heron Trail. Right around the half-mile point, there is another intersection with a trail going toward the left. This is a shortcut trail that will take you back to the trailhead. I chose to not take it so I could finish the trail.
The trail gets close to the lake again and you can see it through the trees. When I was there some of the woodlands were flooded and it was really pretty.
At mile 0.6 the trail seems to end at the edge of the woods and the dike on the road. I got confused here following the red trail markers because they just ended. There were no more markers or beaten paths to follow. I took a guess and hiked through the high grass of the road’s right-of-way, which is how the trail goes.
Around mile 0.75 (about 0.1 miles along the grassy area) there is a sign pointing you back in the forest to complete the trial.
At mile 0.8 you intersect with the shortcut trail. You will want to go to the right here to get back to the trailhead. You will quickly come back to the first intersection where you will want to turn right to finish and hike along the “stick” of the lollipop look to finish out the trail.
Another great hiking trail at DeGray Lake State Park is the Island Trail. The trailhead for the Island Trail can be found to the right of the lodge. After about 0.1 miles you will cross a road. Once you reenter the woods the trail immediately splits. This is the loop part of the lollipop so it doesn’t matter which way you go. I chose to go to the right.
Around mile 0.2 the trail turns and follows along the lakeshore, along the edge of the island. It gives you nice glimpses of the lake while hiking under a thick canopy of trees.
At mile 0.5 there is a spur trail to the right that takes you down to a nice rocky beach and wide-open lake. This is a great place to picnic or take a long break. In the summertime, it will be a nice place to cool off in the lake.
Follow the spur trail back to the Island Trail and go right to finish out the loop. From here the trail follows the lakeshore pretty closely, and there are few other spots you can stop and enjoy the lake.
At mile 0.9 you finish the loop and rejoin the “stick” of the lollipop. From there go right, cross the road again and finish out the trail.
Towering Pines Trail
The Towering Pines Trail is a wonderful trail for hiking at DeGray Lake State Park that showcases the rocky terrain of the Ouachita Mountains.
The trailhead is near the amphitheater and also makes a lollipop loop. The Towering Pines Trail is only 0.6 miles but has the most elevation gain and loss of any of the hiking trails at DeGray Lake. But even with the ups and downs, it still a fairly easy trail.
You only hike a short way before the trail splits and for the loop. It crosses a beautiful mountain stream via a bridge and then heads into a beautiful stand of pines.
I enjoyed seeing the mountains streams along this trail. Around mile 0.3 one stream empties into the lake and it’s very beautiful.
You also get nice views of the lake at this point. Then the trail turns and heads away from the lake and back towards the trailhead.
Saginaw Historic Trail
For a short stroll or a longer out-and-back trail, the Saginaw Historic Trail is a great choice for hiking at DeGray Lake State Park. It is a historic interpretive trail that follows an old narrow-gauge railroad bed that was used by lumbermen when they logged the area over 120 years ago.
The trailhead is across the road from the Towering Pine trailhead and amphitheater, near the dump station.
Before you hike it be sure to read the map and information at the begging of the trail. I did not do this and got a little lost. The park’s informational material says the trail is only 0.25 miles one way, however, there is also a 0.25 mile-extension trail, which makes the end of the trail at the road intersection to the lodge. With the extension, it makes the trail 0.5 miles one way or 1 mile out and back. This is noted at the trailhead.
It’s a really neat trail and two information placards tell you about the history of the lumbermen and the railroad. In some places, the trail is up high on a long and slender mound. Other times it takes you through deep narrow ruts. Both are evidence that man has been there altering the land to suit his needs.
Another great trail for wildlife spotting and hiking at DeGray Lake State Park is the Chickadee Trail. This 0.5-mile loop takes hikers through pine forest and along the shore of the lake.
The trailhead is kind of hard to find if you don’t know where to look. It’s behind the Administration Building and Tennis and Basketball Courts. I didn’t realize it was behind them, but when I did, I just parked at the courts.
The trail follows some old roadbeds, so you’ll want to follow the signs to know when to leave the old roadbed and when to get back on it.
I liked how the trail takes you by a quiet part of the lake. When I was there, the lake was up and in the woods in some places, which I thought was pretty.
Hiking at DeGray Lake State Park
There are a few great trails to choose from if you plan on hiking at DeGray Lake State Park. I did all five trails in one day and it only totaled up to be about 4 miles. The Saginaw Historic Trail and Green Heron Trail were my favorite. I hiked the trails in late April and the wildflowers were gorgeous, especially on the Green Heron Trail. I enjoyed the historical aspect of the Saginaw Trail.