Perfect for all skill levels – a shady walk into the Ozark National Forest. The trail is lined by Oak and Hickory trees on one side and views of the rolling forest on the other. Enjoy sandstone bluffs along the way that extend your vantage. End the out-and-back trail at the Crag, “the most photographed rock in Arkansas,” which is truly a sight to behold. It’s 2.7-ish miles roundtrip.
Get ready: Whitaker Point trail is nestled deep in the Ozark St. Francis National Forest. Make sure you know the directions before you get too deep in. Cell service will cut out. I used the AllTrails app. Warning: The road leading up to the parking area is rough. It’s very steep, uneven and rocky. I recommend taking a four wheel drive vehicle. Fur friends are welcome, but there’s no water or bathrooms at the trailhead so plan accordingly.
Get set: Once you’ve made it up “the road,” park in the parking area. A sign warns about towing for any cars blocking the road – be sure to park in a spot. Bring your camera because the Crag makes for a great photo-op.
Go: There is a sign at the top of the trailhead. Follow it down onto a rocky path lined by generous shady trees.
You’ll pass over a creek bed. A few more steps and the sound of trickling (or rushing depending on recent rainfall) water will make it’s way through the woods. The trail splits in two. We opted to go right. It’s the more popular choice as it follows along the bluffs and the views are incredible, but I hear the road less traveled is all the rage as well. Or at least Robert Frost would say so.
However, if you take the path to the right you’re in for a treat. There is a waterfall that dribbles over ledge after sandstone ledge. Your first real lookout into the Ozark Mountain Valley is here. Continue upwards and soon, every few steps, you’re greeted with another opportunity to walk between the trees and see the glorious panorama of trees and blue sky. It’s important to be careful on the bluffs – avoid the ledges while enjoying the beauty. Whitaker Point (or Hawskbill Crag) is easy to recognize. The bird-beak shaped rock juts out over the valley.
Walk out onto it and have yourself a true “Lion King” moment (while practicing safety, of course!). Pro Tip: If you explore past the Crag there is another rock formation perfect for taking pictures of the hiker-friends on Whitaker Point.
Effort: For experienced hikers who aren’t messing around, this hike will take 30 to 45 minutes. For everyone else this hike could take 45 minutes to a couple of hours depending on how long you want to relax and soak in the view from the Crag. The trail itself is gentle and provides ample areas to stop, catch your breath and keep going.
Takeaway: I began hiking early afternoon. The trail was busy and it was hard to find a peaceful moment on the actual rock face. I think the view will be stunning in the fall when all the deciduous trees begin to change color. When I come back in the fall, I’ll be sure to get up early to watch the sunrise from that perfect vantage point. The 2.7 miles was easy and perfect for my two dogs. Next time I go back, I’ll add another nearby hike to the day to add a little challenge.