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Park’s trifecta of trails

December 19, 2017 Comments Off on Twin trails thrill hikers at Pedestal Rocks Scenic Area Hiking, Latest

Twin trails thrill hikers at Pedestal Rocks Scenic Area

Nature and time have teamed up to sculpt stunning beauty and put it on a pedestal deep in the Ozark National Forest.

The wonders of Pedestal Rocks Scenic Area south of Jasper will steal a hiker’s breath with its scenery. Visitors can breathe easy exploring two loop trails that offer four miles of level to moderate hiking.

Even more to explore

Other trails and landmarks are located near Pedestal Rocks Scenic Area.

They include Alum Cove Natural Bridge Recreation Area near Deer and Haw Creek Falls Recreation Area east of Pelsor.

Alum Cove is a day use area with a natural rock bridge, crevice caves and a hiking trail. Haw Creek falls has a small campground and a trail leading to the waterfall.

Adventure begins at the trailhead along Arkansas 16, six miles east of Pelsor. King’s Bluff trail loops 1.7 miles, guiding visitors to cliffs of dizzying heights and one of Arkansas’ tallest waterfalls that roars after ample rainfall.

Pedestal Rocks trail is a tad longer at 2.2 miles. Both paths share the same trailhead with a gravel parking area, restroom and a picnic table.

Hikers circling Pedestal Rocks trail see how the area got its name. Columns of rock rise from the rugged, isolated landscape. Some are 50 feet or taller and have a table-like top.

A quartet of hikers walked Pedestal Rocks trail first, then visited King’s Bluff trail on the first day of December. The group opted for a counter-clockwise route around Pedestal Rocks trail.

The first mile is an easy, pleasant stroll through hardwood and pine forest. Then the path takes a hard left and starts downhill to follow the top of a cliff. Vistas and rocky beauty start to unfold. Right off the scenery is national-park quality. There is absolute breathtaking beauty farther along the trail.

Forest gives way to clearings on cliff edges where visitors gaze upon acres and acres of unbroken Ozark National Forest with no civilization in sight.

Twisted cedar trees grow out from the gnarly rock formations all along the trail. Pedestal-shaped columns appear along the pathway, like the hoodoos of rock in deserts out West.

It may take awhile to circle the 2.2-mile trail with so many places to stop, savor the view, and marvel at the unusual chimneys sculpted over eons.

“It’s amazing what wind and a couple million years can do,” said Karen Mowry of Nob Hill, east of Springdale. The hike was the first visit to Pedestal Rocks for Karen, her husband, Tom and their daughter-in-law, Thao Nguyen of Fayetteville.

“This area has the monopoly on weird rock formations. It’s quite a spectacular place,” Tom added.

Long views into the hills wowed the quartet. Then they ventured below to explore rock shelters and crevice caves. They’re everywhere at Pedestal Rocks Scenic Area.

Looping around Pedestal Rocks Trail gets legs and lungs warmed up for the 1.7-mile King’s Bluff loop. At the end of Pedestal Rocks trail, go straight to start King’s Bluff loop or go right for one-tenth mile back to the trailhead and parking area.

Going straight at the intersection starts a clockwise hike on King’s Bluff. It’s as gorgeous as Pedestal Rocks trail. There are fewer table-topped spires, but vistas stop hikers in their tracks.

Nguyen likes yoga and did some stretches atop a crag that was also the perfect lunch stop. No restaurant can match the view.

Another 10 minutes of level hiking leads visitors to a wide open, flat bluff top speckled with lichen. Explorers see where a stream has chiseled a channel into the rock. It’s here that, during wet times, King’s Bluff waterfall tumbles 114-feet and crashes into jagged rock below. On this visit is was more of a King’s Bluff drip.

The group vowed a return trip after a heavy rain.

From the waterfall, the trail heads back into the woods and meanders gradually uphill to the trailhead. Ascents on both trails aren’t difficult, only a five on the wheezer scale.

Conversation was easy on the gentle walk that ends the hike.

“I’d rate this as one of the top five hikes in Arkansas,” Tom mused. “Or one of the top three if the waterfall is running.”

Beautiful as it is, there’s danger at Pedestal Rocks. The trails run along high cliffs. Even more hazardous are holes, cracks and crevices big enough for a leg to fall through. Some are large enough to swallow a whole person. Utmost caution is advised here. It’s easy to be caught up in the scenery and get careless.

Watch your step and see nature’s beauty put on a pedestal.

Sports on 12/19/2017