Skippers in fast boats ply the rippled water at Beaver Lake. Slow strolls along shoreline trails offer a more leisurely experience on land.
Seven trails for hiking meander through the Army Corps of Engineers park land at Beaver Lake. Another starts on Corps land at the overlook next to Beaver Dam. Trails offer routes for hikers of all abilities.
The shortest paths, at one-third mile each, are the Fishtrap Trail at Lost Bridge South park and Tranquil Timbers at Horseshoe Bend park.
The longest, Lost Bridge Trail, is a 6-mile loop at Lost Bridge North park. Wanderers see the lake shore and pass through hardwood forest and walk beside the crags of rocky bluffs.
All are soft-surface trails of dirt, gravel or occasional bedrock. Most offer easy hiking with some gentle climbs and descents. An exception is Lost Bridge Trail, which gives hikers a workout with lung-buster climb at the half-way point. Dogwood Trail also has an ascent that gets a hiker’s attention.
Late winter and early spring are prime seasons to set out on a multitrail Beaver Lake hiking expedition. Some paths are short enough that more than one trail can be walked in a day.
Every trail has its own beauty. Wanderers not up for a 6-mile trek at Lost Bridge might consider two other stand-out paths — Bench Rock Trail at Indian Creek park and Rim Rock Trail at Prairie Creek park.
Bench Rock is 1.4 miles and follows the top of a bluff line, sometimes nervously close to the edge. At the halfway point it drops, and hikers follow the same bluff line going back, only at the bottom.
Rim Rock is a tight oval that covers one mile. Rock formations galore unfold at every footfall. Lovely forest and pretty lake views round out this hike. One section goes right along the water so hikers can skip rocks or wade and swim once the water warms.
Linda Heter of the War Eagle area was one of six hikers on a circumnavigation of the Rim Rock Trail in early February. Rim Rock and Bench Rock are two of her favorites in the Corps parks.
“The lake views are nice, and they’re close enough that most people don’t have to drive far,” she said.
“At Rim Rock, I was really surprised at the bluffs. They’re so pretty. There’s a lot more to that trail than I realized,” she said.
True tree huggers at heart, the hikers took part in a group hug of a huge oak tree that had four separate trunks. Hugging each other during a pandemic isn’t wise, but a tree hug? Even Dr. Fauchi would OK that.
“One thing I always think about when I’m looking out over the lake,” Heter said, “is what that all looked like before the lake came in. A lot of people had to move to create this wonderful lake. I think about that every time I hike.”
Trails in Corps parks at Beaver and other reservoirs were built by hiking clubs and other volunteers, said Jay Townsend with the Corps’ public affairs office in Little Rock. Several were constructed as Eagle Scout projects.
“It’s great to see these young men and young women taking on these big projects” like building a hiking trail, he said. Rim Rock Trail is one of the Corps trails at Beaver Lake built by an Eagle Scout candidate and helpers.
Hiking groups and individuals do the lion’s share of trail maintenance, Townsend said.
Heter never takes for granted the number and variety of hiking trails available in Northwest Arkansas, she said. Trails at Corps parks along Beaver Lake add to that treasure chest.
Beaver Lake hiking trails
Here are eight trails on Army Corps of Engineers land at Beaver Lake, including the parks where their trailheads are located.
• Lost Bridge Trail: 6 miles, Lost Bridge North park
• Silver Beaver Trail: 1 mile, Lost Bridge North park
• Fishtrap Trail: one-third mile, Lost Bridge South park
• Bench Rock Trail: 1.4 miles, Indian Creek park
• Dogwood Trail: 2 miles, Beaver Dam overlook
• Rim Rock Trail: 1 mile, Prairie Creek park
• Pine Ridge Trail: 1.1 miles, Rocky Branch park
• Tranquil Timbers Trail: one-third mile, Horseshoe Bend park
Source: Army Corps of Engineers