Weather and a few million years have combined to create one of the most breathtaking hikes in the Ozarks at Pedestal Rocks Scenic Area.
Columns of rock shaped by erosion over time greet hikers on two trails in a remote slice of the Ozark National Forest some 30 miles south of Jasper. Both routes guide wanderers through hardwood forest, past natural wildflower gardens and along high, jagged cliffs.
These bluff-top vistas offer long unbroken views of the national forest with no signs of civilization. Nary a house nor outbuilding spoils acre upon acre of scenery.
Some of these chimney-shaped rocks sport table-like tops as if stone slabs were placed on pedestals. These formations, bluffs and stunning views make for superb hiking.
If that’s not enough, a waterfall makes a 114-foot plunge over a cliff edge on one of the two trails. Kings Bluff trail is a 1.7-mile loop that leads to the waterfall beside a spacious and flat bluff top. Pedestal Rocks trail is a 2.2-mile loop that meanders past the wondrous rock chimneys.
The main Pedestal Rocks trail follows the top of a bluff line. Another less traveled route runs along the base of the bluff. This path visits crevice caves and boulders big as a house.
Both trails provide nearly four miles of hiking, sort of a figure-eight route over the two loops.
To get to pedestal rocks, travel Arkansas 7 to the little town of Pelsor. At Pelsor, travel east on Arkansas 16 for six miles. The trailhead and parking are on the south side of the highway.
There’s a restroom and one picnic table at the trailhead. It’s wise to top off the fuel tank before the drive. This is an isolated area far from any gas stations.
The middle of April and the bright green of spring in the forest was prime time to visit Pedestal Rocks. A group of six hikers car pooled to the trailhead for the figure-eight tour.
Tom and Karen Mowry of Nob Hill have been hiking around the Ozarks for decades and were part of the group. Tom rates Pedestal Rocks as one of the top five hikes in Arkansas.
Information at the trailhead gives a quick lesson in geology about how these pedestal rocks formed. From here, the group set off along the Pedestal Rocks trail.
At 2.2 miles, the route is fairly short, but it’s easy to spend hours marveling at this masterpiece of nature, resting a spell now and then to savor views, which change with each turn of the trail.
Bouquets of wildflowers make the hike even more wonderful, sporting hues of yellow, violet and turquoise.
The first mile follows the bluff line. The second makes a U turn into the forest and back to the trailhead. Time was right for a picnic at the trailhead’s single table before hiking Kings Bluff loop.
No adjective really does justice to the beauty of Pedestal Rocks. Beautiful as it is, the danger factor is there. Parts of these trails are close to high cliff edges. Cracks and holes in the rocks are easy to step in for the unwary. If taking youngsters along, proceed with utmost caution.
Wind, water and time are nature’s sculptors at Pedestal Rocks.
Roll to more rock
Alum Cove Natural Bridge is another area of spectacular rock formations and easy hiking not far from Pedestal Rocks. The area features a natural rock bridge, which hikers can explore on top and down below.
A one-mile loop trail leads to crevice caves and boulder gardens along a bluff line near a small stream across from the natural bridge.
Alum Cove Natural Bridge is located in the Ozark National Forest one mile east of Deer on Arkansas 16. Follow the signs to the parking area and trailhead.