HIKING THE WHITAKER POINT TRAIL TO HAWKSBILL CRAG IN ARKANSAS

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HAWKSBILL CRAG

Hawksbill crag – Imagine standing atop a towering rock formation, with panoramic views of the Ozark Mountains stretching out before you. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and the air is crisp and clean. You feel invigorated and alive.

You’ll get this feeling when you hike to Hawksbill Crag, one of Arkansas’s most popular hiking destinations. The Whitaker Point Trail to Hawksbill Crag is a 2.9-mile out-and-back hike that is moderately challenging but offers stunning rewards.

The hike begins in a hardwood forest and gradually ascends to the top of the crag. You’ll pass through wildflower meadows, rocky outcrops, and even a waterfall along the way. The views from the top of the crag are breathtaking, and you’ll be able to see for miles in every direction.

The hike is best done in the spring or fall, when the weather is mild and the wildflowers bloom. However, it’s a great option for hiking any time of year.

So what are you waiting for? Start planning your hike to Hawksbill Crag today

ABOUT THE WHITAKER POINT TRAIL

The Whitaker Point Trail is a 2.7-mile out-and-back trail in the Ozark National Forest in Arkansas. The trail is moderately challenging and leads to Hawksbill Crag, a rocky viewpoint with stunning panoramic views of the Buffalo National River and the surrounding area.

The trail begins in a wooded area and climbs gradually to the crag. Along the way, several opportunities exist to stop and enjoy the scenery. The final ascent to the crag is steep, but the views from the top are worth it.

On a clear day, you can see from Hawksbill Crag for miles in every direction. The Buffalo River winds its way through the valley below, and the surrounding hills are covered in forests. On the horizon, you can see the White River Mountains.

The Whitaker Point Trail is a popular hiking destination, so it is important to be aware of the crowds. The trail is busiest during the spring and fall when the weather is mild. If you want a more peaceful experience, try hiking the trail in winter or summer.

The Whitaker Point Trail is open year-round, but it is best to avoid hiking in the winter when the trail may be icy. The trail is also closed during periods of high water.

What is the location of Whitaker Point?

Whitaker Point, also known as Hawksbill Crag, is in the Ozark-St. Francis National Forest in Arkansas. It is a 2.7-mile out-and-back trail with a moderate difficulty rating. The trail leads to a scenic overlook with panoramic views of the Buffalo River Valley. 

The trailhead is located about 30 minutes south of Ponca, Arkansas. The best time to visit is spring or fall when the weather is mild. The trail is open year-round but can be slippery and muddy during wet weather.

Whitaker Point is a popular tourist destination, so it is important to be prepared for crowds. The trailhead parking lot can fill up quickly, so arriving early or on weekdays is advisable.

HIKING STATS of Whitaker Point

The Whitaker Point Trail path to Hawksbill Crag is like going there and coming back. It’s not too long, just 2.9 miles in total, and you only go up and down a little bit, not too high. At first, you go down; then you come back up when you’re done.

The hike is considered moderate because of the elevation gain, but it is not too strenuous. The trail is well-maintained and easy to follow. There are some cliff edges, so be careful and watch your step. Dogs are allowed on the trail.

The hike takes about 1-3 hours, depending on your pace and how much time you spend enjoying the views. The best time to hike Whitaker Point is during the spring or fall when the weather is mild.

What is the best time of Whitaker Point Trail Hiking?

The best time to hike the Whitaker Point Trail is during the spring (April-May) or fall (September-October). The weather is mild during these times, and there are fewer crowds. However, the trail is open year-round, so you can hike it whenever.

If you hike during the summer (June-August), be prepared for hot and humid weather. The trail can also be crowded during this time.

If you hike during the winter (November-March), be prepared for cold and snowy conditions. The trail may be icy or impassable in some areas.

How to reach Whitaker Point Trailhead? 

The Whitaker Point Trailhead is located in the Ozark National Forest, about 10 miles from Ponca, Arkansas. There are two ways to get there:

  • From Ponca, take Highway 43 south to Highway 21. Turn left onto Highway 21 and go about two miles to the Boxley Bridge, crossing the Buffalo River. Turn right onto gravel road #9560 and go about 6 miles. About 1/4-mile from the trailhead, you’ll pass the Cave Mountain Church & Cemetery on the right.
  • From Highway 16, take a right (east) onto Cave Mount Road (County Road 5). You will see a sign for Whitaker’s Point at this junction. After about 4 miles, you will see a parking area. The road to the trailhead is gravel and dirt, and it can be steep and bumpy in some places. A high-clearance vehicle is recommended, especially if you are going during wet weather.

The trailhead parking area is small and can fill up on busy weekends. If the parking area is full, you may have to park along the road.

The hike to Whitaker Point is about 2.4 miles round-trip and is considered moderately challenging. The trail is mostly shaded, but there are some exposed areas. There are a few stream crossings, but they are usually easy to get across.

The views from Whitaker Point are amazing. You can see for miles, including the Buffalo River and the surrounding mountains.

What to Know Before Hiking Whitaker Point Trail:

IT’S FREE TO GO:

You don’t have to pay or get a special pass to go on Whitaker Point Trail. Cool, right?

BRING YOUR DOG:

Your dog can come with you, but keep them on a leash, especially near Hawksbill Crag. It could be dangerous if they run off.

NO FLYING DRONES:

Even though you can use drones in the Ozark National Forest, you can’t use them on this trail. It’s in a special place called Upper Buffalo Wilderness, and drones aren’t allowed there.

NO BATHROOM:

There’s no bathroom where you start the hike. So, make sure you go before or find a private spot, and don’t forget to take your toilet paper with you.

START EARLY:

Lots of people like this hike, especially in summer and fall. Try to start super early in the morning or late in the evening. It’ll be less crowded, and the lighting will be amazing. 

LOOK FOR RED MARKERS:

Follow the red markers on the trail. They’ll help you know you’re going the right way. It’s not too hard to follow the path, especially when others are hiking too.

WATCH OUT FOR EDGES:

Most of the hike is safe, but as you get close to Hawksbill Crag, you’ll walk near the cliff’s edge. Be careful and enjoy the lookout spots.

PARKING:

There’s parking on County Road 5. The area near the start of the trail fits around 25 cars. Since many people hike here, you might need to park farther away and walk a bit.

WHAT TO BRING ON THE WHITAKER POINT TRAIL

Like before, we suggest having the important things with you when you hike. But for this hike, there are a few things we want to mention that will be super useful.

Here are the things you need to bring on the Whitaker Point Trail:

  • Shoes that can grip the ground well.
  • Things to protect you from the sun.
  • Water and food.
  • Things to help you if you get hurt.
  • Things to keep bugs away.
  • A map.
  • A phone.
  • Something to protect you from bears (optional).
  • Clothes that you can take off or put on depending on the weather.

What is the right place to spend time and stay at the Whitaker Point trail?

Buffalo Outdoor Center: This campground is just 2 miles from the trailhead and offers tent sites, RV sites, and cabins. They also have a swimming pool, hot tub, and game room.

Camp at JB Trading Co: This campground is about 5 miles from the trailhead and offers tent and RV sites. They also have a general store, laundry facilities, and showers.

Ozark Cabins: This cabin rental company offers various cabins within a short drive of the trailhead.

Buffalo National River Campgrounds: Several National Park Service campgrounds are located within the Buffalo National River, all within a 15-mile drive of the trailhead.

Ozark National Forest Campgrounds: Several National Forest campgrounds are located near the trailhead.

When choosing a place to stay, consider your budget, the amenities you want, and how close you want to be to the trailhead.

Other best places to stay near Whitaker Point trail:

Goat Trail to Big Bluff: This is a 4.4-mile out-and-back trail with a 1,200-foot elevation gain. It is considered to be a moderate to difficult hike. The trail takes you through various terrain, including forests, bluffs, and waterfalls. 

The hike’s highlight is Big Bluff, a 1,500-foot-tall cliff with stunning views of the Buffalo National River.

Hemmed-in Hollow Trail is a 5.5-mile loop trail with a 1,400-foot elevation gain. It is considered to be a difficult hike. The trail takes you through a narrow gorge with towering cliffs and lush vegetation.

 Several waterfalls along the trail, including the Hemmed-in Hollow Falls, a 100-foot waterfall.

Jasper: This is a small town located in the Ozark Mountains. It is a popular tourist destination for its charming shops, restaurants, and historic sites. The town is also home to the Buffalo National River, which is a great place for swimming, fishing, and boating.

Glory Hole Falls: This is a 100-foot waterfall located in the Ozark National Forest. It is a popular spot for swimming and rappelling. The falls are best viewed in the spring when water flows the most.

Lost Valley Trail is a 3.2-mile loop trail with a 500-foot elevation gain. It is considered to be a moderate hike. The trail takes you through a lush, green valley home to various plants and animals. 

Several waterfalls along the trail, including the Lost Valley Falls, a 25-foot waterfall.

Some FAQs

How long is the hike?

The Whitaker Point Trail to Hawksbill Crag is a 2.9-mile out-and-back trail. The round trip distance is 5.8 miles.

How difficult is the hike?

The hike is considered moderately challenging. There is an elevation gain of 413 feet, but the trail is well-maintained and easy to follow.

What time of year is the best time to hike?

The best time to hike is during the spring or fall when the weather is mild. The trail is also open year-round but can be hot and humid in the summer.

What should I bring with me on the hike?

Be sure to bring plenty of water, snacks, sunscreen, and a hat. You may also want to bring hiking boots or trail shoes.

Where can I park?

There is a small parking lot at the trailhead. On busy weekends, you may need to park along the road.