Sams Throne in the Ozark National Forest is one of those places you hear about quite a bit because it is a very popular destination for rock climbers. However, seldom do you hear about it being a great hiking trail, but it indeed is one of the great hiking destinations in the Ozarks.
The trail here offers some great hiking and spectacular scenery. The area has a few really good primitive campsites as well.
Getting to the Sams Throne Trail
To get to Sams Throne from the north, take Highway 7 south out of Jasper. Five miles south of Jasper, go east on Highway 374. Follow it for seven miles, then turn south on Highway 123. Follow Highway 123 through Mt. Judea, and then go five more miles to the entrance to the Sams Throne Recreation Area. Watch for the sign on your right.
Arkansas has earned the reputation as “The Natural State” because of the beautiful natural sites around the state. And as a part of this reputation, Arkansas has established an outstanding state park system that is diverse in the natural beauty they provide.
Mount Nebo State Park
One of the crown jewels of the state park system is Mount Nebo State Park. The park was established in 1935. Many of the trails and cabins date were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), part of President Roosevelt’s “New Deal” during the Great Depression.
The park is located seven miles west of Dardanelle on Highway 155. You can get there by taking Highway 7 south, through Russellville and Dardanelle, making a brief right onto Highway 22, and then turning left on Highway 155. (Follow the signs to the park.)
Highway 155 up Mount Nebo is very steep and very curvy. (Don’t bring a long trailer.)
At the top of the mountain, there are campsites, cabins that can be rented, private residences, a pool, tennis courts, playground equipment, a basketball court, and a great little visitor center with several snakes on hand, so you can learn about the native species.
You may also catch the sight of hang gliders from the visitor center as it is a frequent launch point.
The park also offers 360-degree views of the countryside which also means fantastic views of the sunrise and sunset (at sites aptly named “Sunrise Point” and “Sunset Point”).
Mount Nebo Hiking Trails
The park boasts over 14 miles of hiking trails, all of which connect in ways that can make for a wide variety of routes, distances, and difficulty levels.
The Seven Hollows Trail at Petit Jean State Park (near Morrilton) is an awesome trail that features many bluffs, hollows, and valleys. It is about 4 miles long, and is very scenic through most of the hike.
I had a great hike there on Sunday. I had been on the trail once before in the summer. It was nice to be there when the streams are flowing and there is water at the waterfall in the Grotto area. The Grotto is a small box canyon with a cave overhang at about the trail’s halfway point.
I think the Summit Park Trail, named for the former Summit Park Hotel (1889-1918) is one of the two best trails at Mount Nebo State Park (the other one being the Rim Trail).
The Summit Park Trail makes a 1.6-mile loop across the west side of the mountain. About one-third of it is shared with the Rim Trail. Most of the rest of it runs parallel to the Rim Trail, not far from the bench level. (For my gpx-based trail map and elevation profile, see this post.)
One of the sites to see along the trail is Fern Lake. It was built to serve as a water source for the hotel.