Note: The following is a guest post from writer and friend Lindsay Morris, who kindly offered this piece after a recent trip with her husband, Devon, to northwest Arkansas. Enjoy!
Devil’s Den State Park, near Fayetteville, Ark. is a gem of a hiking experience. I was recently there on a mild May afternoon, hiking the 1.5-mile famed “Devil’s Den” trail with my husband. While the state park is home to 11 trails, Devil’s Den Trail is the most famed, with its jutting crags, caves, and waterfalls.
The area is a picturesque spot to hike, and filled with a rich history. During our walk, I couldn’t help but imagine the outlaws from the 1850s-1860s hiding among the caves and crevices. At the onset of the Civil War, the rocky area was used by bands of Confederate guerillas as a hideout and staging area for conducting raids on the Union Army’s supply lines as well as civilian targets. Once you see all of the potential hide-out spots along the trail, you’ll understand why the outlaws selected this spot as their home base!
The hike starts out with a trek uphill. Once you arrive at the higher elevation that the reminder of the hike traverses, you’ll notice the first cave along the trail. Unfortunately, all of the caves at Devil’s Den have been closed since 2010 to prevent the possible spread of White-nose Syndrome, a fungus that has killed millions of hibernating bats in the eastern half of the United States. However, the outside of the cave is still picturesque and a welcome rest spot after your uphill jaunt.
Continue along the path and you’ll encounter several sandstone rock formations. Make sure you take the time to run your fingers along the sandstone – it feels just like a wall made out of sand! In the same area, you’ll notice several mossy crevices that descend at least 20 feet deep. My husband and I carefully climbed into a couple of these crevices and were amazed at the change of temperature. If my head was above ground and my legs were descending into the crevice, there was at least a 10-15 degree difference in temperature from my head to my legs. So if you need a spot to relax during a hot summer hike, take a break in one of these cool crevices.
The highlight is undoubtedly a series of waterfalls about halfway through of the hike. Nothing is quite as serene as water crashing off high cliffs to a crystal clear pond below. The waterfalls are an essential photo spot. Once we descended from the waterfall area, we found a perfect bench to eat our picnic lunch and watch the waterfalls.
While a 1.5 mile hike didn’t wear us out, that was all we had time for that day. However, we’re excited to try one of the 10 other trails at the state park on our next trip. For the experienced hiker, the Butterfield Trail is a strenuous 15 miles that is suggested to be a 2-day trip. No matter your level as a hiker, Devil’s Den State Park undoubtedly has a trail that will lead to great exercise and many memories.
Getting there: From Interstate 540, take the Arkansas Highway 74 exit (West Devil’s Den Road) and go west. The road will meander southwest and lead you to the park.
Lindsay Morris is a writer, hiker, and runner living in Tulsa, Okla. She blogs regularly about fun places to go in Tulsa at tulsaplaces.wordpress.com.