Mount Nebo Trails – Part 1

Cabin 61 Mount Nebo State Park
Cabin 61 Mount Nebo State Park

Earlier in the year we booked a few days in a cabin at Mount Nebo State Park near Dardanelle, AR hoping to escape the Holiday mayhem. A couple of nights in a cabin and a full day of hiking all over the mountain would do us some good. Cabin 61 is an iconic overnight facility in the Arkansas State Park system. Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930’s, the beautiful rock work with both an inside and outside fireplace, the commanding view south off the mountain and the proximity to one of the many great trails in the state make this cabin tough to reserve on short notice. In the picture above, you can see the Rim Trail  just to the left of the tree. First thing in the morning we decided to head clockwise on the trail right out our front door. The Rim Trail is 3.5 miles long and circles the top of the mountain. As with most of the trails in the park, except for the Bench Trail, this is a  moderate to strenuous hike. Careful footing is important particularly in wet areas.

Thanks to the CCC for this beautiful "paved" walkway on the Summit Park Trail.
Thanks to the CCC for this beautiful "paved" walkway on the Summit Park Trail.

We passed the Gum Springs Trail and headed on to the Summit Park Trail. The upper part of this trail is shared with the Rim Trail. We decided to head down and were soon rewarded with the well placed rock walkway you see in the photo above and the one below. The men who built this used mules and hand tools to create this wonderful trail. Before you get on this trail be sure to pick up one of the self-guided tour brochures. The park has placed numbered stations along the way to inform hikers of the history of the trail and its surroundings. Below you can see the trail’s approach into a boulder field.

More "paving" and large rocks along the Summit Park Trail.
More "paving" and large rocks along the Summit Park Trail.

Soon we came to the Stone Bridge Cutoff Trail. It goes back up to the upper portion of the one mile long Summit Park Trail. At this point we were so enthralled with the rock work that we really wanted to see the stone bridge.  The climb up was rewarded with this beautiful example of workmanship, the bridge by the CCC men and the rest by Nature.

The reward of arriving at the Stone Bridge.
The reward of arriving at the Stone Bridge.

Have your camera and a tripod ready at this point. We took several shots of the small waterfalls and ourselves on top of the bridge. I won’t bore you with those photos. It’s a beautiful place and if you’re not up for the hike we did to get here you can get to it very easily from the trailhead across from the park visitor center.

We followed the trail west until it met back up with the Rim Trail and soon found ourselves out at Sunset Point. We enjoyed the view but it was breezy out there and since it was hours until sunset we decided to hike on. The Rim Trail passes just below the visitor center, we decided to make a rest stop of it and warmed ourselves a bit in the gift shop but were soon back on the trail. The next natural landmark we came to was Cave Springs: a beautiful rock formation undercut by the spring.

Hiding under a rock at Cave Spring.
Hiding under a rock at Cave Spring.

The small pond formed under the rock was staying warm enough to support some tadpoles. It’s a pretty cool place.

One of the great things about hiking this time of year (I can’t seem to say this often enough) is that when the leaves are off the trees (what us locals call “leaf-off”) you can see so much more, not just off the mountain but through the woods. When hiking the Rim Trail you spend a lot of time hiking under the bluffs. To me, it makes the entire hike interesting. You get the views off the mountain and can enjoy the rock formations up close.

Lisa enjoying the rugged hike.
Lisa enjoying the rugged hike.

We continued on and were soon crossing Hwy 155 near the park entrance. After a short bit you come to a cool rock outcrop and the trail drops down a bit. We messed up here thinking another trail to our right was the Rim Trail and soon found ourselves in someones yard. (Oops!) Since we were unsure of the best way to proceed we walked the road down to Sunrise Point and picked up the Rim Trail there. The great views just keep coming in this area on the East side of the mountain and all too soon we were back at the cabin.

The view on the East side of Mount Nebo.
The view on the East side of Mount Nebo.

Being back at the cabin wasn’t so bad. It was lunch time, we were hungry and we had all afternoon to explore more on Mount Nebo. Tomorrow I’ll post part 2 where we hike some side trails and part of the Bench Trail, do some bushwhacking to get a photo of a waterfall (one of several we saw) and find the missing part of the Rim Trail.

Check out the second half of our day of hiking!