Hiking the Ozarks

Local Flavor: Hiking the Ozarks

Hey guys! Shelby here. So the girls and I have been talking about adding a reoccurring  segment to the blog which highlights great aspects of this little state we call home: Arkansas. If you’ve noticed our tagline (common roots, different routes), well this is where the “roots” come in.  We’ve decided to call this segment “Local Flavor” and because I’m a bit of a nature freak, I’m going to start it off by telling y’all a little bit about hiking the Ozarks.

My entire life I’ve been captivated by nature. It’s only natural (no pun intended) that I would enjoy hiking. Since moving to Arkansas in 2006, I’ve had many opportunities to hit the trails, and for the past two years have explored the Ozarks even more with my own personal trail guide (and boyfriend), Jeff. What I’ve found there is splendor and peace.. stillness and chaos… the untamed wild. If you have the opportunity to see it for yourself, please don’t hesitate! In fact, for your convenience, I’ve prepared a list of the best hiking/exploring in the Ozarks, so you don’t even have to wonder! Only wander. Ok, I’ll stop being cheesy now, but we do hope our wandering inspires some wandering of your own! In no specific order, here are my top ten trails of the Ozarks.

(Note* this is not a trail guide per-say, just a list, and completely based on my personal experience and opinion. Feel free to comment below with your experiences and/or tips and tales.)

  1. Hawksbill Crag
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Hawksbill Crag

Easily the most photographed spot in the state, the hike to the crag, formally known as Whitaker Point Trail, is easy and only about 3 miles round trip. Treat yourself to an amazing view! Best seen at sunrise. Fun fact: our very own Tera was proposed to atop this crag!

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Bethany, Me, and Christiana, hanging out on a foggy morning

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Overlooking the crag

2. Steel Creek (along the Buffalo River Trail)

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The Buffalo River is known for its towering bluffs

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This trail is more about the river and bluffs than the actual hike (in my opinion). Stunning views of the famous bluffs, a superb (slightly secret) swimming hole, and a wonderful quaint campground that will have you rushing to stake your ground and set up your tent!

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Can’t wait for fall in the Ozarks!

3. Big Bluff

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View from Big Bluff overlook

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Jeff and I at Big Bluff

At 550-ft tall, Big Bluff is the tallest sheer bluff face found between the Rocky and Appalachian mountains.  The hike, round trip, takes 4 to 5 hours to complete (6 miles RT), and it is  worth every minute. The Buffalo makes a wide horseshoe turn right below the bluff, making an incredible panoramic view, best seen at sunset. If you are so inclined, you can also set up camp right on the bluff in one of the many shelter areas.

It is important to note the the trail to Big Bluff is called the Goat Trail, and actually spurs off of the more prominent Centerpoint Trail. From the Centerpoint Trailhead, it is about a 1-hour hike downhill to the spur trail that takes you out onto Big Bluff.  This is where the trail opens up into a large, rounded flat area with a fire ring that directionally is at about one o’clock on your right.  The spur trail (Goat Trail) to Big Bluff is off to the right of the fire ring.  From here, it’s about a 1/4-mile hike out to the start of Big Bluff!

Note* also on the Centerpoint Trail (if  you don’t take the Goat Trail) is the tallest waterfall in mid-america, Hemmed-in-Hollow.

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Hemmed-in-Hollow

4. Indian Creek Trail

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The Eye of the Needle

I personally have never hiked this trail, but Jeff has and was insistent that it make the list. According to him, it is one of the most scenic hikes in the state. Huge bluffs, amazing rock formations, beautiful streams, caves, and waterfalls; the landscape is epic. The hike is intense – possibly the most high risk in the Ozarks – but in his opinion, totally worth it. Some of the notable features are Copperhead Falls, The Eye of the Needle, Tunnel Cave, Arkansas Cave Falls, and more. For those who have a big heart for adventure, this trail is for you.

5. The Narrows

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The Narrows, affectionally referred to as “The Nars,” is thin ledge of limestone rock rising up amidst the Buffalo River and Richland Creek Valley. This ledge is the last vestige of a once mighty mountain high in the Boston Plateau. Many moons ago, Richland Creek scoured the mountain away and then slowly moved across the valley to it’s current location at least a 1/4 mile away. As Richland Creek meandered away, the Buffalo moved in and took out the other side of the mountain, leaving this narrow strip of hike-able rock.

6. Lost Valley

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Eden Falls

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Bethany and Denver, being cute crossing the creek

I think I’ve been to Lost Valley three times now, and there is always something new to see there. Less of an epic overlook than some of the others on the list, Lost Valley is more about the hike and less about the destination. Acclaimed as the most popular trail in Arkansas, it features waterfalls, amazing rock formations, and few caves. Make sure to bring a flashlight (or preferably a headlamp) if you want to explore the caves fully. Also note that the waterfalls flow best after a good rain. This trail is great for beginners!

Another thing I personally like about the trail is its abundance of medicinal plants! The wide variety of species found there include, bloodroot, crested iris, columbine, mayapple, comfrey and Ozark trillium, just to name a few.

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My brother Seth and I, exploring

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Denver and Bethany at the base of Eden Falls

7. Richland Creek Wilderness Area

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Richland Creek

This one has a special place in my heart, because if it wasn’t for the Richland Creek Wilderness Area I would never have met Jeff. We met after he hosted a hike/exploration of the area that I heard about through the Instagram Account, Igersarkansas.

Located deep in the Ozark National Forest, miles from civilization, and home to hiking trails, swimming holes, cascades and waterfalls, wildflowers, fall color, bluffs, rock formations and so much more, the Richland Creek Wilderness Area is one the most scenic areas in all of the Ozarks or Ouachitas. Designated by Congress in 1984, this Wilderness Area offers 11,801 acres of the most rugged and scenic beauty of the Boston Mountains. Home to Twin Falls, Richland Falls, Hamilton Falls, and more, this place is a real wilderness worth exploring.

8. Sam’s Throne

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Sunset at Sam’s Throne

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My brother Seth, Bethany, Me and Denver

A brief bit of lore: “It is believed that Sam Davis, born around 1795, came to Arkansas from Mississippi. It is told that Indians captured his young sister and fled with her into the Arkansas hills. Sam set out to find her traveling up the White River to the mouth of Buffalo and thence to the mouth of Big Creek. Coming up Big Creek he lost track of the Indians, so stopped and settling at the mouth of Dry Creek, above present Mt. Judea. Sometime after Davis had settled on the Big Creek farm he went into the woods hunting cattle. His hunt took him to the head of Pud Cove. While standing there calling cattle, he was shocked to hear a woman answer him at some distance. The voice sounded strangely familiar. The two kept calling and walking in the direction of each other until they met. The woman was his long lost sister who by then was the wife of an Indian chief. She too, had recognized a strange familiarity in the voice she had heard. In Sam’s latter years he had become demented. He was known for many strange actions during that time. In this case, Sam would take a ladder, climb up to this knob, pull the ladder up, and there stay for days. During those times he could sometimes be heard preaching “to the wind.” He also planted peach trees there, which lived and bore fruit for years afterward. Sometimes it would take considerable persuasion on the part of his family and others to get him down from the knob. In time, this knob became known as Sam’s Throne,” (source).

This one is not so much a hike as it is a must-see of the Ozarks, overlooking the Big Creek valley below. It is so accessible that you really have no excuse not to go see it. This location is very popular for rock climbers, photographers, and star-gazers. Fun fact: there is a geocache hidden here! See if you can find it when you make your trip, and tell us about it if/when you do!

9. Pedestal Rocks Scenic Area

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Image from “Explore the Ozarks

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This is a great place to explore, and offers two awesome loop trails, each leading to its own scenic area. There is also a waterfall, Kings Bluff Falls, which is one of the tallest in the Ozarks. The scenic area takes its name from the “pedestal rocks,” massive natural stone columns or “pedestals” that rise up from the valley floor. Formed by natural erosion of the rock bluffs, they took thousands of years to form and have attracted human attention almost since the first Native American hunters entered the mountains.

10. Devil’s Den State Park

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Yellow Rock, overlooking Lee Creek Valley

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Me, exploring one of the many crevices

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Camping at Devil’s Den

Last, but not least, I give you Devil’s Den State Park! This Park has miles of hiking and multiple use trails winding through Devil’s Den and the surrounding Ozark National Forest. Caves, crevices and bluff overlooks can be explored here. You can take a wet-water hike up Lee Creek, or trek the 15-mile Butterfield Hiking Trail! This trail, from the park through the Ozark National Forest, leads backpackers deep into the hills and hollows of the rugged scenic Ozarks. Two of my favorite trails here are the Devil’s Den Trail (for the Cave lover) and the Yellow Rock Trail (for the overlook junkee).

This is my favorite on the list for mostly nostalgic reasons. Only an hour from home, my family and I take an annual camping trip to Devil’s Den to see the fall colors. My Dad’s family also camped here when he was a boy! Most recently, it has also become even more special to me since Jeff asked me to be his girl atop Yellow Rock about a year ago (insert swoon here).


So there you have it! Get out and go explore this beautiful place we call home. As always, live healthy and love hard!

– Shelby

Sam’s Throne

*Photocreds for the vast majority of the photos go to my wonderful boyfriend, Jeff Rose. Book him for your next session!

When the Valley Girl Gets the Valley Feel

I have now been living in “the valley” for about two months.

Two months and two third Thursday’s on Tujunga avenue.

A handful of weeknights off work to go to a little neighborhood dive to sing “Crazy” by Patsy Cline on a karaoke night.

I have now tried a good number of the little restaurants on my street. I’ve listened to live music just a few blocks from my apartment. I’ve sat outside underneath the string lights on a warm summer night at Aroma cafe. I’ve tasted local plum sorbet from a new ice cream shop on the corner, with plum sorbet melting down my fingers and onto my shirt. I have walked and worked and driven and had to do uncountable u-turns.

I suppose in the process, I have lived and grown.  I am now transitioning into the point where this life in Los Angeles  is beginning to feel real. To sink in. The moments where I can stumble into a place hopelessly confused and claim that I have just arrived is beginning to fade away.

At what point does your new home begin to feel like home?

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Photo by Bethany Poteet

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Hollywood Sunset

Is it when you finally have a neighborhood grocery store where someone recognizes your face? Is it having a church that you go to each week? Is it having a go to coffee shop to get a latte and and sit and read without feeling like a tourist?

I think in a way, it’s all of these things.

But to truly begin to feel at home in a new place, there is a much deeper element to it. A non surface manifestation of belonging.

A soul recognizing another soul just as it is found in that moment, even if it is an outsider.

I think in layman’s terms it would be summed up to one word: COMMUNITY.

There are undoubtedly days, nights, and particular moments where I feel very much on the outside looking in to a foreign way of thought, life, and atmosphere. Who knew that just across the country, two places could be so vastly different in so many ways.

The way of speaking is different in LA.

The air is different.

The way that people dress. (or don’t dress).

The way that people react when you mention God.

The way that the sun feels through your car window.

The feeling of salt on your skin when you go to the beach.

How do you define community?

It can be walking into a crowded room and not feeling alone.

It can be walking walking into a crowded room alone, and feeling ok with that.

Because the people around you feel that way too.

One particular moment to share in which I felt a true sense of community would be last Saturday when I went to the Toluca Lake Farmer’s Market.

I had been to the market several times. The first time that I ever went, a particular vendor selling the most beautiful California almonds and raisins took the time to say hello. After a bit of talking, he knew that I was an Arkansas native and I knew that he was a native Angelino. As I walked away that day, Rich ran after me and told me something that I will never forget. He told me that the market vendors who met each week to hold that small Toluca Lake Market had become like family and that if I wanted, I was welcome to be part of it. He said that he was having a barbeque for all of his fellow vendors and to celebrate his birthday the following week and that I was more than welcome to come by.

I looked into his eyes, really searching them. And there at the market that day, I experience a true act of the purest form of kindness, the kind that asks nothing in return.

I did return, however. Rich and many of the other market vendors had laid out a huge spread of wonderful things. There was fresh watermelon, sandwiches, and potato salad. A woman who sold beautiful stones and jewelry brought “cotton candy” grapes. They were the sweetest grapes I have ever put in my mouth! Rich himself had marinated and grilled the most delicious chicken and made fresh skewers of grilled vegetables with steak. There was fresh and spicy salsa, sold there at the market and locally made. The woman who sold the jewlery also brought two tres leches cakes for Rich’s birthday. After most of us had enjoyed a plate of food, we all gathered around the white plastic table and lit a candle to sing.

There was so much good food and so much happiness and warmth that day. The weather in itself accounted for that. It was one of the hottest days I have experienced so moving to California. The black asphalt almost seemed as though it were steaming and radiating heat. It was one of those perfect afternoon’s though, the kind that stick with you in your memory forever. It didn’t matter that everyone was around the table with sweat causing their shirts to stick to their back. It was a day to celebrate Rich, and the celebration of sharing. Everyone there seemed to be involved .A vendor who sold vegetables brought over a bag of his most gorgeous tomatoes and peppers and plums while another vendor freely handed over a massive pile of the ripest and sweet plums, nectarines, and peaches that you could imagine. Plates were handed out and filled with joy for the sake of sharing good food and good company. The air felt stagnant and hot, but the atmosphere of relationship and giving was so incredibly refreshing.

Two lovely ladies who had a booth on the end selling the most beautiful wreathes with butterflies placed one on my head, telling me that the red of the butterfly suited me. She  placed the flower crown on my head, something that was made with not little effort yet given so freely. I looked up at her feeling like a fairy queen.

All that I was that day was present and grateful yet somehow, good created good. Rich generously heaped grapes into a bag for me to take home. The produce vendor refused my dollars and told me to pick whatever I wanted from his table. The vendor selling the sweetest California strawberries imaginable scooped up a carton and slipped them into a plastic bag. He handed me the bag with smiling eyes as though I had asked for them. There were leftover sunflowers that Rich placed in a bouquet for me to match my fairy crown. These are things that I know do not “just happen” and there was nothing that I did or said to spur their deserving.

I had baked an apple cake earlier that week and brought two left over pieces for Rich to try. Standing there with my little brown paper bag; carrying my two small pieces of cake wrapped in foil,  I felt so inadequate. There was not enough to share with everyone. I came to the market that day nearly empty handed with no idea of what I would receive.. And it hadn’t mattered that I had nothing to share because the day wasn’t about a physical exchange. It was an exchange of togetherness and of life.

I had been treated as one of them and shared with so effortlessly. My heart felt in that moment as  though it could overflow with the beauty of that kind of kindness. There was an unrefined purity to that kind of goodness and acceptance, even to a new girl on the block, that I hoped to share with others.

That day at the market overwhelmed me with the lesson I had learned.

Community is not always something that you search for or pay your dues to obtain. In a city that can place so much pressure on who you know; I found myself completely welcomed by a group of people who accepted me without asking a single question. And that, is what I am discovering, what true community  is really about.

Good creates good, and that is truly beautiful.

Peace and love,

– Christiana

My beautiful butterfly crown given to me by Caroline of JuneBloom floral, pictured behind.

My beautiful butterfly crown given to me by Caroline of JuneBloom floral, pictured behind.

(Please check out Caroline’s beautiful creations on her Instagram @junebloomfloral)