Saturday, October 20, 2012

Whitaker Point / Hawksbill Crag

When wanting to venture to the most iconic landmark of Arkansas, the internet is not altogether helpful. It's not all the internet's fault though, because the trail head location is remote and does not come with an address for Google maps. This blog post is intended to hopefully fill in the gaps for future internet-browsers seeking information & directions to this trail.

Hawksbill Crag is in Boxley, Arkansas, but according to Google maps Boxley, AR does not exist. You can instead find driving directions to Boxley Baptist Church (directions here). The suggested route may take Hwy 16, but you want to choose the alternate route that takes Hwy 412 east--412 is four lanes all the way to Huntsville, 16 is curvy and hilly. You can also get directions to Kingston or Ponca; both nearby towns recognized by GPS and Watch the mileage between the turns and you'll have no problems. Google maps directions can only take you so far, though. You'll go from 412 E to Hwy 21 S towards Kingston. (The road takes a 90 degree turn at little Kingston square but the hwy is clearly marked.) Watch for the junction of Hwy 21 & Hwy 43 -- it's about 17 miles past the 412 turnoff. When you pass this junction, your next turn onto an unmarked dirt road is 1.2 miles away. Boxley Baptist Church is about 0.5 mile away. This unmarked dirt road is on the right, just before a bridge labeled Buffalo River. Literally the guard rails of the bridge begin next to this road. It's actually very easy to find!

Now you go up a steep dirt road for 6 miles to meet the trail head. Other sites advised a four wheel drive vehicle to get up this dirt road. I think that is definitely necessary if you are traveling when the roads are wet. However, we passed many makes/models of sedans going up and down the hill without problem. Lots of people do it without SUV's/trucks, but you'll probably still feel safer if you can take one. The road is very narrow, but all cars are able to slowly/barely pass each other on the road. Leave the stick shift at home because you'll peel out. Along the way you'll pass a small unmarked church/cemetery on the right side of the road. The trail head is 0.6 miles past this landmark. You'll also see a road sign that says something like "Whitaker Point Trail Head 300 feet". The "parking lot" in front of the trail's information board only accommodates about 6 cars. We went on a Saturday afternoon and cars were parked along the road and backed up about 500 feet before the trail head. The trail starts across the road from the information board. It is marked by a large rock honoring Sen. Dale Bumpers. Expect the entire trip from Fayetteville to Whitaker Point to take about 2 hours, maybe less.

The trail itself is easy/moderate hiking level. We saw several kids and seniors hiking without a problem, even a couple girls in flip-flops and fashion boots. That being said, you'll probably still get winded on the return trip when you're hiking uphill. Lots of rocks/roots so watch your step. The trail is easy to follow and has lots of side-trails taking you to lookout points closer to the bluff ledge. Yes, you're hiking on a bluff but it doesn't feel like it because there's always lots of trees & boulders between you and the dropoffs. Leashed dogs are allowed on the trail. It's only 1.5 miles to the crag itself. I read other sites saying there was a clearing nearby for picnics, but I didn't find it so we ate our snacks on the crag.

 This hike is a must for all able Arkansans! Enjoy!

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