Hiking Arkansas: Elise Falls in the Smith Creek Nature Preserve

Smith Creek Nature Preserve
Signage at trail head

I’m writing this post on an afternoon ‘break’ from my little ones. They are happily playing in their playroom with each other.

How many weeks have we been practicing social-distancing now? I’m starting to lose track. We barely leave our house these days (I’m sure you can relate). When we do, we try to find quiet areas in nature to explore. It’s restorative.

Today, I’m happy to share a recent hike we enjoyed near the Buffalo National River.

smith creek nature preserve

Smith Creek is a tributary of the Buffalo National River. This land is protected by the Nature Conservancy. There are several destinations to explore in the preserve which is located near Boxley, Arkansas. We decided to hike from the main gate to Elise Falls which is .75 miles each way.

The trail begins going downhill. Keep in mind that you have to go back up this hill on the way back, which is a lot harder.

We enjoyed spotting a variety of colorful wildflowers.

Signage points towards Elise Falls. Head left at the junction.

Sections of the trail are narrow and fairly steep, but it was well maintained and easy enough for our preschoolers to hike (mostly) on their own.

Our girls found a nice boulder to rest on to enjoy a snack and water break.

Soon we crossed down into the creek bed. It’s easy to lose the trail at this point. We spotted a waterfall spilling into the pool on our left and headed towards it by crossing over the creek.

Your feet may get wet at this point. Once across the creek, we hiked uphill following the cascades.

This section of the trail looked to be more challenging for our little ones, so my husband went ahead to scope it out.

He arrived at Elise Falls and took a few pictures before heading back.

Elise Falls
Elise Falls

We decided that he would stay back with our youngest who is 3-years-old while I took our 5-year-old up to see the waterfall.

We held hands and took careful steps over mossy rocks and tree roots. The waterfall wasn’t far. This felt like an adventure for our daughter. She loved it!

We headed back along the same trail towards our car. We passed (from a safe social distance) a few other people and pups along the trail, but it wasn’t very busy.

If you are looking for a family-family adventure this spring. We think Elise Falls is a great waterfall hike.

We made it!

Additional resources

I was first intrigued by this hike from a report I read from arkohiker.org. I also found a recent post on lostintheozarks.com and we read some reviews on AllTrails.com. I appreciate the hiking community here in Arkansas. It’s nice to know what we are getting ourselves into when hiking with kids.

more hikes in buffalo national river area

Twin Falls

Lost Valley

What is your favorite spring hike in Northwest Arkansas?

Hiking Arkansas: Yellow Rock Trail in Devil’s Den State Park

This weekend we celebrated Valentine’s Day with candy, flowers, a nice dinner, and an adventurous family hike in Devil’s Den State Park. The park is located in West Fork, Arkansas which is a 30 to 40 minute drive from our new hometown of Fayetteville, Arkansas.

This was our second visit to Devil’s Den. On our first trip, we enjoyed the Devil’s Den Self Guided trail. This time we decided to try the Yellow Rock trail.

Family hike in Devil's Den State Park
The sun was out and the temperature was in the mid-40’s when we began our winter hike.

We recently purchased a helpful guidebook, Arkansas Dayhikes for Kids & Families – 105 Easy Trails in the “Natural State”. The book points out that there are a couple options where you can start on the Yellow Rock trail. You can start in Camp Area A, or at the CCC overlook. Following the advice of author Pam Ernst, we chose to start at the CCC overlook shelter.

CCC Overlook in Devil's Den State Park
CCC Overlook in Devil’s Den State Park

The Civilian Conservation Corps built this impressive rock structure in 1934. From this spot, we enjoyed expansive views of the Lee Creek Valley below.

Great views of Ozark Mountains
Views from shelter area

The Yellow Rock trail is marked with white diamonds.

Yellow Rock Trail

On our trip, there were several spots along the trail that were wet and muddy.

Yellow Rock trail with kids
Yellow Rock Trail. Arkansas State Park
Crossing over a wooden bridge
Hiking in Arkansas
Climbing uphill
Winter hiking in Arkansas
Stepping on stones over water
Hiking with kids in Northwest Arkansas
Taking it nice and slow on a steep downhill section of the hike
Winter hiking in Devil's Den State Park
Icicles glistening in the winter sunshine

The views from the Yellow Rock overlook were impressive.

Best Views. Yellow Rock. Arkansas

Yellow Rock Trail is designated as a National Recreation Trail.

Ozark Mountain views. Yellow Rock. Arkansas. Devil's Den
Views of Lee Creek Valley

The drop offs are very steep from the top of Yellow Rock, so it was important to be extra cautious, but I was happy to find that there was enough space for the girls to safely eat a snack and rest.

Ozark Mountain views. Yellow Rock. Arkansas. Devil's Den
Snack on Yellow Rock trail overlook

Although the overlook was the clear highlight of the hike, the rest of the trail is filled with gorgeous scenery from glimpses into the valley to little waterfalls spilling down rugged bluffs.

Small waterfall and pretty pool
Yellow Rock trail in Devil's Den State Park. Northwest Arkansas hiking
Looking back at Yellow Rock

Further along the trail, we could look back and see people enjoying the views on the Yellow Rock overlook. This was a popular spot. We saw some big groups hiking together, a couple young families like ours, and several people with their dogs.

Yellow Rock overlook
Trail signage points to overlook and trailhead

We took a right, heading back up towards our car instead of following the trail to the main trailhead that the signage points to.

Family hiking Devils Den State Park
Cedar trees

After our climb uphill, we enjoyed a nice flat section of the hike where large cedars towered on both sides of the trail. I would buy a candle that smelled like this.

My husband mapped our hike with his Garmin watch. According to GPS, we hiked a total of 2.3 miles.

Devil's Den State Park

Our girls did great on the hike walking uphills, getting muddy, feeling a little cold, and altogether staying tough. We encouraged them with snacks waiting for them when we reached the overlook and also back at the car.

They also did a good job listening. There were definitely sections that we held on tight to their hands to help them across slippery wet rocks or to ensure they staid far away from steep drop-offs. Our three-year-old needed us to give her rest and so she was carried for big sections. I feel comfortable recommending this hike for young families, but just want to point out that the trail is rated as moderate and it’s not one where kids can run ahead of you on their own.

Family hiking devil's den state park
We made it! Happy little hiker

Arkansas Hike – War Eagle Trail in Withrow Springs State Park

withrow springs state park

‘Oh the weather outside is’…. beautiful! I’m excited that we kicked off our Christmas vacation with family time outdoors. The weather was sunny with temperatures in the 60s when we headed to Withrow Springs State Park. The park is located near Huntsville, Arkansas which is approximately 20 minutes away from our home in Northwest Arkansas. Entrance into the park is free. Dogs are allowed on a leash.

Withrow Springs has three hiking trails (click here for map) along with campsites and a visitor center. Additional attractions include a fishing pond, natural spring, picnic areas, swimming pool, playground, tennis courts, baseball fields, and kayak/canoe rental service. Some of the amenities are seasonal. Visitors can call 479-559-2593 for more information.

War Eagle Trail in Withrow Springs State Park. Arkansas State Parks

war eagle trail

We decided to hike along the War Eagle Trail so we could enjoy the river and bluff views. We parked at the trail parking lot and began the 1 mile/way hike which follows along War Eagle Creek.

War Eagle Trail in Withrow Springs State Park. Arkansas State Parks
War Eagle Trail in Withrow Springs State Park. Arkansas State Parks

Easy, but narrow Trail

This trail is rated as ‘easy’, but there are several places along the trail which become very narrow and steep. We took things slow and held hands with our young daughters (ages 2 and 5) through these sections.

War Eagle Trail in Withrow Springs State Park. Arkansas State Parks
War Eagle Trail in Withrow Springs State Park. Arkansas State Parks
War Eagle Trail in Withrow Springs State Park. Arkansas State Parks

cave

There is a small cave that marks the halfway point on the hike. The cave is closed to “help prevent the spread of White Nose Syndrome among Arkansas’ bat population,” according to state park officials. For us, this added to the mystery – the girls enjoyed peaking inside and were curious what could be found in the dark.

War Eagle Trail in Withrow Springs State Park. Arkansas State Parks
War Eagle Trail in Withrow Springs State Park. Arkansas State Parks

After the cave, the trail climbs uphill through forest.

War Eagle Trail in Withrow Springs State Park. Arkansas State Parks

The girls were excited to bring their own backpacks which held snacks and water bottles.

War Eagle Trail in Withrow Springs State Park. Arkansas State Parks

scenic views

The burst uphill is rewarded with scenic views from a 150 foot bluff overlook. This is the highlight of the hike and worth taking a moment to stop and enjoy the views of the surrounding Ozarks.

War Eagle Trail in Withrow Springs State Park. Arkansas State Parks
War Eagle Trail in Withrow Springs State Park. Arkansas State Parks

After we passed the bluff, the trail soon flattened out and led to a turn-around point. We decided to cross the street (ARK Hwy 23) to have a snack at the picnic tables located near the Keith Ham Pavilion and the starting point of the Dogwood Trail.

The girls and I staid behind with our snacks while my husband hiked one mile back along the War Eagle Trail to get our car. We made this decision because we were a little nervous to travel back down some of the steeper sections of the trail with our girls.

War Eagle Trail in Withrow Springs State Park. Arkansas State Parks

first day hike

Looking for a great way to kick off 2020? The staff at Withrow Springs will be hosting a one-mile hike that covers the Dogwood Trail and portions of the War Eagle Trail on the morning of January 1, 2020. More info…