Pedestal Rocks Trail, Ozark National Forest

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don’t think I’ve ever been quite as miserable on a trail, as I was on the Pedestal Rocks Trail.  I’m not saying you shouldn’t hike it — the destination is rewarding — but the trail itself isn’t pleasant.

Location

Pedestal Rocks Trail is located on Arkansas Route 16, six miles east of Route 7.

My Visit

Pedestal Rocks shares a trailhead with King’s Bluff.  After hiking just a few hundred feet from the trailhead, there’s a crossroads.  Pedestal Rocks Trail goes straight, while King’s Bluff splits off to the right.  There’s another trail to the left: this is the return loop from Pedestal Rocks.

It’s normally nice not to have to backtrack on a trail, but in this case, I’d recommend taking the trail to the left, hiking out to Pedestal Rocks, then turning around and heading back on the same trail.  If you follow the sign, you’ll see absolutely nothing of interest during the first half of the trail.  It’s just dense forest for the first mile — no bluffs or overlooks.

Unfortunately, unlike you, I didn’t have a nice person like me to provide such good advice.  So, I headed straight through the crossroads, and trudged along through the woods.  It wasn’t an easy hike, thanks to an ice storm in 2008 that brought down trees and limbs throughout northern Arkansas.  Some of the biggest obstacles had been removed, but I still had to climb over and under branches and tree trunks, and at times, push my way through heavy brush.  Did I mention the humidity was about 150%?  What about the spiders, did I mention them?  I ended up using my hiking stick as a spider-web catcher, waving it around in front of me to avoid a face-full of web.  It only worked some of the time.

At nearly the halfway point (about 1 mile from the trailhead), I came upon this sign, which provided hope that I had finally reached something exciting.  Moments later…

… a break in the forest appeared on my left side.  I cut through the trees to reach the rocky bluff.

The bare bones of the Ozarks are exposed here.  Erosion has exposed the sedimentary rock that’s deep inside the surrounding mountains.

Many of the pedestals are still attached to the mountainside…

… while a few (the more picturesque of the bunch) have broken away, and are now carefully balanced.  I don’t think there’s any way to reach the tops of these pedestals (without some rock climbing skills), but it does appear that visitors have made a game out of tossing sticks onto the top of the pedestals.

This sign marks the halfway point of the loop.  The 1.2 mile section of the trail is the way I came, and the 1.1 mile section is the second half of the trail.  That second half continues to run alongside the bluff for a while…

… providing several chances to peek out at the surrounding Ozark Mountains.

You also need to watch out for cracks in the ground.  This part of the bluff is still in the middle of the very slow break-away process.

Here’s a good spot to dangle your feet over the edge.  All I needed was someone else with me to take the picture.

After leaving the bluff behind, the return section of the trail once again cuts into the woods. But it’s still not as boring as the first part of the trail…

… especially if you notice the natural bridge, that’s just down the side of the hill a short distance from the path.

I enjoyed everything I saw along this trail, but by the time I got back to the car, I was thankful the hike was over.  I was soaked with sweat, covered with spider webs, and I feared there were ticks hiding on me somewhere (I had already picked one off, earlier along the trail).  Since there was no one else at the trailhead, I stripped down and changed clothes.

As I drove back to Route 7, I decided I had hiked enough for one day.  In fact, I was starting to question whether I wanted to hike any more at all, or start heading back to Florida a day early.  I decided I’d try one more trail, the next day, and if I didn’t enjoy it, I’d give up.  Thankfully, my hikes on Day 6 turned out much better.

Pedestal Rocks is the more often photographed attraction, but if you’re forced to choose between the two, King’s Bluff might be more fun.  It features a rocky outcropping and a waterfall that flows over the edge of the bluff.  It’s also a shorter trail: 1.7 miles round trip, compared to 2.2 miles to Pedestal Rocks.

Drivelapse Video

Here’s a look at my drive from Centerville (south of Interstate 40), through Russellville on Route 7, then east on Route 16 to the Pedestal Rocks trailhead:

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