Arkansas State Parks have an abundance of walking trails with stunning scenery. Devil’s Den State Park is one not to be missed if you love trekking on rugged terrain. It’s perfect for the naturalist, deep in the Ozark Mountains and only a few miles off Interstate Highway 540, about 30 minutes from Fort Smith. It encompasses nearly 1700 acres in a tiny valley on either side of Lee Creek and it has 22 miles of trails in all.
There are numerous hiking trails within Devil’s Den State Park. The longest is the 15 mile Butterfield Trail, so named for the Butterfield Stagecoach that ran through here 150 years ago, connecting Fayetteville with Fort Smith. It is a looped trail, perfect for backpackers. The trail is very scenic as it passes through Mount Olive. From here, it takes a slow meandering decent to Quail Valley. Expect to cross some creek beds. You’ll want your camera for this trek as you’ll see some great rock formations and rocky outcroppings along the way. Permits are free and you’ll need to visit the park office before heading out. Take plenty of drinking water. They have primitive campsite en route as this is an overnight hike. One is Rock Hole Camp and the other at Pick Junction. The park does not charge for rough camping.
The Yellow Rock Trail is only about 3 miles, but it’s a good scenic trek with a great view of Yellow Rock Bluff – especially pretty in the fall when the leaves are changing color. It meets up with the National Trails System, so you could easily lengthen the walk. This trail is great for birders, so bring you binoculars. 14 varieties of warblers make their home here.
Lee Creek Trail is a short trip to Lee Creek Valley. If you’re interested in fossils, you can’t miss them on this walk. It is recommended that hikers avoid the creek when the water is rushing or high.
Devil’s Den Self-Guided Trail is probably one of the prettiest hikes. It’s less than two miles, but you’ll see caves, springs, waterfalls and abundant Ozark flora and fauna under the canopy as you pass through the Boston Mountain terrain. Two of the caves are well worth the walk. The Devil’s Ice Box has a long fissure and is as deep as 25 feet in places. You can walk through this and if it’s a hot day, you’ll appreciate the ice box between the rocks. The Devil’s Den is the most popular spot on the trail. It is a few hundred feet deep. There are open crevasses in the caves, so you’ll need to have a flashlight and be caucious when exploring them. This is a popular trail, so you likely won’t be alone, but it’s a fairly easy walk. There is plenty of wildlife on this trail and don’t be surprised if you see a timber rattler.
There are fully-equipped rustic cabins throughout the park built to fit in with the natural lay of the land. For rental information, go to Arkansas State Parks.com and follow the links to Devil’s Den State Park. Wear good hiking boots and bring drinking water. Follow the rules of the park and bring your garbage out with you as you leave the trail.