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beautiful and challenging. well worth the trip.

hiking
11 days ago

Really fun trail! Not too hard but enough incline coming back to work up a sweat. Great spot to camp right at the rocks if you feel like hammocking, if you feel more adventurous there are a few spots closer too or even on the rocks you may be able to camp with a tent or just a sleeping bag under a beautiful sky but fair warning, there are some pretty big crevasses in between the rocks and if you hear buzzing that’s just the Volkswagen Beetle sized Yellow Jackets hunting for insects in the trees on and around the rocks. It’s also the bumble bees that seem attracted to the lichen that covers the rocks, oh and big hornets also flying around and honey bees. It’s like a stinging insect paradise up there for some reason but that doesn’t take away from the stunning views and the peacefulness the intermittent buzzing provides. The trail is across the road from the white house with the tomb stone in the yard, we parked on the embankment across from the house overnight with no issues. Only saw a few UTVs who did a quick once over of the roost and then headed off for somewhere else. The trail is really rocky so if you have bad ankles watch your step and you may want to wrap them up. Also being as this is an ATV trail it had some pretty large puddles just FYI.
All in all I’d recommend this as a great day hike and a solid hike to camp trail but I’d wait until fall when the flying death beasts thin out a bit

hiking
11 days ago

There were numerous spots where we had to cross streams. At one point near the end, we were staring across a river at the spot where the trail continued... on the other side.

backpacking
11 days ago

At the beginning of the trail, it's pretty straight forward and easy to follow, but once you make the turn off to go on to the actual Black Fork trail, there are no more blazes to mark the trail. Not far past this turn, you come up to a shelter, but it's not technically on the trail. Just before you make it to the shelter, someone has marked the path with red ribbon on a few trees. This was the only way we were able to find the path from here. The path is easy to follow from there until you get to the end of the "U" (its the "V" on AllTrails). We completely lost the trail there even after heavily relying on the Ouachita National Forest Map I got on Avenza Maps.

The trail is heavily overgrown in parts with thorny vines that were not fun to get through. I don't know if we were more focused on trying to stick to the trail, but we also never found the vistas that were the main reason we planned to do this hike. Maybe we just missed something, I don't know...

I do not recommend this trail at all because of the vines and the trail being so hard to follow. Definitely more of a frustrating hike than we were wanting.

backpacking
15 days ago

Spent the weekend here at the beginning of June. The trail is clearly marked, but very overgrown and sometimes hard to see past the overgrowth. There's a beautiful campsite near a creek and one right past a dirt road. Plenty of camping spots near the waterfalls. It was strenuous. The climbs can be rough. A lot of loose rocks and larger rocks and roots. Wear very comfortable shoes that are water resistant. You have to cross some creeks.

This trail was intense. Pretty difficult. I did it as an overnight. It has some very beautiful spots along the way but the rocky terrain chewed my feet up. Make you have good boots that fit well. Junction camp is not easy to find. Stay at rock hole. It’s nice there in the evening. I shared part of the creek that night with a beaver. He was chill, though. It’s pretty dry out there right now, which was a bummer. Looking forward to doing this trail again in the fall.

backpacking
1 month ago

A beautiful loop plenty of water great camping spots! If it your first time dont underestimate this trail it’s a tough one. I am definitely doing it again!!

backpacking
1 month ago

The reviews of this trail range wildly. But if you go no further than these two sentences the take home is that it’s not that difficult and the stream crossing are easy.

I went at the beginning of June and while it got warm in the afternoon most of the hike is shaded anyway so it didn’t matter much. I started at the trail head Little Missouri/Athens Fork junction at 8:00am. I hiked counter clockwise so I did the ridges first. While they weren’t easy the only one that’s challenging is Brush Heap.

First night I camped alongside the creek on the eastern portion (about 11.6 Miles from my start) of the Viles Branch Horse Trail. Arrived around 3:00pm.

I was going to camp a second night but the remaining sections of the trail were very straightforward and easy. I did lose the trail a couple of times at two of the stream crossings but found it quickly. I ended up hiking through this last day. Started at 9am and was back at the Missouri/Athens Fork trail head around 4:00pm.

backpacking
1 month ago

The reviews of this trail range wildly. But if you go no further than these two sentences the take home is that it’s not that difficult and the stream crossing are easy.

I went at the beginning of June and while it got warm in the afternoon most of the hike is shaded anyway so it didn’t matter much. I started at the trail head Little Missouri/Athens Fork junction at 8:00am. I hiked counter clockwise so I did the ridges first. While they weren’t easy the only one that’s challenging is Brush Heap.

First night I camped alongside the creek on the eastern portion (about 11.6 Miles from my start) of the Viles Branch Horse Trail. Arrived around 3:00pm.

I was going to camp a second night but the remaining sections of the trail were very straightforward and easy. I did lose the trail a couple of times at two of the stream crossings but found it quickly. I ended up hiking through this last day. Started at 9am and was back at the Missouri/Athens Fork trail head around 4:00pm.

A good challenge and a nice payoff at the summit.

backpacking
1 month ago

We did this as an overnight hike in october.
Started the hike from the walk in campsite in devils den and ended at the suspension bridge. Ran into a few large groups and two other couples. lots of ups and downs. very enjoyable hike although the heat and humidity on the first day was awful. lots of fun little stopping points at the beginning of the hike.

I’ve done it as a day hike and as a 3 day backpacking trek and both were enjoyable. The trail is well marked in most places, but you’ll probably miss a turn and a couple hundred yards to your total somewhere. Pretty in most areas, Quaill Valley is outright beautiful. Watch out for ticks and poison ivy though, they’re plentiful in summer months. The BHT is wonderfully rugged and not always close to water, so bring extra and/or a water filter or purifier of some kind. Cell service is blessedly limited as well, so be sure to fill out the required (free) permit at the ranger station before going.

For Boy Scouts, there is a trail patch available through the West Arkansas Council. See their website for details.

Easy hike, very nice tree shade canopy

Good for backpacking trip but not normal hiking

Awesome place!

hiking
1 month ago

Sublime; the perfect trail in every way.

We did the full loop at a relaxed pace early summer. You don’t need to worry about drinking/carrying too much water, as you’re able to fill up very frequently. It’s worthwhile to camp by the river or a stream both nights.

backpacking
1 month ago

Loved it! It’s a good 2 nighter. Or if you want to run a marathon do it in one day!

backpacking
1 month ago

This was my first time doing the ERL. Conditions were partly cloudy skies, light wind, and highs in the upper 80s. The river height at Langley read 3.27 ft. I hiked solo and my pack weight w/ 2 L of water was 27 lbs. I started around 8 am Friday and was back at my car around 6:30 pm Saturday.

I started at the Little Missouri Falls Trailhead and decided to do it clockwise as the elevation profile of Brush Heap Mountain is less intimidating going this way. The Little Missouri trail is beautiful and not terribly challenging other than needing good balance for stream crossings. Trekking poles are a must for balance unless you want to take a lot of unintentional dips in the river. There is a bit of a climb after the Albert Pike recreation area, but not too bad. The river crossing near the VB/LMR junction that is wet year-round has an island in the middle and is a great place to stop and take a dip in the river to cool off.

The Viles Branch horse trail was the least memorable part of the trail. It is fairly rocky at points and poorly blazed/difficult to follow. I saw just one snake the whole time, a water moccasin, near a creek crossing on this portion of the trail. I stopped and made camp at the SW corner of loop near the junction of the VB and ABF trails. There are a ton of camp sites along the trail and most appear to be frequently used and nice and flat. Most are within 25 ft of water. The amount of trash I saw at camp sites was disappointing though, and it was worse at campsites close to trailheads. I'll never understand hiking in with your heavy bud light, but being too lazy to carry the empty cans out.

I hiked out the next morning with fresh legs and hit the ridges on the ABF trail almost immediately. They are indeed pretty strenuous, but should be manageable for most people. Despite some areas with newly downed trees, this section of the trail was the easiest to follow. There is abundant water in all the valleys. Do the Vista trails on the two southern ridges. The views are awesome!

This is a great weekend trail and I may try to make a point of trying to do it once a year now. I'd do it with cooler weather next time though. By mid-May, the heat/humidity can really put a strain on you from about 1-4 pm. The trails are just starting to get overgrown in some sections and combined with poor blazing in some areas, it would be very easy to lose the trail frequently by early June. If you want isolation, try to do this trail in the middle of the week. I only saw a half dozen people on the trail Friday, but saw at least 3 dozen on Saturday, mostly large groups.

Do yourself a huge favor and download the Arkansas Hiker app and pay $5 for the ERL map. Keep your phone in airplane mode and it'll last forever. Every time you lose the trail, and you will several times, it'll help you get back on track.

Trail has been popular on my visits. I meet 4 different sets of hikers on the last hike. This seems like a lot on trails in Arkansas.

Viles Branch isn’t clearly marked in some
spots and the trIal webs in a couple of places.

On Athens Big Fork most climbs are not bad. At 500 feet is when I start feeling a climb in my legs and most mountains are done at 500 (couple are not). Basically if you are climbing down or from a creek the climb will be longer and tougher.

General info: Take time hike the spurs. They offer good views. I would drop the hiking boots and go with trail runners since trail offers so many river and creek crossings. Plenty of campsites.

2 months ago

great trail with amazing views. there is a couple places along the trail that are poorly marked or not marked and have multiple trails which make it difficult to ensure your on the right trail with out walking down the trail a little ways

backpacking
2 months ago

27.3 miles. Started at Winding Stairs parking lot around 6:15 pm Friday, hiked clockwise and finished up at noon on Sunday. Climbs are strenuous which is made even worse by no switchbacks. Every ascent is straight uphill. I don't get it. WARNING: there are many side trails that aren't marked. Blazes can be spotty so it is very easy to go down the wrong trail. Viles Branch is the worst leg for not being well marked. Another difficult portion with few blazes is the leg between Albert Pike and Winding Stair. Water is plentiful. Ran into a Copperhead on Viles Branch and a couple rattlesnakes at Spirit Rock Vista. Watch your step! Eagle Rock Vista is the best view of the entire hike and not far off the main trail. When we went it was foggy but you won't want to miss it on a clear day!

2 months ago

One of my favorite backpacking loops. It's not an easy hike(I've seen grown Men cry on this loop) If you're up for a challenge the pay off is well worth it! Plenty of water crossings so you dont have to pack out a lot of water ♡ just pump as you go, stunning views, wildlife galore and it's a loop!
2 or 3 day hike depending on hiking experience/ability.
You should know that there is No phone service on this trail and I have only seen a Ranger two times out of the 14 times I've done this loop so once you're out there, you're on your own :) that's one of the many reasons I LOVE this Loop!

what breath taking trail...

Fun hike. Recommend having the Ouachita Trail map from Backcountry Maps. It shows the lookout locations and more detail on the trail.

The scenic view is about 2.5 miles in from the trailhead. There are very few blazes, but this part of the trail is pretty easy to follow. There is a vertical post (sign missing) just before the overlook. You will see some tumbled rocks on the left that lead to boulders you can climb on. Worth the view even if this is as far as you get.

The remaining trail can be hard to see in some places. Periodic rock tumbles require you pick your way and find the trail on the other side. Helpful hikers have stacked rock piles to ease the way, but it’s still easy to miss the trail in places.

After the big U in the trail (looks like a V in AllTrails), you descend to a lower trail on the ridge. This also continues to the east (not shown on the map) so mark where you join the trail after the U. This will keep you from continuing on the lower trail upon your return.

hiking
2 months ago

I parked at the forest service parking trailhead 2 miles sw of the Albert Pike rec area. (Off fs 106) and hiked clockwise from there. Definitely recommend this route. Not only do I think it’s the least strenuous route, it’s only 2 miles of gravel road to navigate your car on. I absolutely am terrified of gravel roads and destroying my car.
Anyway...on to the trail.

Did 8 miles trail hiking the first day (plus 4 miles for the parking, long story short. One cannot park overnight at the Albert pike rec area.) which included the little Missouri branch and eagle rock mountain, then 20 miles the second day, finishing up the other 5 and then it was kinda downhill back to the trailhead.
I’m not in shape, though I am not overweight, i do not regularly (or irregularly) work out. I “trained” by wearing 1.5 lb ankle weights everyday for a month beforehand. So this is challenging but I’d say just about any able bodied person can do it, if I can.
Also there is no cell signal anywhere on the trail. GPS works, thankfully. Without AllTrails I’d have really struggled with finding the trail again especially after water crossings (of which there are many) I consulted with 3 different misdirected hikers who were relying on compass and maps. (I have these items as backups — but have accepted the joy and ease that gps brings) It was indeed handy to be able to show them where we were. Just navigating the trails can be a little frustrating due to the signage. Especially, if like me you didn’t know the names of the trails “branches” of the eagle rock loop trail. These are available on the detailed section forest service maps.
Water is abundant. I had carried too much one 16 oz bottle on my shoulder, and a liter smart bottle in a side pocket (this I did not really need) but being a Texan it’s hard for me not to store extra water just in case.
There are rattlesnakes on the trail so beware. I ran into a little one right in the middle of the scenic trail up brush heap mountain. Just keep eyes peeled, they do blend in.
And, lastly, if you’re driving in the area at dawn or dusk beware the deer on/near the road. Definitely heed the posted speed limits, it’s for our safety and the local’s too.
Happy day and happy trails!

Awesome trail!!! Some of the most beautiful country I have ever seen. Makes me want to move to Arkansas. Countless water crossings, waterfalls and springs and allot of elevation on the western part of the loop. The southern part of the trail along the Viles branch and the southern part of the Little Missouri by winding stair I thought was the most beautiful. Lots of great camping sites. I can’t wait to return and do it again when it is warmer. We went in early April and a cold front had come in making it very cold especially because of all of the water crossings. I recommend wearing shoes that you don’t mind being wet.

hiking
2 months ago

Caution: This is a tad on the long side, but I hope it will benefit someone so that they don't end up like my hiking group did when we set out to complete this trail. I am not a negative person and I HIGHLY looked forward to this trail and am saddened that our group was not able to complete it. **I will update this review and change the score if I am ever able to hike this trail in its entirety.** After following all the instructions to find this place (first left turn immediately after the bridge, by the way), our group followed the gravel road of 5881 until we reached the crook where you are to get on the trailhead. After parking and getting our packs on, we set off down what seemed to be the trail, but could not confirm because the trail does not have a single marker and is very poorly maintained, if maintained at all by anything other that apparent ATV tracks that have created the beginning of the trail path. We followed the directions and checked the coordinates multiple times to make sure we headed the correct direction as laid out by this site and the provided map. A short while later, maybe one quarter-mile or more, we encountered moving water (which we assumed to be Hurricane Creek) and attempted to ford it, but it was impassable without severe risk. After making it to a piece of land in the middle of the creek, we decided against trying to continue because there were no indications of a trail on the other side and the other half of the creek was much deeper and producing white water. Our group, now drenched to the thighs and boots filled with water, we returned back to the truck to make a plan B. If you are going here during the Spring, be wary, as this trail requires waders that are apt for trout fishing and some very good balance, otherwise you could get very wet or even hurt. If you end up in the same situation that we did, visit Pedestal Rock Trail, as it was one of the most beautiful hikes I've done in the area and isn't too far away from this one. Hope this will save someone a massive headache.

hiking
2 months ago

Kristen and I hiked this clockwise from suspension bridge 15 miles in exactly 6 hours. Including a wonderful stop at rock creek camp for lunch and feet in the water. Good hike. Some elevation change but not like Colorado. Saw 2 beautiful white tail deer. Many creeks and streams were running. We enjoyed seeing waterfalls and cliffs and mini caves. Lots of variation. Suspension bridge was a cool start. I would like to hike more in this area. Did see 1 large black snake at the beginning of hike but thankfully no others. Dogwood blooms were so lovely throughout the hike

backpacking
2 months ago

Well kept trails and plenty of places to camp. You will need an extra set of shoes to cross Lee Creek.

2 months ago

Absolutely, my favorite hike in the area. Six Ridge Crossing’s on the north side of the loop are quite taxing. But the scenery and the beautiful forests make it all worthwhile. I plan on doing it again this fall just to experience the different colors.

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