Winding Stairs Trail is a 4.5 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Caddo Gap, Arkansas that features a waterfall and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

Length4.5 miElevation gain419 ftRoute typeOut & back
Dogs on leashHikingForestRiverViewsWaterfallWildflowersWildlifeBugsRocky
Description
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Getting There

The Winding Stairs Trail is a 2 mile segment of the much longer Little Missouri Trail. This route starts off Forest Service Road 106, and heads south along the Little Missouri River. The trail offers beautiful views of the cascades, swimming holes, and interesting rock formations. Primitive camping is allowed along the trail. Be careful, you do have to cross the river, make sure is not too high to cross safely. Find the start of the trail by the bulletin board and head downhill to Blaylock Creek. The white paint blazes on trees will be your guide. Turn left at the trail by the creek and go 50 yards until you see some large rocks, which will aid in crossing the creek. The trail continues on the other side when you find a slight incline and some stair steps. Go right at the fork uphill into the woods instead of the trail by the creek. You’ll pass a large downed tree but continue around it and you’ll gradually ascend as the trail winds. You’ll see some small mountains in the distance when the trail levels. It’ll eventually wind its way downhill and after about a mile and a half, there’s a spur to the Little Missouri River. You can take that for a cool view but be sure to return to the main trail you left. You'll wrap around the river bend and after some campsites, the trail gets thinner, elevates, and you can look down on the river. Later it has a tight hairpin, followed by another large downed tree, and eventually descends by the river. You can find a way to cross over where there’s more of a rocky beach visible. The other side of the trail disperses but there are many paths back to the main, distinguishable trail. Once there, you’ll continue about a 1/4 mile to the main attraction: the narrows in the river followed by the incredible rock formations and deep blue water. Once you pass the amazing bluff/rocks there are some huge boulders on the other side. If you go up the side creek behind them, it does have a series of twists and turns, small waterfalls, and interesting rock formations like a winding staircase.

There is off road parking and restrooms at the trail head. Primitive camping is allowed on the trail. Fee camping from tent to RV with full services is close by at the Albert Pike Recreational Area.

Ouachita National Forest 100 Reserve Street P.O. Box 1270 Hot Springs, AR 71902 Phone: (501) 321-5202 Fax: (501) 321-5305

From Hot Springs take Highway 70 west 36 miles through Glenwood to Salem. Turn west on Highway 84 and go 13 miles to Langley. At Langley turn north on Highway 369 and go 6 miles to the recreation area. Cross the bridge at Albert pike heading west on Forest Rd. 106 for about 2 miles to the trailhead on the left.

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Reviews (273)
Photos (693)
Activities (207)
Completed (731)
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Kristina Kohl
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Hiking

Great weather, Great hike! The second crossing was about knee deep.

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Shiloh Marlar
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Hiking

The second river crossing was too high to cross, so couldn’t finish the hike. The views were still beautiful though!

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Pauline Marks
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HikingGreat!

Moderate hike. Be sure to bring your water shoes. We had 2 river crossings. The views are amazing and the turn around is absolutely breathtaking by the river along with Cascade waterfall. This is a must hike. Although 4.5 out and back the views are worth spending the day here

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Jeff Granger
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Kevin O'Brien
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Hiking

It was a great trail. The second river crossing was pretty high. We ended up turning around. But overall it was a good time

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Sharon Souter
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BackpackingGreat!
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Paul Freer
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Hiking

Great trail with beautiful views. Crossing the water in January was very frigid in the beginning and we decided not to cross at the second section because of the cold. Drive to the trail was also beautiful.

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Danny Brown
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Adam M
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Alex Wray
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Kurt Herron
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Hiking

Nice trail along the Little Missouri River. There are two river crossings. Keep going past the cave for the waterfall.

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Vincent Anthony
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Paul Oberle
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Hiking

Great hike. I think people get a bit confused to start with so I’ll try and provide some good feedback. First thing, when you get to the recreation center you aren’t there yet. You’ll see a brown sign which directs you up a road which seems pretty impassable as the asphalt is crumbling. It’s not as bad as it looks. You’ll travel this road -which quickly turns to gravel - a couple of miles to the trailhead. There is a bathroom there. Start the trail there and head down to the water. This is Blaylock Creek and you will cross here. There are blue blazes and pink or orange ties on the opposite side so you know where to cross. You will need river shoes here. Once across you’ll ascend from the bank and proceed to the left. Now here you will need to watch carefully for the white blazes which will lead you away from the creek towards the bluff which you will traverse. This trail is easy to follow but continue to watch for the white blazes. When you get to the other side of the bluff you’ll cross the river again. You’ll need your river shoes once more. At this point continue on and you’ll come to some beautiful rock formations and swim pools. If you continue on another half mile or so there is another “beach” area which is very nice. This is the 2.8 mile turn around part. We did the whole thing in about 4 hours with several stops. Did the hike with my daughter and one of our dogs and had a blast!

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J Palmer
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Hiking

The most beautiful hike I’ve been on in Arkansas. The river, the caves, cool rock formations were majestic! I’ll definitely be coming back here to camp

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Sherri Anderson
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Brandon Smith
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Clay Ourso
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HikingGreat!

Excellent hike with two water crossing. Bring your water shoes!

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Carla W
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BackpackingGreat!
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Kenneth Hieke
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Hiking

We loved this hike. Very scenic even on a cool cloudy day. You've really got to want to get to Winding Stairs. You definitely won't find it by accident! The trail head is a good distance from convenience stores, gas stations AND the paved road. The gravel road from the paved road is twisty, hilly and narrow. We put our vehicle in X-mode. Once we made the trail head we found that the parking lot was full and vehicles were parked for a good distance along the side of the road. We ran into a couple of hikers who had hiked Winding Stairs a number of times and they said they had never seen that many folks there. There is a restroom at the trail head The hike is most definitely worth it. I had read quite a few of the reviews below but wish I had seen Mallory's below relating to crossing the river (she posted after we had read the reviews). We saw that most hikers had brought water shoes and changed foot gear for the crossing and then changed back after crossing. We did see that folks had commented on losing the trail after the crossing. Thank goodness for the Alltrails App! We were not the only ones to miss the Right turn from the Blue to the White blazes. The foot path itself was subtle there as was the marking of the turn. We saw lots of folks along the way. Suspect that like us they were there for the peak of Fall Foliage. Lots of folks were there for overnight/over weekend(?) camping. Terrain very from easy to moderately steep and rocky. Would do it again in a heart beat. Next time well bring water foot gear for crossing the Little Missouri...

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Mallory Thompson
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definitely bring hiking boots that cover your ankle, narrow paths and rocky inclines along this path. Maybe bring a pair of flip flops? I had to cross two creek/streams to continue the path. I found it easier to walk through barefoot but rocks are slippery so be careful! Overall a good camping spot but the hike isn't on my top 10.

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Chris Potter
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Hiking
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Nick Quesenberry
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Hiking

Can’t wait to come back.

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Rick Rick Stocks
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Hiking

Loved it

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Audrey Brown
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Hiking

It was definitely difficult. We enjoyed the views. Some of the trail was not well marked.

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Trey Bush
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CampingGreat!Rocky
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Bob Haines
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JT Sampson
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarOctober 12, 2020
HikingRocky

You pass through serene thick woods to the incredible rock formations surrounded by beautiful transparent water. Since the directions here are not specific enough, try these, as this trail has a lot of S movements and wrong side trails: find the start of the trail by the bulletin board and head downhill to Blaylock Creek. The white paint blazes on trees will be your guide, and forget all other colors for different paths. Turn left at the trail by the creek and probably go 50 yards until you see some large rocks, which will aid in crossing the creek. The trail continues on the other side when you find a slight incline and some stair steps. Go right at the fork uphill into the woods instead of the trail by the creek. You’ll pass a large downed tree but continue around it and you’ll gradually ascend as the trail winds. You’ll see some small mountains in the distance when the trail levels. It’ll eventually wind its way downhill and after about a mile and a half, there’s a spur to the Little Missouri River. You can take that for a cool view but be sure to return to the main trail you left. It’ll wrap around the river bend and after some campsites, the trail gets thinner, elevates, and you can look down on the river. Later it has a tight hairpin, followed by another large downed tree, and eventually descends by the river. You can find a way to cross over where there’s more of a rocky beach visible. The other side of the trail sort of disperses but there are many paths back to the main, distinguishable trail. Once there, you’ll continue about a 1/4 mile to the main attraction: the narrows in the river followed by the incredible rock formations and deep blue water. For the winding stairs, which I had all to myself, it’s actually a side creek. Once you pass the amazing bluff/rocks there are some huge boulders on the other side. If you go up the side creek behind them, it does have a series of twists and turns, small waterfalls, and interesting rock formations like a winding staircase. Enjoy!

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Benjamin Dickinson
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarOctober 11, 2020
Hiking

First day, 9.5 nice hike

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David Sevier
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