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Hawksbill Crag – Ozark National Forest, Arkansas

Deep in the Upper Buffalo Wilderness, jutting out from the slopes of Cave Mountain, there is a jagged rock outcrop that resembles the beak of a hawk – known as Hawksbill Crag/Whitaker Point, the iconic Arkansas landmark is perched high above the forested valley of the Buffalo National River.

The Point, reached via a relatively easy 1.4 mile hike (2.8 miles roundtrip), provides stunning views of the Buffalo River Area. It is in fact, the only official trail in the Upper Buffalo Wilderness – the six mile drive to the trailhead, via the bumpy, unpaved Cave Mountain Road, confirms that you are indeed in the wilderness, but don’t expect solitude.

Hawksbill Crag is a very popular destination and it is consistently voted the number one hike in Arkansas – so you will likely be sharing the trail with several other hikers. Nonetheless, the trek is highly enjoyable, extremely scenic, and definitely one to mark off the bucket list.

Near the top of Cave Mountain, off the side of Cave Mountain Road, you will see a small parking area adjacent to a Wilderness Access Sign – park here, or along the road if the lot is full, and look for the trailhead across the road from the parking area.

The trail immediately descends the hillside, switchbacking its way into the forest as it dips down past four stream crossings – at the 1-mile mark, you cross a significant creek, complete with a cascade over the nearby bluff. Follow the flowing stream to the edge of the bluff and you will locate the seasonal waterfall known as Upper Haley Falls – you can admire the 17ft falls from the lip of the bluff or drop down over the edge (it’s a short drop) to view the falls from below.

At the creek, you will also come to a fork in the trail – both forks lead to Hawksbill Crag, the left being the upper route, and the right being the more scenic lower route.

Following the lower route takes you along the edge of the bluff where you will encounter numerous boulders and “mini” crags – in addition to the exquisite rocky landscape, you will be afforded sweeping views of the valley if you’re visiting during leaf off.

Continue hiking another half-mile or so and you will soon reach the pinnacle of your adventure – Hawksbill Crag, also known as Whitaker Point, pierces the sky nearly 150 feet above the valley floor.

Make your way to the rocky summit, admiring the incredible views from the crag and of the crag itself – the incredible beauty of this landscape makes it easy to understand why it us one of the most photographed places in the state of Arkansas.

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