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You may not think about getting out and hiking, especially overnight, in the winter. Fortunately, Arkansas winters are pretty mild, and you can avoid the crowds and challenges of hiking in the heat when you backpack in the offseason. Overnight hiking is a great way to explore the outdoors in a new way and Arkansas has some great single night hikes that are worth checking out.
Arkansans have been taking part in First Day Hikes for several years and many are now exploring a new challenge–First Night Hikes. Gear up and head out on New Year’s Eve, celebrate the first night of the new year in the woods and finish up with a First Day Hike back to your base. You get to celebrate uniquely and get a head start on the Iron Ranger Challenge, which restarts on New Year’s Day. Even if you aren’t looking to ring in the New Year on the trail, you’ll want to put these 5 Single-Night Arkansas Backpacking Trips on your local offseason bucket list.
Hiking any time of the year takes some planning and preparation and having the Essentials for Winter Hiking can be the key to a successful hike. Wearing the right clothing and having the right gear will make your trip more enjoyable, even on a day hike.
You can purchase the right gear at any of these local outdoor gear shops around Arkansas:
Ozark Outdoor Supply – Little Rock
Sulphur Creek Outfitters – Heber Springs
Ouachita Outdoor Outfitters – Hot Springs
Pack Rat Outdoor Center – Fayetteville
DNW Outdoors – Jonesboro
Beyond Boundaries Outfitters – Searcy
This 15.5-mile trail is perfect for families or those new to overnight hiking. The trail is relatively flat, so you can enjoy the woods and take in the sites instead of spending a lot of energy climbing. There is a shelter located at mile 6 where you can spend the night. Just be sure to grab a permit from the Visitor’s Center before you head out.
At 15.2 miles, this loop trail makes a great overnight hike for the more experienced hiker. The trail experiences some significant elevation changes, so it’s not recommended for a beginner. Along the trail, you’ll be treated to scenic views at Blackburn Creek and Vista Point. Overnight hikers are required to get a free permit from the Visitor’s center before hitting the trail.
This 22.8-mile point to point trail has five sections and six trailheads, so you can customize your trip to the length that you prefer. Mile 0 is located in Allison, so be sure to check out the Swinging Bridge while you’re in the area. Winter daylight is fleeting, so I would suggest a stopover between Blanchard Springs and Gunner Pool for the night, continuing to the Barkshed Recreation Area trailhead to complete your hike. You will need to arrange for transport or plan to hike in and hike back out to your starting point.
This moderate trail experiences some elevation gain (about 2000 feet) but is gradual in most parts. The point-to-point trail can be traversed from either direction and comes close to the river at several points. If you aren’t interested in crossing any creeks, travel from Tyler Bend, an exceptionally scenic area for about 8 miles, camp out and then return to your starting point. And, don’t forget to stop by Collier Homestead.
Another excellent beginner trail, Cove Lake is a 10.4-mile point-to-point trail with only about 650 feet of elevation gain. The trail travels through a section of the State Park and through the National Forest. Camping is allowed in the National Forest, so plan a leisurely hike and a campout at about 5 miles. You will pass through beautiful virgin hardwoods and have ample opportunities to view deer and other wildlife. Hunting is allowed in the area, so be sure to wear orange when hiking during hunting season.
Photos courtesy of Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism.
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