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Nestled among the woods and hills of Crowley’s Ridge and just minutes away from Wynne, Arkansas, sits a gem of Arkansas that often gets overlooked. Did you know that at the Village Creek State Park, you can actually walk a mile of the Trail of Tears? If you like history and enjoy nature, the Old Military Road trail offers a picturesque hike for walkers of all levels.
Village Creek State Park is a resort destination in its own right. Whether you like to camp, ride horses, hike miles of trails, or hit a round or two of golf, Village Creek calls you to the outdoors. At night, you have your choice of relaxing by the fire and retreating to your tent, or you can find your “home away from home” in the state park’s elegant cabins.
There are about 33 miles of trails at Village Creek, but on the 2.1-mile hike on Old Military Road Trail is where you’ll be able to connect with the Trail of Tears. To find the Old Military Road Trail, visit the Village Creek Visitor Center and get a map or simply look up the trailhead in your All Trails app. The trail begins just north of the Austell Lake next to the boat landing. There is parking at the landing and a short cut through the woods toward the levy on the east side of the lake. The levy is where you’ll enter the Military Road Trail, which has plenty of signage as well as placards that describe the historical significance of what was at one time a major passageway from Memphis to Little Rock.
Because the trail is a loop, you have two ways to experience it. When our family visited the site, we chose to stay on the levy along the lake. It was the most direct route to the Old Military Road and Trail of Tears, not to mention the walk along the lake reminded us of the abundance of pure, wild nature that Arkansas has to offer.
At the end of the levy, we started to ascend up the hill toward the Old Military Road. The trail is easy and not too steep, especially after walking up the initial wooden steps conveniently placed for hikers. While it may be tempting to rush through this part of the trail, avoid doing so. Take your time and soak in the sights and sounds of the woods as it is supposed to be, with birds’ chirping and the sun’s rays reaching through the leaves, and the wind’s voice as it sways the trees and their branches.
When the ascent was complete, we reached the Old Military Road segment. You’ll know it when you see it. Years of foot traffic and heavy wagons, along with natural erosion, have worn down the sedimentary terrain. The natural “half-pipe” is a wonder to observe. The further you go, the higher the walls climb around you. The curved walls tower over you as you begin your gradual descent down the path.
Imagine what it must have been like for Native Americans who were forced to migrate across the territory. Imagine the soldiers who marched from Memphis to Little Rock. Picture the farmers, mail carriers, and other early Arkansans who walked down this road before us. If the trees and their exposed roots could talk, I’m sure they would have many tales to tell.
The trail on the Old Military Road lasted about one mile, then the path veered left and back down the side of the hill we climbed at the beginning. For the rest of the journey, we meandered along a narrow but still easy cut through the Crowley’s Ridge woods. In this portion, keep an eye on the trail markers so you don’t lose your direction, but again, take your time and enjoy the experience.
We treasured our stroll through the Old Military Road Trail at Village Creek State Park. It was a fun way to spend the afternoon outdoors, in an Arkansas state park, and walk in the footsteps of our history.
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