Uh oh...

It appears that you're using a severely outdated version of Safari on Windows. Many features won't work correctly, and functionality can't be guaranteed. Please try viewing this website in Edge, Mozilla, Chrome, or another modern browser. Sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused!

Read More about this safari issue.
Statewide Bismarck Hot Springs Morrilton Wickes
Statewide Travel 0

Moonlight Magic – Night Hikes in Arkansas


One of my favorite children’s books is “Owl Moon” by Jane Yolen, I’ve read it to my son George since he was little. It’s a beautiful story about a family venturing out on a snowy night to search for owls. Snowy nights are few and far between in Arkansas, but the book sparked a year-round tradition in our family – night hiking!

Why Hike at Night?

Night hiking is a totally different experience than hiking during the day. It’s like stepping into a whole new world. When it’s hot, hiking after the sun has set can offer relief from the heat. In the winter months, it’s a great way to work around the shorter daylight hours. It also heightens your other senses (like hearing), allowing you to experience nature in a new light (err…darkness). Plus, if you get started early, you get the opportunity to view some incredible sunsets and moonrises!

Tips for Night Hiking

Night hiking can be dangerous if you are unprepared for its unique challenges. Before you head out with your own crew, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Pick the perfect path: Night isn’t the time to be adventurous with a brand-new trail. Stick to familiar paths that are well-maintained and easy to navigate. You want to be focused on the sights and sounds, not deciphering switchbacks in the dark. Not all trails are suitable, so choose wisely. Wider trails with a clear view of the sky are great choices – they’ll be easier to see and offer stunning views of the stars.
  • Keep it short: Nighttime hikes are best enjoyed in short distances and at a slower pace. This is a great time to explore a beloved trail that’s short and sweet. The goal of night hiking is to view wildlife and experience nature differently, not to tick off miles.
  • Spotting wildlife: Nighttime is prime time for many creatures who come out to play. Keep your eyes peeled for owls, bats, and even deer. While a bright flashlight is tempting, it can actually scare wildlife away. Instead, use a headlamp with a red light setting – it helps you see without ruining your night vision. Just note that you may need to give your eyes a few minutes to adjust when you transition from a well-lighted area such as your car to the darker trails. If you click on a brighter flashlight for any reason, you’ll need another adjustment period.
  • Full moon hikes: Hiking by the full moon’s light not only makes your adventure a little safer, but it also sheds a beautiful silvery glow on your surroundings. Plus, wildlife love a full moon and may be even more active.
  • Night hiking dangers: Let’s be honest, there are some added challenges when hiking in the dark. Be extra mindful of loose rocks, uneven terrain, and anything that could cause a stumble. Be prepared with layers of clothing, as temperatures can drop quickly after the sun sets. Never hike alone, and always tell someone where you will be and when you expect to return. Also, watch out for mosquitos, as they are extra viscous at night!

Arkansas Trails Perfect for Hiking at Night

We are blessed to have a lot of land with several well-maintained trails that are perfect for hiking in any season, any weather and any time of the day. But here are a few Arkansas trails that are perfect for a night adventure:

River Corridor Trail in Cossatot River State Park | Wickes
The 12.5-mile trail winds along the Cossatot River, showcasing the rugged beauty of the Ouachita Mountains. Park Interpreters regularly host “Owl Prowls” on a one-mile section of the trail so you can explore “who” is out in the woods. Check out the park events calendar for more information.

Island Trail in DeGray Lake State Park | Bismarck
This 1-mile loop is a perfect choice for a leisurely hike. It offers an easy stroll through beautiful hardwoods with frequent glimpses of DeGray Lake sparkling through the trees. Since it follows the shoreline closely, you might even hear some exciting night sounds like crickets chirping, bullfrogs croaking, or fish jumping. On a clear night, you might even spot some owls or bats hunting for insects! Find information for joining a guided night hike on the park’s events page.

Falls Branch Trail in Lake Catherine State Park |Hot Springs
This moderate 2-mile trail is filled with diverse scenery. It winds through pine and hardwood forests, crosses Little Canyon Creek numerous times, and eventually leads to a seasonally cascading waterfall. It’s perfect for a night excursion, and the park regularly leads guided night hikes.

Lake Bailey at Petit Jean State Park | Morrilton
Lake Bailey is a 100-acre man-made lake formed by a rock dam on Cedar Creek. Stroll along the shoreline at night to discover nocturnal creatures who make their homes in and around the lakeshore. Learn about guided tours that depart from the boathouse on the park’s event page.

Once you’ve selected the right spot for a nighttime hiking adventure, the fun begins. It’s time to look for and listen to the wildlife. You’ll see and hear things you might miss out on during the day.

Are you looking for more hiking and outdoor opportunities in Arkansas?
5 Single-Night Arkansas Backpacking Trips
10 Tips for Hiking with Kids in Arkansas
Family-Friendly Hiking in Central Arkansas
Your Guide to Hiking the Buffalo National River

Photos courtesy of Arkansas Departments of Parks, Heritage and Tourism.

Meet the

Learn more about .

A little about .

Julie Kohl works from home as a writer and teaches art part-time at a local private school. A former Yankee who was "converted" to the south by her husband, Julie has grasped on to rural life in a sleepy, blink-your-eyes-and-you'll-miss-it town in central Arkansas where they raise chickens, farm hay and bake bread. Julie loves adventure and sharing it with her husband and son. They frequent the trails, campgrounds and parks of Arkansas, always on the hunt for new adventures and new stories to share. Learn more on her blog Seek Adventures Media.

Read more stories by Julie Kohl


Visit Julie Kohl’s Website

Like this story? Read more from Julie Kohl


Join the Conversation

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Submit a photo

We select one featured photo per week, but we show many more in our gallery. Be sure to fill out all the fields in order to have yours selected.

  • Accepted file types: jpg, png, Max. file size: 5 MB.

Regions Topics

What are you looking for?

Explore Arkansas

Central Arkansas

Little Rock, Conway, Searcy, Benton, Heber Springs

Northwest Arkansas

Fayetteville, Bentonville, Springdale, Fort Smith

South Arkansas

Hot Springs, Pine Bluff, Texarkana, Arkadelphia

Explore by Topic