Peak(s):  Hurricane Knob - 1790
Brush Heap Mtn - 1760
McKinley Mtn - 1680
Leader Mtn - 1620
Albert Pike Overlook - 1280
Date Posted:  11/11/2011
Modified:  08/24/2015
Date Climbed:   11/04/2011
Author:  Gene913
 Eagle Rock Loop - Ouachita NF - Arkansas   

The trail is called Eagle Rock Loop. It is a 26.8 mile loop hike that we started on Friday, November 4, 2011 at 11:30 a.m. and finished on Sunday, November 6, 2011 at 9:30 a.m., so we completed the entire route in less than 48 hours. It is in the Ouachita National Forest in southwest Arkansas. Closest town is Mena if you want to try and find it on a map. We started at the Athens-Little Missouri-Big Fork trailhead in the northwest corner of the loop, but since it is a loop hike, there are several other trailheads you can start the hike from. The most well known is the Albert Pike trailhead. In June 2010, a flash flood of the Little Missouri River caused by overnight rain swept through the Albert Pike campground, killing 20 unsuspecting campers. The area is now been closed to overnight camping. When we hiked through the area around Albert Pike, you still could see evidence from that event which occurred nearly 18 months ago, i.e., debris/downed trees that had been carried along by the water flow and pushed up against other trees and is now resting in a place that is much higher than the current location of the water in the stream. Very sobering. We concluded that this was the ideal time of year to do this hike. The water flow was at a seasonal low which meant the many stream or river crossings did not present any serious challenge or danger. Instead of summer heat/humidity and the accompanying mosquito swarms, we had ideal hiking temperatures mainly in the 60's and 70's. The magnificent fall foliage was amplified by the wide diversity of tree types which threatened to put us on visual overload.

We decided to hike the loop counterclockwise because we wanted to take on the most physically demanding part of the route while we were fresh. Our start from the Athens-Big Fork trailhead meant we were committed to immediately crossing six ridges in less than eight miles with corresponding elevation gains and losses.
Trailhead sign

The link below shows you the elevation profile for the entire loop and clearly illustrates our first day task.

We ended day one by making camp at Eagle Rock Vista (elevation 1,520 feet), just over 7 miles from our trailhead; 2,154 feet of elevation gain and 2,014 feet of elevation loss for day one. No worries.
On the day one trail - photo credit Gary Groff
Gary and Rob at Eagle Rock Vista - elevation 1520 feet

With the most strenuous portion of the route out of the way, we comfortably stretched out day two and covered 14 miles.
Viles Branch Section of the Eagle Rock Loop trail - runs east and west and forms the southern leg of the loop
Cali on the Viles Branch trail
Rob, Cali, and Gary at the confluence of Viles Branch and Little Missouri River

We completed the entire southern leg of the loop, which included the only two river crossings where we had to remove our boots and cross in sandals.

Little Missouri River between Winding Stairs and FR106 East trailhead
Little Missouri River
Early November in the Ouachita National Forest
Wish You Were Here to See This Yourself?
Panoramic from Albert Pike Overlook - looking north

We also moved most of the way up the eastern leg of the loop along the Little Missouri River which permitted us to see evidence of the flood from the summer before.

Rob demonstrating height of flood debris on Little Missouri River trail - photo credit Gary Groff

Day three was a fairly relaxing stroll of close to 6 miles, highlighted by the only two water crossing on the entire trail where you get to use a bridge, and a very picturesque falls on the Little Missouri River.

Little Missouri River falls

Hope the photos help capture what we experienced because the natural beauty of the area was astounding. If you're convinced that you need to indulge in this little Arkansas treasure, here is a link to a really well done Forest Service product with directions to several of the trailheads and an accurate and informative map.


Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 10 11 12 13 14

Comments or Questions
Very Nice
11/11/2011 18:39
Colorful hike & looks very relaxing!
At first glance of photo- I thought he was pointing up to an Eagle's nest!

KU's opener is tonite- another season of Jayhawk B-ball
Have a good thanksgiving Gene~

Fun weekend
11/12/2011 02:38
Thanks for sharing. Great pictures of fall color. Multi tasking during 2nd half blowout. Go hawks.

Thanks for the comments
11/19/2011 14:19
November in Arkansas is much different than November in Colorado. As both of you noted, November also marks the start of KU basketball. Am going to the Davidson game at the Sprint Center on December 19. Hope everyone enjoys the Thanksgiving season. We may need to do another KC-area gathering. Maybe between Christmas and New Years?

links for ERL
06/25/2015 12:39

Nice photos...
11/19/2016 10:07
One of my sons did the Eagle Rock Loop in March 2010 with a group from his Boy Scout troop. As I recall, they started at Albert Pike CG. Nice to see your photos of the area.

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