Hiking and Camping Tips - Whitaker Point, Ozark National Forest | Arkansas
Updated: Nov 8, 2020
In July 2020 I embarked on my 3rd annual great american road trip. The first real/exciting stop of my trip was Hot Springs National Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas. It was a nice park, but very small and not much to do, so I quickly moved on after deciding where I would venture to next, Ozark National Forest.
I packed my hammock on my road trip and was keen to do some dispersed camping. Camping at a campground packed with RVs doesn't interest me, especially during a pandemic. I couldn't find any good suggestions, so I looked on Instagram and checked out some popular pictures for inspiration. Sure enough, the famous rock ledge above was features in several photos, but I couldn't find the name of it. I kept searching and found the name - Whitaker Point (Hawksbill Crag). It was about 2:30pm and I had a 3 hour drive ahead of me. I knew that if I parked at the trailhead by 5:30pm, packed my Osprey, and hiked quickly, I'd have about an hour before sunset to take photos and find a suitable home for the evening.
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Getting to the Whitaker Point Trailhead
I came north from Hot Springs via Clarksville and took Route 21 North about 40 miles before making a sharp left on Route 5. Follow Route 5 (mostly unpaved) for about 6 miles and you'll arrive at the trailhead. Drive slowly as there are some fairly large potholes. You don't need 4WD but if it's raining it would be wise. There is an abundant amount of parking at the trailhead. The trail entrance is on the eastern side of the parking lot, the opposite side of the posted trail map.
Hiking to Whitaker Point
The hike itself is about 1.85 miles. It's a nice, well-shaded hike which took me about 40 minutes with a couple of stops. You'll pass a creek and a rock ledge with a small waterfall about half way through your hike. I noticed a few different trails along my way. I'm not sure if they all go to Whitaker Point so be sure to follow the red/orange markings (below).
You'll pass several vistas with cool views on your right-hand side, but when you get to Whitaker, you'll know. The image below is not Whitaker, but another cool spot that I found.
The unique thing about Whitaker Point is that you can get the iconic shot below (with the help of a fellow hiker, or a remote camera) fairly easily. I cheated and used a drone for mine, but it's the same angle.
Camping at Whitaker Point
Upon arrival at Whitaker Point, I looked around and saw lots of tree options of course, but most were a bit too closer to ledge. I decided to look around. From the ledge area I could see a clearing up on top of a small hill about 40 feet away. I walked up and saw an established fire pit with plenty of trees perfect for hanging my hammock! I set up camp and went down to enjoy the final 45 minutes before sunset.
After sunset, I enjoyed a beer on the Whitaker Point ledge before heading up for a night of sleep. It was my first time camping in a hammock, and it was a solo dispersed experience. Needless to say it took some adjusting to get comfortable but I finally did, until my 5:00am alarm went off to the tune of a bobcat mating call from about 100 feet away. It came in rounds of 3 blood curdling screams as if a woman was jumping off the cliff. The first 3 were on my right side, and the next 3 were on my left side. It was a bit terrifying for a few minutes but it certainly woke me up in time for sunrise!
Thoughts about Whitaker Point
This was a surprise to say the least. I'll be the first to admit that I did not know Arkansas had such hidden beauty. If you find yourself on a road trip through Arkansas, or living locally, hike to Whitaker Point!