Hiking Devil’s Den State Park, Arkansas

Summary: 5.4 miles of hiking in rough and beautiful terrain, with high bluffs and lots of trees.

The Extreme 15 patrol of Troop 15 is working up to a serious high adventure backpacking trip, and decided to go to Devil’s Den State Park in Arkansas to backpack the Butterfield Trail. Another leader and I accompanied them. Unfortunately, one of our Scouts got quite ill with some stomach crud overnight, and could not keep food down, so the next morning we decided to do some low-intensity day hiking and then head back a day early. The Butterfield will still be there.

We headed out from Oklahoma City about 1740 and got to Devil’s Den around 2200, after a couple short stops along the way. It was chilly (around 40F) when we got there. Everyone got tents up quickly, and racked out. We shook everyone out around 0730 then next morning. Our first view of the park in the daylight revealed a beautiful area. We were in Area B, above the river, which was burbling happily. It had been down to about 22F, so all of the tents had frost on them.

We had brought a Coleman stove, and quickly got water hot for cocoa and breakfast. Breakfast was the famous eggs and sausage in a ziplock, and everyone seemed to enjoy it, since nothing was left… After Glen and I checked with our less-than-happy ill Scout, we decided to bag the original plan to backpack the Butterfield, and instead left the tents to dry off, loaded up our backpacks, and headed off to day hike.

Almost forgot, the cost to camp was $14 per night. The Visitor Center was closed when we got there, but before hiking I headed over and paid the fee the next morning.

We chose to head up the Yellow Rock trail. It winds around and touches other trails, goes under and around large rock outcroppings, and skirts the top of bluffs that have excellent views down into the valley that the Park is in.

The trail crosses water at many points. Several of these streams had a series of tumbling waterfalls. If the water situation on the Butterfield is similar (no reason to think otherwise), then getting water on that hike will not be an issue. There didn’t seem to be any agriculture to speak of around the Park either, so no worries about fertilizer or pesticide in the water.

One thing about hiking in December – you can see a good, long ways through the trees. I think that the green oaks during the spring and summer are really pretty, but the starkness of the winter, with the leaves on the ground, has it’s own beauty.

When we started out, the temps were in the low 30s. The high got to around 50F after noon.

We took our first break at a spectacular bluff. The ridge in the background is the structure that the Butterfield loops around. The ridge also has a trail along it’s spine.

This was a particularly beautiful stream we crossed. It had a series of small falls above and below the trail.

The hike to the overlook ran along a number of ridges. This was a typical view. The trail was well defined, but I must note that the trail map the Park uses doesn’t show all of the interconnections. The blazes were easy to follow, though.

This hike was 4 miles long, with a maximum altitude gain of over 400 feet.

We had lunch at the Overlook, and then headed back down to camp. We were looking for a trail that paralled a road, but instead just followed the road to camp. Once there, we took the tents down, a couple of the guys took short naps, and then we headed to our next hike.

Before we broke camp, I walked up to some overhanging bluffs that were above our camp. The bluffs had hundreds of steady streams of water coming over them.

The next hike was the short Devil’s Den Trail. It starts and ends at the Visitor Center. This trail leads by some spectacular terrain features! We first came up to some rock formations that lead down into caves. None of the caves were open, due to concerns about protecting the bat populations from White Nose Syndrome.

As you can tell from the pictures, some of the cracks were very deep.

The rock outcroppings were pretty amazing.

There is an amazing waterfall along the trail.

This is near the end of the trail.

This hike was 1.4 miles long.

Here are our hike maps. The first hike to the overlook is in yellow, and the Devil’s Den trail is in blue.

This was a wonderful, if short, experience. The Park is stunning. There is no cell service in the Park proper (it’s in a deep valley), but we got occasional service on the ridges above the Park. I’m going to bring the family here to stay in one of the cabins, and certainly come back with the Scouts to backpack the Butterfield.

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4 Responses to “Hiking Devil’s Den State Park, Arkansas”

  1. Orel Di Angelo Says:

    The hike was worth the view 🙂

  2. Bill Hensley Says:

    Orel, it certainly was.

  3. ironlioninzion Says:

    Hey there! I’m a stranger who googled devil’s den camping pictures and came upon this blog. My brother and I are going on a road trip next week from Miami to Denver, and was hoping on camping somewhere in the Arkansas Mountains (Miami is pretty flat, so we love mountains!). We would be coming in around the same time you guys did, around 10 pm. We were both in boy scouts, and often times we did get to camp late. What was the campground name you went to (wherever these pictures were taken) and what was it like getting in that late? Any advice will do. We’d be coming in from either Mobile or Tallahassee that day. Thanks!

  4. Bill Hensley Says:

    I just saw your post, I hope this isn’t too late. We drove into the area and picked a campsite pretty much at random. The next morning, the rangers noticed us, and eventually we went over to the ranger station to pay our overnight fee. Enjoy!

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