Backpack the Eagle Rock Loop

26 miles  - Loop Trail

Added by Drake Osborn

The best multi-day backpack that Arkansas can offer. Sweeping views of the Ouachita mountains along with dense forest, all while following the Little Missouri river and its tributaries, with its gorgeous swimming holes and peaceful, little trafficked camping spots.

Located in Ouachita National Forest, Eagle Rock Loop is Arkansas' longest loop, perfect for a 3-4 day backpack. There are multiple places to begin this trip, as there are 4 trailheads along the route; (1) Albert Pike Recreation Area, (2) Little Missouri Falls on Forest Road 25, (3) 4 miles west of Little Missouri Falls on Forest Road 25, (4) East of Bard Springs Recreation Area on Forest Road 106. 

This is a very strenuous trip, not recommended for those with no backpacking experience. The trail follows the mountain ridges up and down, and can become muddy, tedious, and slow unless you are in good hiking shape.  I recommend at least 3 days of hiking to complete this loop. A 4 day, 3 night, trek or longer would be ideal to explore and enjoy all that the area has to offer. 

Camping is legal at any point on the trail - there are plenty of gorgeous spots already marked out by former adventurers. Plenty of water is available all throughout the route. The best time for hiking this loop is early or late summer, when it is warm enough to enjoy the cool water but not too hot and muggy.

Although you can begin at any of the trailheads, I recommend beginning this loop at Albert Pike Recreation Area and hiking counter clockwise, following the Little Missouri trail towards Little Missouri Falls. From the trailhead at Albert Pike to the Little Missouri trailhead is 6.3 miles, all the way following the Little Missouri river. The trail is very clearly marked with colored markers on trees. This area of the hike has very little elevation, but multiple water crossings. Check the height and speed of the river with the rangers office before you go - at any point the river can rise and might be too dangerous to cross. There are crossing at mile 2.5 and 4.5.

From Little Missouri trailhead, continue to follow the river for about 4 miles until you reach the next parking area on Forest Road 25. From there you turn south onto the Athens Big Fork Trail. From here it is a 5 mile hike, crossing over 4 ridges (the best view is at Hurricane Knob, via a small side trail after and excruciating first climb out of the river valley) before reaching another parking area (and amazing camping spots) at Blaylock Creek. This stretch is the hardest of the loop, as you ascend up and down the mountain ridges.

After Blaylock Creek, continue south, climbing back up towards Brushheap Mountain and Eagle Rock vista for the best views of the trip. From Eagle Rock Vista (via a short .4 mile side trail), you can see the almost the whole Ouachita range and spot plenty of Eagles and Hawks hovering in the wind. 

Once you descend after Eagle Rock, take the Vile's Branch Trail, eastward back towards the Missouri river. From Blaylock Creek to Viles Branch is about 3.2 miles. Multiple creek crossings on this part of the trail provide great spots either for camping or relaxing for a meal in the shade by the cool water. 

After 3.5 miles, the Viles Branch trail will connect back with the Little Missouri trail. The river opens up to several gorgeous swimming holes, multiple river crossings, and the "Winding Stairs", a trail climbing back out of the river valley. The Winding Stair area offers the best swimming and camping spots on the trip. From there, continue on the Little Missouri Trail until you reach your car back at Albert Pike Recreation Area. 

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Tags

Camping
Fishing
Swimming
Backpacking
Hiking
Forest
River
Scenic
Cliff Jumping
Swimming Hole

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

Awesome trails

This was my first hiking trip and it was an amazing challenge for me, my friend and Son. We will be going back. It’s beautiful!! Highly recommended.

Great hike with bunch of water

Awesome and challenging hike with a ton of water crossings

đŸ¥ˆ Contributor

about 2 years ago

Run it!

Ditch the backpack and run it in a day!

Eagle Rock Loop

A great 27 mile loop. Lots of river crossings and a narrow valley, watch for flash flooding.

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