Whitaker Point Trail also known as Hawksbill Crag is one of the most popular hiking trails in North West Arkansas, for good reason!
It’s an easy to moderate 3-mile (out and back) scenic hike that ends at one of the most photographed points in Arkansas, Hawksbill Crag. Hawksbill Crag is is a cliff-hanging overlooking the Ozark National Forest with breathtaking views.
In this comprehensive guide, I’ll be reviewing everything from trail stats, parking, and directions, wildlife, and everything in between!
Whitaker Point Trail (Hawksbill Crag) Trail Snapshot
|Hiking Distance||1.4 miles one way (2.9 miles out and back)|
|Difficulty||Easy to moderate (4 out of 10)|
|Duration||1 to 3 hours round trip|
|Trail Type||Out and back|
|Starting Elevation||Just under 2200′|
|Seasons||Year-round (best views in spring or fall)|
|Dogs||Allowed on leash|
|Nearest Towns||Ponca, AR (about 30 min drive time), Fallsville, AR (about 50 min drive time), Jasper, AR (about 55 min drive time)|
|Fayetteville Drive Time||About 1 hour and 35 min|
|Activities||Hiking, photography, picnicking, bird watching|
|Trail Map||AllTrails Trail Map|
Whitaker Point (Hawksbill Crag) Trail Location
The trailhead for the trail to Hawksbill Crag is in Kingston, Arkansas, in Newton County. It’s located along the northern edge of the Upper Buffalo Wilderness Area in the Ozark National Forest.
Whitaker Point Trailhead is off County Road 5. This road is an unpaved, steep, upward, and winding climb.
There are two main roads that approach County Road 5, Highway 21 from the north or Highway 16 from the southwest. The route coming from Highway 21 is a bit steeper and more brutal. It’s recommended to have a truck or 4×4 car to make it up the hill. However, we were in a front-wheel drive Honda Accord and made it up with just a slight bit of struggle near the base. The conditions were good on the day we went though. Either way you take is about a 20-minute drive up a dirt and gravel road.
Directions Coming from Ponca/Boxley Valley: Take Highway 43 south to Highway 21 and continue going south for about 1.2 miles. Right before the Boxley Bridge that crosses Buffalo River, turn right onto an unpaved road called Cave Mountain Road/ County Road 5. You’ll be on this for about 5.8 miles.
The road is very narrow in places, and it is steeper at the base but then does level off towards the top. After about 5.5 miles, you’ll reach a cemetery and a church on the right. About a half-mile past that you’ll be at the parking area.
Note: I had no cell service in the surrounding area for about 20-30 minutes so if you are unfamiliar with the area, make sure to download the map for directions there and back or bring a print map.
The parking area is small and fills up fast, especially on weekends. This is a very popular trail. We went midday during the week and the lot was full, people were parked on the side of the road. You may be ticketed for parking on the side of the road, so I don’t recommend this. The trailhead is on the opposite side of the road from the parking area.
Hiking Whitaker Point Trail to Hawksbill Crag
Whitaker Point Trailhead
The trailhead is on the opposite side of the road from the parking area and sign for the trail. It’s marked with a large rock that commemorates former Arkansas Governor Dale Bumpers.
The trail is heavily trafficked making it easy to follow. We went on a Tuesday afternoon in late October and there were quite a few people hiking with us.
The trail starts off with a descent before eventually leveling off.
After about a mile, you’ll come to a wet-weather stream. Since we were there in October it was pretty dry, but you could still tell it was a creek.
At the stream, there’s a fork. Both directions lead to the picturesque crag.
If the water is flowing, the trail to the right leads to a waterfall called Haley Falls. This direction hugs the bluff line for some amazing views and rock formations.
The trail to the left ascends deeper into the forest further from the bluff line.
The rest of the hike past the creek is quite scenic and there are plenty of places to stop and have a picnic or sit and enjoy the beautiful views of the Ozark National Forest.
As you approach Whitaker Point, there is a little outlook to get the iconic picture of the crag. Travel a little farther to get to the crag and your efforts will be rewarded with striking views of Upper Buffalo Wilderness Area.
To get back, you simply follow the trail back the way you came. You cannot go further past Hawksbill Crag since this leads to private property.
Remember, the trail out has a steep descent at the beginning so you will have to climb the hill at the end on the way back. I personally did not think it was too bad, but my almost 70-year-old mom (with a bad knee) would disagree and say it was tough but doable!
Word of Caution
Be extra cautious doing this hike. While the views are entrancing, they do come with a risk. This trail hugs the bluff line with rocky areas and steep drop-offs. A fall would be fatal.
While the trail is dog friendly (on leash), I would recommend keeping a dog that pulls hard and chases critters at home for this one. Use extreme caution and keep a watchful eye on kids.
What to Bring
This hike is short and relatively easy but here are some ideas of what to bring, so you’re prepared for your hike.
- Water: as a registered dietitian I always recommend bringing water on any hike, no matter the length. Hydration is so important!
- Snacks or lunch: If you eat a solid meal with carbohydrate and protein right before this hike, you probably won’t need a snack or another meal until after, but I always recommend bringing a “just in case” snack. It would also be fun to bring a picnic lunch and have a meal with view. Just remember, always take out what you brought in!
- Sunscreen and sunglasses: depending on the time of year, the sun can be strong in Arkansas, and you don’t want to ruin a fun day with a sunburn.
- A map or GPS device: While the trail is well-traveled and easy to follow, it can be handy to have a map. I had no cell service on this trail, so download your trail map before starting or bring a hard copy.
- Hiking gear: the trail is pretty rocky in some areas, so a stable hiking shoe or hiking boots are recommended. Although if you’re fairly athletic, you could get by with a good pair of sneakers.
- First aid kit and bug spray: this is a must for any hike!
Quick Tips and Fun Facts about Whitaker Point (Hawksbill Crag)
- The trail can get busy. If you want to avoid crowds, go early or later in the day, or go on a weekday.
- There is no bathroom at the trailhead.
- Hawksbill Crag is infamous in Arkansas. It’s won accolades for being the most beautiful place in Arkansas, the most romantic spot, most photographed location, and the best place for a wedding proposal!
- Drones are not allowed. No drones are allowed in the Upper Buffalo Wilderness Area.
- Hawksbill crag was featured in the opening scene of the Disney movie Tuck Everlasting.
- It’s extra beautiful in the fall and spring. While you can’t go wrong visiting any time of year, it’s even more breath taking in the spring when the wildflowers are blooming or in the fall with the colorful foliage.
- It’s the only designated hiking trail in the Upper Buffalo Wilderness Area.
Flora and Fauna
There’s mostly old ash, walnut, and oak trees with a few beech trees spread out along the trail.
Spring is the best time for wildflowers. Keep an eye out for wild iris, Indian Paintbrush, and Jack-in-the-Pulpit.
For more information on wildflowers in Upper Buffalo Wilderness Area, check out National Park Service.
There are more than 250 bird species in this region of the Upper Buffalo Wilderness Area. Depending on the time of year you visit, you can expect to see:
- Wild turkeys
- Turkey cultures
- Broad-winged hawks
- Yellow throated warblers
- Tufted titmouse
- Cedar waxwings
- Dark-eyed juncos
For more info on birds and wild life in the area check out this National Wild Life Federation Blog Post.
The Upper Buffalo Wilderness Area is home to white-tailed deer, black bears, beavers, foxes, skunks, opossums and many more. However, this trail is pretty busy and most critters tend to stay away from people so you likely won’t come across many animals.
Check out the Upper Buffalo River Association for more about the wildlife in the Upper Buffalo Wilderness Area.
Protecting the Trail
As always, leave the trail better than you found it! Follow the seven principles of Leave No Trace and learn how to apply them to your visit to the Buffalo National Wilderness Area.
Other Hikes Near Whitaker Point (Hawksbill Crag)
If the Whitaker Point Trail doesn’t satisfy your hiking needs for the day, there are plenty of over trails nearby.
- Kings River Falls Trail: This is an easy 1.8 mile out and back trail (0.9 miles one way) located near Witter, Arkansas. This trail follows along the Kings River and ends with a scenic shelf waterfall that flows into a swimming hole.
- Glory Hole Waterfall Trail: This is an easy to moderate 1.8 mile out and back trail (0.9 miles one way) located near Deer, Arkansas. The trail follows a creek with a few picturesque cascades along the way before reaching the unique Glory Holes Falls.
- Pedestal Rocks Loop / Kings Bluff Loop Trails: Pedestal Rocks Loop Trail is a moderate 2.4 mile loop trail that features interesting rock formations and caves. Kings Bluff Loop Trail is a moderate 1.8 mile loop with scenic overlooks and one of Arkansas’ tallest waterfalls! These trails are located near Pelsor, Arkansas.
- Hemmed-In Hollow Trail: This is a difficult 5 mile out and back (2.5 miles one way) trail near Compton, Arkansas. This is a challenging and steep trail with lots of loose rocks that features a 209 foot waterfall.
Hoping to spend a few days near Whitaker Point Trail so you can explore the area and other trails? There are plenty of options!
Camping and Cabins
There is dispersed camping near Hawksbill Crag or an array of campsites nearby.
Hotels and Airbnb
There are plenty of Bed and Breakfasts and Airbnbs in Jasper that are just a short drive to Whitaker Point Trailhead.
If you prefer a hotel, you’ll be staying a little further out in Harrison, Clarksville, or Eureka Springs. If you want more of a city vibe, Fayetteville is about an hour and a half drive from Whitaker Point Trailhead and is definitely a doable day trip!
Whitaker Point (Hawksbill Crag) FAQs
2.9 miles out and back
Easy to moderate (4 out 10)
1-3 hours out and back (it took us 2 hours going at a leisurely pace and stopping to enjoy the views!)
Over 150 feet. Be VERY careful!
There is dispersed camping near Hawksbill Crag or here are campsites nearby.
The trail is very popular and can get busy. To avoid crowds, go early or late in the day or on a weekday.
All year round but the trail and views are extra spectacular in the spring and fall.
Yes on a leash. If your dog is the type to chase critters and pull hard, I advise leaving them at home as there are some steep drop-offs along the way.
Yes, but keep a very watchful eye on them.
Co Rd 406, Kingston, AR 72742
2 thoughts on “Whitaker Point Trail (Hawksbill Crag) [The Ultimate Hiker’s Guide]”
I love all the information you provide with each trail. This looks like a great picturesque hiking adventure with a knowledgeable guide!
Thank you- it was a great hike!