I recently moved to Arkansas for work, and since my move, I have made it my mission to hike as much as possible. Recently, I was passing through Russellville, Arkansas when I decided to take a small detour to hike the Rim Trail on Mount Nebo.
Unlike Pinnacle Mountain, Mount Nebo does not have a trail to hike to the summit (see Hiking Pinnacle Mountain in Central Arkansas) . Instead, you drive up to the summit and there are trails that circle around the mountain. The drive up the mountain contains many steep and sharply turning switchbacks.
Lodging & Camping on Mount Nebo
Because of the steep curvy road up Mount Nebo, trailers longer than 24ft are not allowed on the road. Even if you take a shorter trailer, the road can be a bit hairy! There are 34 campsites (24 Class B and 10 hike-in tent sites).
For those who don’t like roughing it, use the links below to find some great Hotels.com deals in the nearby towns of Dardanelle and Russellville. Any reservations made through our links, means a small commission for us, and it costs you nothing extra!
In the Mount Nebo State Park, there are also cabins that can be reserved. The Rim Trail, which I hiked, has cabins dotted all along the bluff overlooking the river valley. I personally enjoy trails that are more secluded. However, this trail makes up for its lack of seclusion through the overwhelming number of beautiful vistas to enjoy.
Hiking the Rim Trail on Mount Nebo, Arkansas
The Rim Trail circles the summit of the mountain and has varying degrees of difficulty. If at any point the trail becomes too strenuous, there are many places where the trail meets the road. So, you can simply get off the trail and walk along the road back to the visitor center.
The Bench Trail is another trail that circles the mountain roughly 300 ft below the Rim Trail, and the two trails are connected by many smaller trails that traverse up and down the mountain. I choose to hike the Rim Trail because the park rangers told me that it was trail with the best views. The smaller trails provide access to a couple of scenic spots in the park. You can get a free map from the helpful visitor center that details these trails.
Rim Trail Hiking Details
Because the Rim Trail is a 3.5 mile loop, you can start in either direction from the visitor center. I will describe the path I took, going counterclockwise, because that direction will start you with the easiest part of the trail, and it increases with difficulty as you make your way around.
Starting at the visitor center after going down some stairs, you will head left towards Sunset Point. The Rim Trail is marked with yellow blazes. As long as you follow the yellow blazes and signs for the Rim Trail, you should have no trouble staying on the path. Occasionally there are forks in the trail that can be somewhat confusing. For example, shortly after starting the trail, you will see a wide path going off to the right with a sign for the Bench Trail. I did not see a sign for the Rim Trail, but I knew from my map that I needed to stay left. Sure enough, after heading left, I quickly saw a yellow marker. In most cases, when you come across a fork on this trail, you will want to stay left, as going right will send you going down the mountain.
Once you get to Sunset Point, you will get a wonderful view of the Arkansas River and a great panoramic view of the surrounding landscape. There are many benches here that you can relax on. This part of the trail is very easy and flat. You will have a lot of open space to your left and great views to your right. Keep going on the trail from here, and it will get to a more moderate level. There are stairs to climb at this point.
The next point you will arrive at is a cute stone bridge that crosses a stream. When I hiked the trail, there had not been much rain, so the creek was pretty low. It was still pretty scenic nonetheless.
After the stone bridge, you will come to a trail for Lover’s Leap. I would recommend taking this trail as you will find more fantastic views. As you can imagine from the name, you will be on top of a cliff. If you are not too fond of heights, you can still enjoy the view without being right on the edge. This is a good place for taking pictures as there are two points that jut out. So, one person can stand on one outlook to take a picture of the other.
After Lover’s Leap, continue along the trail until you reach Sunrise Point. Between Lover’s Leap and Sunrise Point, there are many additional vistas. This is also the part of the trail that is more secluded and strenuous. You are more likely to see wildlife at this point. So, have your camera ready! While I was there, I saw a few deer and many cool stick bugs.
Once you reach Sunrise Point, you will need to climb the trail upwards to see the view. At the top, there are benches, access to the road, and an amazing view. Both Sunrise and Sunset Point are best viewed at their respective times (sunrise for Sunrise Point and sunset for Sunset Point). However, both offer fantastic views at any time of day. After Sunrise Point, you will encounter more strenuous trail before you are back in the camping area again. You will have to cross the road at one point, and then you will be walking through the campground.
When you reach a pavilion, you will have a great view of the river. The pavilion is the last major point you will pass before making it back to the visitor center.
Have you ever hiked Mount Nebo in the great state of Arkansas? Where is your favorite place to hike in Arkansas? Let us know in the comments!
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Ted WagnonJanuary 13, 2019 12:20 pm
Great little trail. Consider correcting your post in 1 place: upon leaving the visitor center & turning left, you are heading to Sunset Point, not Sunrise as the text states. FWIW, I believe the little Creek you mention is the one that feeds the Gum Springs waterfall; Rim Trail goes just above it & there is a short spur to the fall. If there is water in the creek, it’s worth the detour. Finally, there is another intermittent stream before you reach Sunrise Pt. It has a cascade a bit below the trail — worth finding if you hear its music from the trail. And welcome to AR.