Whether you’re new to hiking with your baby or toddler, or you’re looking for a new trail to explore, the Hike it Baby community is a valuable resource for finding family hiking trails around the country. In this article, we share three beautiful hikes in Arkansas to explore with babies and young children.
Hiking with young children (under 5 years old) is different from hiking with school-age children. These three hikes in Arkansas offer families of young children beautiful trails to explore while considering the unique ways young children hike, wander, doddle and explore. While there are thousands of trails to explore in Arkansas, our local Hike it Baby branches recommend these three hikes that are close to metro areas, accessible by all-terrain strollers and beautiful to explore with young children.
Falls Branch Trail, Lake Catherine State Park (Hot Springs, AR)
Nestled in the Ouachita Mountains on the 1,940-acre Lake Catherine is Falls Branch Trail. The trail has a trifecta of water access, varied hiking terrain (moderate climbs, rocks and bridge crossings), and a two-mile, toddler-friendly loop. The waterfall is best during the rainy season and even more fun for kids to play under. However, if you hike in fall or winter, you can expect it to be dry. While most of the trail and park is relatively friendly for young children, there are a few elevation changes along the trail that include steps, rocks or drop-offs to the creek. The hike starts off winding through the pine forest of the park and crosses Little Canyon Creek several times before arriving at the falls. After a break at the falls, pause to take in the view of the lake and travel across the cool swinging foot bridge. Learn more about the trail in the Family Trail Guide.
- Pack a picnic and either before or after your hike, plan to take a break at the picnic area that is conveniently located near the car and the trailhead.
- The State Park offers a campground with hookup sites, a group primitive tent area and yurts and is close to Lake Catherine. There is also a full ADA-compliant cabin right on the waterfront for families needing wheelchair accommodation.
- Remember to pack bug spray to ward off ticks and mosquitos.
- Bring extra diapers, shoes and clothing to change into after playing in the creek and waterfall.
Even though Arkansas is landlocked, we locals love water. What’s great about this trail is it’s only a short hour and 15 minutes from the center of Little Rock. In summer months, the Arkansas heat and humidity can be a challenge all across the state, but there is no reward for hiking greater than a dip in the cool water just below the falls. –Stefie Gold
Yellow Rock Trail, Devil’s Den State Park (West Fork, AR)
Located in Northwest Arkansas, Devil’s Den State Park is a 2,500-acre park that houses historic facilities and trails that were constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s. The park offers miles of hiking with varying distances, and each trail offers a unique landscape for nonstop exploration. Yellow Rock Trail is a popular 3-mile semi-loop that takes you up to the popular Yellow Rock Overlook. The trailhead is located near the campground and goes past some amazing rock formations that showcase the geology of the Ozarks, with crevices cut into the multi-layered rock walls. The trail goes under overhanging rocks and along cliffs that aren’t very deep (although you’ll still want to keep an eye on the youngest hikers) before bringing you through cedar glades. At the fork, you can head left for a .3-mile hike up to the CCC Overlook pavilion before coming back and taking the trail toward the Yellow Rock Overlook, which offers a panoramic view of Lee Creek Valley. Fall is the best time to visit as the valley is ablaze in bright fall colors, so you’ll want to follow along with local weather blogs to keep abreast of peak fall times so you plan your visit and enjoy the fall foliage. See more photos of the trail in the Family Trail Guide.
- There are no fences or guardrails at the Yellow Rock Overlook, so please take caution to keep everyone in your party at a safe distance from the jutting rocks.
- Bring plenty of water and pack a snack as both overlooks are great options for taking a snack and water break.
- Make a weekend of it – stay in the park and enjoy the amenities like the year-round cafe and store, and cool down in the summers at the pool after a hard day of hiking. There are rustic and full-service cabins as well as over 100 campsites.
Even though it is an uphill hike to the Overlook, the varying landscape broke the monotony of the hike for the kiddos. Walking under the overhanging rocks felt like we were in an epic movie, and it brings a strong sense of appreciation for nature and its ability to withstand time. At one point, my 11-year-old daughter hiked ahead, and when we caught up with her, she was standing off to the side gazing out at the valley below. At that moment, I felt we were doing something right to bring our kids out into nature so they can find their peace and quiet in an overstimulating world. –Vong Hamilton
Devil’s Den Trail, Devil’s Den State Park (West Fork, AR)
Just across the creek from Yellow Rock Trail is Devil’s Den Trail. It’s a 1.3-mile loop that offers varying terrain of dirt and stones and a different gradient throughout on stone stairs. Even as short as the hike is, the trail offers beautiful scenery with caves, moss-covered rock formations, waterfalls and an unforgettable magical experience in the dry riverbed. The trail takes you past caves that are no longer open to the public in order to protect the bats that inhabit the area. But if you stand in front of the crevices, you can feel the sudden burst of cool air that flows through the rock formations and cave openings. On a hot and humid Arkansas summer day, this is a welcome treat. While most of the trail is safe, parents need to stay in front of littles and watch for drop-offs. There are bridge crossings that pass by moss-covered rocks where gentle waterfalls cascade down into the creek below during the rainy season. Once you reach the creek, you’ll spot all the cairns that have been built by previous hikers in the dry riverbed. Kids enjoy this portion of the hike and can stay for quite a while, so make sure you get settled in for a comfortable long break. See more photos of the trail in the Family Trail Guide.
- Bring bug spray to protect from mosquitos and ticks.
- If you enter from the trailhead at the Welcome Center, you’ll want to head right when you reach the fork. If you come in from the main trailhead parking lot, at the fork, take a left. Going right will take you out to the Welcome Center and cost you some hiking time.
- Due to the rocky trail, unfortunately it’s not stroller- or wheelchair-accessible.
- When you get done, head over to the playground, and if the creek water level is low, take time to explore Lee Creek Trail, which takes you through the valley by way of the creek bed. This is a good spot for kids to play in the rocks and get in some water play.
This hike was short, but felt much longer (or perfect) with all the opportunities for exploring the diverse landscape. Just when your “play break” ends and you continue on your hike, you turn the corner and there’s another feature worth more of your time. Even we, as parents, found ourselves oohing and aahing the entire hike. Although the caves are closed to protect the local bat population, reading about them is still fascinating. My favorite part of the hike was the dry riverbed filled with nearly a hundred cairns. It’s not something you see every day, so it was magical for the entire family. –Vong Hamilton
MORE RESOURCES FOR FAMILIES WITH YOUNG CHILDREN
Arkansas offers an abundance of trails for families with young children. For more family hike ideas, see:
- Hike it Baby calendar (or connect with the local branch)
- Hike it Baby Family Trail Guide
- Arkansas State Parks
- Hike it Baby: 100 Awesome Outdoor Adventures with Babies and Toddlers – New Book by Hike it Baby Founder Shanti Hodges
If you’re traveling through West Virginia and need more information or recommendations on trails or would like to join a group hike, the nearest Hike it Baby branch is Central Arkansas. And whether you’re looking for something local or want to squeeze in a hike during a road trip, the Hike it Baby Family Trail Guide is a great resource for finding the perfect trail for your family.
- 3 Amazing Tennessee trails for families with young children
- 3 Trails to explore in Missouri with young children
- 3 Memorable hikes in Colorado for families with young children
- 3 Kid-friendly trails in Kansas for young children
What are your favorite hikes in Washington for families with babies, toddlers and young children? Leave a comment below!
Falls Branch Trail review and photo contributed by Stefie Gold. Yellow Rock Trail and Devil’s Cave Trail reviews and photos by Vong Hamilton.