“An easy hike with great scenery in the Ozark National Forest. Less than 70 miles from Branson, MO”
On Monday morning we made the 67 mile drive to Alum Cove Natural Bridges from Hollister, MO. Although I have an annual National Parks Pass, there is no entrance fee in the Ozark National Forest. From Jasper, AR, take AR-327 south for almost 20 miles. Then you make a left turn on a gravel road, Road 184, and it’s just a few hundred yards to the parking lot and trailhead. The turn is well marked.
The parking area has a group picnic pavilion, a bathroom, and bear-safe trash receptacles. The trail starts to the left as you’re facing the bathroom building from the parking lot. It’s a dirt trail but kept brush-free and there’s only one way to go. Be sure to wear sturdy shoes as you will be crossing some slippery stone steps along the way. My big dog was taught the “wait” command when she was less than a year old, after I suffered some decomposed granite road rash while hiking on part of the Pacific Crest Trail when she wanted to run. This came in very handy here because she was anxious to go fast and some of the stone steps are very slippery.
There are two running creeks where your dogs can drink if you are ok with that. I did bring bottled water with me but they enjoyed the fresh water. We passed two other hiking parties coming back while we were going down. When there are heat warnings and high humidity in Arkansas, you want to finish strenuous activities early. The natural bridges is just a very short hike down the hill and is a great place for photo ops. If you continue along the trail, you will come to bluffs with caves throughout. This is also not a very long walk but it’s downhill from the parking lot. We didn’t take the loop all the way around but if you do, the map states that it’s 1.2 miles from start to finish.
We finished our trip with lunch at the picnic pavilion, where another couple and their dog where also having lunch, before we headed back home. According to hiking trail websites, this is a less used recreation area so you may have the whole place to yourself, depending on when you go.