Perfect Fall Road Trip: Camp & Hike to Hawksbill Crag in the Ozarks

Are you interested in hiking to the famous Whitaker Point (Hawksbill Crag) or visiting Buffalo National River National Park in Arkansas? Keep reading to learn how you can plan and experience an epic fall weekend hiking Whitaker Point Trail to the famous Hawksbill Crag along with camping at Buffalo National River National Park.

The Arkansas Ozarks are full of spectacular outdoor adventures! Plan a memorable fall weekend and continue reading to find out more about where to camp and how to hike to Whitaker Point in the Ozark National Forest.

Whitaker Point, Arkansas

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Plan a Weekend Camping & Hiking in Northwest Arkansas

If you don’t live close to the Whitaker Point Trailhead to hike to the Hawksbill Crag, this post is for you!

Plan an overnight camping trip at Steel Creek Campground in Buffalo National River. The next day, drive to the Whitaker Point trailhead to hike Hawksbill Crag.

This post was written for an adventure during fall, but you can do this anytime. We think adventuring in the Ozarks during fall is the best season. There are fewer bugs, and it is not as hot and humid. If this post finds you during other seasons, spring and winter are just as lovely!

Arkansas Ozarks Southern Fall Camping

One of the best parts about living in the Southern U.S. is the long autumn. You can easily camp into November, which is so fun for Pablo and me coming from living in Colorado! Fall camping in Arkansas means enjoying warmer days, crisp nights, and breathtaking fall foliage.

Visiting the northwest Arkansas Ozarks during the fall is one of our favorite mountain escapes close to Tulsa, Oklahoma.

We heard fantastic things about hiking the famous Whitaker Point Trail (a.k.a. Hawksbill Crag) and camping at Buffalo National River. When we finally went, it was awesome! We wanted to share the details with you!

Keep reading to plan your weekend getaway hiking Whitaker Point Trail and find out how to experience the famous Hawksbill Crag!

Exploring Buffalo National River National Park

Buffalo National River bluffs

Did you know Buffalo National River is one of the few rivers in the U.S. with no dams? I did not know this but thought it was an interesting piece of information.

As stated by the National Park Service, Buffalo National River is touted as America’s First National River.

Majestic bluffs surround the clear mountain-water river.

 The area is packed full of outdoor recreation opportunities, including:

  • Hiking
  • Camping
  • Floating the River
  • Kayaking
  • Nature photography
  • History tours
  • Stargazing
  • Wildlife watching
  • Horseback riding

Cool fact about visiting – there are no entry fees to get into Buffalo National River.

Buffalo National River is dog-friendly as well. Dog-friendly parks are vital to us because we have Sunny, the All-Terrain Chihuahua Dog (ATD)!

Camping at Steel Creek Campground in Buffalo National River

Buffalo National River

Since we wanted to hike to the famous Whitaker Point, we found a campsite close to the trailhead.

There is no formal camping near Whitaker Point Trail.

We camped at Steel Creek Campground, which is roughly 40 minutes from the Whitaker Point Trailhead.

Here are the directions to get to Steel Creek Campground from the National Park Service.

Steel Creek Campground in Buffalo National River Details

Steel Creek Campground

To guarantee a spot reserve ahead of time on Reserving a campsite ahead of time is a great option, especially if you drive from far away (like we were).

Steel Creek Campground is tent and horse trailer friendly only. Sorry folks… no RVs. The road into the campground is windy and steep too.

There are flushing toilets, sinks with running water, and water spigots for freshwater. The campground does not have showers or electricity – no lights in the restrooms (don’t forget your headlamp)!

It costs $20/night to camp.

Each campsite is equipped with a picnic table, fire ring, fire ring grate, and lantern holder.

Campsites are flat and mostly in the grass. There are trails close by to access the river. Beautiful views of the bluffs. Oh, and an incredible view of the night sky and stars! It is pitch dark. Just perfect for stargazing...

Need ideas on what to pack for a simple camp kitchen? Check out our post on the ultimate simple camp kitchen essentials.

Important Information Before Going to Buffalo National River

Some important information to know, especially if you are not from the area:

  • There is no cell phone reception.
  • Make sure you have directions saved ahead of time since there is no cell phone reception.
  • Places are well marked with signs. Keep your eyes peeled for signs.
  • Apple maps does not provide directions to Steel Creek Campground.
  • Google maps will get you to Steel Creek Campground.
  • The turn-off to Steel Creek Campground is obvious from AR-74; you can’t miss it.
  • There is no entrance fee to Buffalo National River.
  • Dogs are allowed at Buffalo National River with leash requirements.
  • Oh… and there are four kinds of poisonous snakes in the area (stay aware).
  • Clean up camp at night before hitting the sack to protect the wildlife in the area. Black bears and raccoons love to look for delicious treats. I heard the raccoons foraging around the tent around 1:00 am!

Next up, how to access the Whitaker Point Trailhead and go hiking! Yippie!

Hiking Whitaker Point Trail to Hawksbill Crag Overlook

Whitaker Point is a famous Arkansas icon. You might have even seen the Crag in the movie Tuck Everlasting. It is a world-class destination for nature photography.

Also known as Hawksbill Crag, the Crag majestically jets out to the open valley below. The view of the Crag and from the Crag is incredible and something words can’t quite articulate. You can feel its power and beauty. The view inspires awe of nature’s grandness.

Make sure to enjoy the end of the trail and Crag before heading back so you can soak it all in. Pack snacks and water. Enjoy yourself.

How to Get to Whitaker Point Trailhead from Steel Creek Campground

If you stayed the night at Steel Creek Campground, you’ll go back out to AR-74 and head towards Boxley, Arkansas (turn right coming out of the campground entrance).

Follow AR-74 to the AR-43 Junction, which seems to just turn into AR-21.

There will be a highway bridge crossing for the Buffalo National River. The turn-off to get on the county (dirt) road leading to Whitaker Point Trailhead is right before you go over this bridge. There is a sign indicating access for Whitaker Point Trailhead.

Plan to have 4WD because the dirt road is STEEP.

Down the dirt road, you’ll drive about 25 minutes to get to the trailhead.

From Steel Creek Campground to the Whitaker Point Trailhead is about 40 minutes.

Apple maps will get you to the trailhead, and so will Google maps. Cell phone reception is hit and miss, though!

Whitaker Point Arkansas Map from Steel Creek Campground

Where to Park at the Whitaker Point (Hawksbill Crag) Trailhead

The trailhead is marked. It will be on your left side (when driving up the mountain).

Try to get to the trailhead early. There is parking, but overflow means you’ll have to park along the dirt road.

We hiked on a Friday morning, and the trail was actually pretty busy. We heard weekends are busy, especially in the fall, since it is such a wonderful hike.

There are no restrooms at the trailhead.

How Long Does it Take to Hike Whitaker Point (Hawksbill Crag)?

The trail is about 3 miles round trip. We stopped for pictures, and it took roughly 2 hours to hike.

There is a waterfall (about halfway). The trail will split, and you’ll see where you can hike a little lower to see a waterfall. It loops so you can’t go wrong if you stay on the trail.

The cliff views along the way are spectacular!

Where is the Hawksbill Crag?

Hawksbill Crag is at the end of the trail before the trail ends (and you turn around). You will see the famous Crag jetting out from the mountainside. You will know once you make it to the Crag because the views are incredible!

Whitaker Point (Hawksbill Crag) Trail Map

Careful Hiking the Hawksbill Trail in Arkansas

There are massive cliffs; know where you are stepping. Stay on the trail for your safety.

Practice the seven principles from Leave No Trace for outdoor recreation etiquette and environmental protection.

Hiking Gear for Safety and Comfort

Trekking Poles

We like hiking with trekking poles. Trekking poles provide extra balance. I’m a big fan of Leki carbon trekking poles available on Amazon. They have an excellent warranty and helpful customer service.

I have had my poles for at least 13 years. They are super durable and light.

Hiking Boots

I’m also a big fan of mid-top hiking boots for support and ankle safety!

This year, I decided to try out the Oboz brand from Bozeman, Montana. Super excited about the mid-top Oboz has come out with for women like the boots below. So far, I love them. They are soft but seem durable and supportive.

The husband has had his Merrell Moab 2 Vent Hiking Shoes for at least seven years and totally digs them.

Enjoy Your Trip!

Overlook on the Crag

Whitaker point in Arkansas was such a beautiful adventure. Seeing the famous Hawksbill Crag was awesome! We met so many lovely people on our trip – lots of folks visiting from Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, Missouri, and Oklahoma.

We hope getting out to the woods and smiling with strangers inspires happiness in your life.

Make wonderful memories. You deserve it.

Happy Campin’ and Hikin’!

Ashlee & Pablo

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Ashlee Fechino

Ashlee Fechino is an outdoor recreation writer and founder of The Happiness Function based in Oklahoma. Her goal is to help inspire people to build a life they love by sharing how simple and fun it is to travel locally, connect with nature, and explore off-the-beaten-path. You don't have to spend a lot of money or use a ton of vacation time to explore close to home. Ashlee holds a BS degree in Biology and MS in Environmental Policy & Sustainability and has a passion for the outdoors. She is married to an expat Argentine, Pablo! They camp in their Aliner often and love road trips and hiking.


  1. Cristina Sala on November 9, 2020 at 7:59 am

    Hola Ashlee estoy viendo la caminata otoñal del fin de semana a Arkansas Ozarks. Indudablemente son paisajes unicos . El Rio Nacional Buffalo. La vista increible desde el peñon, seguramente las palabras no pueden expresar tanta belleza.
    Y creo que el lugar debe aumentar su belleza y colorido en el otoño.
    Y tan cercano al lugar de vivencia de ustedes
    Abrazo enorme a los dos y a Sunny

    • Ashlee Fechino on November 11, 2020 at 6:23 pm

      ¡Hola Cristina! Gracias por leer nuestra publicación. Nosotros realmente lo apreciamos. ¡Espero que estés teniendo un hermoso día en Argentina junto al mar! Abrazos

      Hi Cristina! Thanks for reading our post. We really appreciate it. Hope you are having a beautiful day in Argentina by the sea! Hugs

  2. Joanna on November 21, 2020 at 11:25 am

    The hike look so pretty, those views are outstanding, especially with the autumn colors. As a hiking lover, I would definitely enjoy doing this trail. I probably wouldn’t want to spend the night in a tent though, taking in consideration that there are bears roaming around haha

    • Ashlee Fechino on November 21, 2020 at 12:35 pm

      Hi Joanna! Thanks for stopping by. Whitaker Point is super famous in Arkansas. It’s a must see. We didn’t see any signs of black bears. Wasn’t concerned at all!!

  3. Josy A on November 21, 2020 at 2:27 pm

    Wooah that is so cool that you can keep camping into November! It is waaaay too cold around here to do that! The weather still looks beautiful and warm in November.

    The hike to Whitaker Point looks like the perfect way to spend a couple of hours as well. I would want to take a jumping photo on the crag. 🙂

    • Ashlee Fechino on November 21, 2020 at 3:56 pm

      Hi Josy! Yes, super fun to camp all the way into November. It was in the 70s up until yesterday – still wearing shorts here! Not like when we lived in Colorado.. haha.. Thanks for stopping by! Nice to see you!

  4. Tiffany Smith on November 21, 2020 at 3:14 pm

    I love hearing about dog friendly campgrounds and hikes!!! Your dog looks adorable 🙂 Glad you got to enjoy a weekend away!

    • Ashlee Fechino on November 21, 2020 at 4:02 pm

      Hi Tiffany! Thanks for stopping by today! Yes, it is important to be able to take our little dog adventuring. A lot of National Parks dogs can’t be on the trails… We call him the ATD (all terrain dog). One time we were hiking Mt. Sopris outside of Aspen and had him in a baby sling and someone asked if he was a kangaroo. Ha! Good stuff. Love the pic of your dog too. Super cuuuute!

  5. Rachel Hall on November 21, 2020 at 5:00 pm

    Two of my favourite things are camping and hiking. This place looks stunning and I love how you’ve included lots of fun things to do in the area. I like the idea of stargazing and floating in the river! Thanks for this!

    • Ashlee Fechino on November 22, 2020 at 10:12 am

      Hi Rachel – thanks for stopping by! You would love this place to stargaze and float the river! Add it to the bucket list.

  6. Rachel Ennis on November 24, 2020 at 9:06 am

    I love fall hiking and camping. The colours look amazing here and there is good elevation, so you can really see those trees. Interested to hear it is a dog-friendly trail, sometimes dog-friendly walks can be hard to come by.

    • Ashlee Fechino on November 24, 2020 at 10:22 am

      Hi Rachel – thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment! Yes, fall hiking is THE BEST… especially with dogs! 😉

  7. Helga on November 28, 2020 at 2:51 am

    Wow… Such a picturesque place!

    • Ashlee Fechino on November 28, 2020 at 10:27 am

      Hi Helga! Thanks for stopping by.