Cove Lake is a scenic recreation area in the Magazine District of the Ozark National Forest, near Paris. It has camping, boating, swimming, fishing, and two hiking trails: Cove Lake Trail and Lookout Window Trail. This hike involves both trails.
The first part of the hike is on the Cove Lake Trail. I started at the main trailhead at the northwest corner of the lake. The trailhead parking is right off of Highway 309 on the north side of dam.
The Cove Lake Trail is a roughly 3-mile trail (the trail part, anyway) that makes nearly a complete loop around the lake. This hike takes a detour from most of the north side of the trail for the Lookout Window Trail.
The trail part of this hike is 3.7 miles. After that there is about .7 miles of road walking to complete the loop for a total of 4.4 miles.
The Mount Magazine Trail begins in Mount Magazine State Park on the north rim of Arkansas’s highest mountain. It ends at Cove Lake in the Ozark National Forest, 9.8 miles to the north.
This is a point-to-point hike, but with three trailheads, there is plenty of flexibility in how it is hiked.
Getting to the Cameron Bluff Trailhead
Our hike starts at the Cameron Bluff trailhead on the road to the scenic vistas. Coming in from Highway 309, go west at the road to the lodge and campgrounds. About a mile further, you can either turn left to go to the lodge or turn right to go to the trailhead. Turning right, you will pass a one-way road coming in from the right (no entry), pass the Cameron Bluff campground on your right (and Signal Hill Trail on your left), and then a one-way road to the right. This is your turn.
The black top road is Overlook Drive and will pass three scenic turnouts. The fourth one has a short driveway with a stone CCC shelter at the end.
This is a good place to organize your gear because about a hundred feet down Overlook Drive is the Mt Magazine trail.
Arkansas has earned the reputation as “The Natural State” because of the beautiful natural sites around the state. And as a part of this reputation, Arkansas has established an outstanding state park system that is diverse in the natural beauty they provide.
Mount Nebo State Park
One of the crown jewels of the state park system is Mount Nebo State Park. The park was established in 1935. Many of the trails and cabins date were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), part of President Roosevelt’s “New Deal” during the Great Depression.
The park is located seven miles west of Dardanelle on Highway 155. You can get there by taking Highway 7 south, through Russellville and Dardanelle, making a brief right onto Highway 22, and then turning left on Highway 155. (Follow the signs to the park.)
Highway 155 up Mount Nebo is very steep and very curvy. (Don’t bring a long trailer.)
At the top of the mountain, there are campsites, cabins that can be rented, private residences, a pool, tennis courts, playground equipment, a basketball court, and a great little visitor center with several snakes on hand, so you can learn about the native species.
You may also catch the sight of hang gliders from the visitor center as it is a frequent launch point.
The park also offers 360-degree views of the countryside which also means fantastic views of the sunrise and sunset (at sites aptly named “Sunrise Point” and “Sunset Point”).
Mount Nebo Hiking Trails
The park boasts over 14 miles of hiking trails, all of which connect in ways that can make for a wide variety of routes, distances, and difficulty levels.
Since winter snow is relatively infrequent in much of Arkansas (although we have had more than average this winter), I get excited about the chance to go out walking on a trail in the snow or just to get the chance to take pictures of the woods with a layer of freshly fallen snow.
One great opportunity for this I had was back on February 8 when I hiked the Benefield East Loop Trail at Mount Magazine. There were several inches of snow on the ground and a layer of ice in many places under that.
In this post, I have more photos from my hike. (Click photo for larger view.) These were all taken on the mostly bluff line part of the loop that is south of Highway 309. It is probably the most scenic part of the trail.