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story.lead_photo.caption NWA Democrat-Gazette/FLIP PUTTHOFF War Eagle Trail at Withrow Springs State Park offers scenic views of the War Eagle River, seen here on Oct. 18 2019. Hikers tackle some climbing as the path meanders high above the stream. Tom Mowry takes in the view of the river.

Hike, eat, repeat. That's the way to spend a day exploring the trails at Withrow Springs State Park.

This 736-acre tract of forests, springs and streams is a sparkling gem in the crown of Arkansas state parks. Withrow Springs is situated 5 miles north of Huntsville on Arkansas 23.

Visit Withrow Springs

Withrow Springs State Park, 5 miles north of Huntsville, offers campsites, picnic areas, three hiking trails, pavilions and a year-round spring. There’s a gift shop at the visitor center. The Ozark trillium, a rare wildflower, grows in the park.

Information: 479-559-2593.

Source: Arkansas State Parks

Camping, picnicking, bird watching, floating and fishing bring in the visitors. The park's three trails are what drew a quartet of hikers to the park with a goal of seeing all three. There's a trail for every one at Withrow Springs.

Forest Trail on the north edge of the park is a flat, easy 2.5-mile hike. That is, after a short climb from the parking area. Dogwood Nature Trail is an up, then down, loop of about three-quarters of a mile.

War Eagle Trail offers a picturesque 2-mile hike with a workout. The path starts out level, then finishes with a lung-buster climb that rates an 8 on the wheezer scale. It's a mile to the top and a mile back to the parking lot to complete.

But there is another way.

One might ask, "Why did the hikers cross the road?"

"To get to the trail on the other side."

Adventurous souls, these four hikers, and others know a path less traveled on the War Eagle Trail that's easy to follow.

War Eagle Trail parking and trailhead is on the west side of Arkansas 23 where the highway crosses the War Eagle River at the south edge of the park. Most hikers go out and back -- a mile to the summit, then back to the trailhead.

On this early autumn visit, the quartet wheezed their way to the top where the park staff has kindly added some wood benches for resting. From the benches, a faint trail curves off to the left, which the hikers followed.

In 100 yards or so, the trail crosses the highway and -- tadah! -- you are now staring at the Dogwood Nature Trail and a large blue sign by the path packed with information about the loop. Here hikers can look off to the left and see the park's indoor pavilion.

Hiking to the right looked most interesting, so the group shuffled along the dirt path on a gradual downhill route. The trail crosses a small stream and keeps going down.

At the bottom, the path leads to an open area beside the paved road through the park. Hikers can keep going to complete the loop via a climb back to the top. But here, too, there's another way.

Spirited debate broke out among the group. Hike some more or eat? Three guesses which won.

The shortest route to their picnic lunch was to walk the half mile along the park road back to the car, with a quick stop to check out the goods at the visitor center. Across the road from the visitor center, a spring spills clear and cold from the base of a low bluff.

Instead of dining at the trailhead, the group drove to a shaded picnic table near the visitor center.

Thick sandwiches loaded with lots of veggies, plus home-baked cookies, fortified the quartet for the finale, an easy 2.5-mile hike of the Forest Trail.

"I thought you said (wheeze wheeze) this trail was flat?," one of the hikers piped, slogging uphill from the trailhead. The climb starts out steep, but it's short. Then the path guides hikers through one of the loveliest pieces of forest in the park.

The woods here are more open, almost savanna-like, with tall, mighty hardwoods and little under brush. Historians tell us this is what most of the Ozarks looked like during settlement times.

It appears the wide Forest Trail follows a road trace that ends at a gate by a paved county road. Return to the trailhead from here to finish the 2.5-miles.

Hiking and a picnic to boot. An ideal way to spend a crisp fall day on the trifecta of trails at Withrow Springs State Park.

Sports on 12/03/2019

Print Headline: Trio of trails beckons hikers

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