The building boom of new trails in our little corner of the Ozarks means hiking and biking traffic is more spread out across the land. There's less pressure on some of the region's original trails chiseled out decades ago through forests and along waterways.
One of these, Pigeon Roost Trail at Hobbs State Park-Conservation Area, was one of the first built at the 12,000-acre state park in east Benton County. The menu of hiking trails is longer now, but Pigeon Roost remains a favorite for woodland wandering.
It's a trail for feet only, no bikes or horses allowed. Other trails in the park accommodate those. Pigeon Roost is billed as a trail with two loops. There's the 4-mile Dry Creek Loop and the 8-mile Huckleberry Loop. Backpack camping is available by reservation at campsites along Huckleberry Loop. Call the park visitor center, (479) 789-5000 for details.
Both loops visit a lovely overlook of the isolated Pigeon Roost arm of Beaver Lake. Picturesque boulders and bluffs cradle the clear water at this quiet viewing spot. There are two benches for resting tired hiking feet.
There aren't any spectacular features along Pigeon Roost, such as waterfalls or sky high bluffs. It's just an enjoyable, invigorating walk through the woods. It's named for the extinct passenger pigeons that were once abundant in the area.
The show of fall color was in its final act when we paid a visit to hike this old trail friend on a misty and gray Monday morning. The 4-mile Huckleberry Loop has always been a joy to hike, so off we went.
The Pigeon Roost trailhead is along Arkansas 12 a mile east of the visitor center. There's a nice big trail information sign and map at the start. It's a good idea to take a photo of the map with your phone or get a paper map at the visitor center so you'll have one. There are a couple of trail intersections that are noteworthy.
The trail starts gradually downhill, past a large sinkhole and follows a hollow for close to a mile to the first trail intersection. We recommend taking a left here to hike the 4-mile loop in a clockwise direction.
Here the trail meanders on the level or slightly uphill through a couple more hollows. The scenery is rugged Ozark hardwood forest with a little cedar and pine in the mix. The trail is well worn and easy to follow. Blazes on the trees also mark the route.
A pretty fair climb starts where some stairs made of timber lead up the hill. It's a steady climb that is proof to hikers of a certain age that, gee, our Ozark hills are much steeper now than they were 20 or 30 years ago. Back then this climb was a lot easier. Today we'd rate it a 6 on the wheezer scale.
The second trail intersection, sort of a Y in shape, comes at the halfway point, two miles into the hike. Be sure to turn right here to complete the 4-mile Dry Creek Loop. Hiking left is for the 8-mile Huckleberry Loop.
The next mile or so is on high ground, mostly flat, twisting through the woods then downhill where Beaver Lake comes into view. The overlook and rest benches are farther down the hill.
After a nice break here, the path follows a bit more of the lake on the way back to the trailhead. At the next intersection, veer left and start up the hill on another steady climb, also 6 on the wheezer meter, back to the trailhead.
There's another option for enjoying the Pigeon Roost Trail. Start downhill at the trailhead, veer right at the first trail intersection and hike less than a mile to the lake overlook then hike back. This hike is a tad over two miles.
Pigeon Roost Trail is an area original that keeps on pleasing through the decades.
Flip Putthoff can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @NWAFlip.