Whether you’re on the lookout for a casual stroll or a vigorous workout, hiking and backpacking gives one a chance to experience the beauty of The Natural State.
Arkansan and avid backpacker Roy Burton has set the wheels in motion for a Backpacking and Hiking Day in Arkansas. Governor Asa Hutchinson has made a proclamation for the day, which will fall on July 17. According to Burton, he wanted to create an official day for the activity to spread the word to both visitors and Arkansans about the trails available here to hike and backpack. A summer date was chosen for the event to target the high volume of visitors that travel to the state during the season. “So then I just went with my birthday, which is July 17, to isolate a day for it,” he said.
The state’s diverse topography offers a range of scenic territory to explore. Trails course through a variety of landscapes including mountain terrain, pine and bottomland hardwood forests, and alongside rivers and streams. Arkansas is home to 52 state parks and three national forests and there are a wealth of trails to choose from across the six regions of the state.
Burton said some of his favorite hiking spots include the Buffalo National River area, North Sylamore Creek, and the Little Missouri Falls area. He said he plans to enjoy the trails around the Blanchard Springs Recreation Area on July 17. “There are several trails that go out from the campground there depending on the level that the person wants to try,” he said.
Burton, who is also working on getting a National Backpackers Day established, has been an avid backpacker since 1994. “I camped with my dad before that,” he said. “It really wasn’t donned as backpacking, we just camped. In ’93 I got injured and all I could do was read. I picked up a backpacking magazine and [my interest] just kind of stemmed from there. I’ve been backpacking ever since.”
Staying hydrated is crucial when hiking and backpacking in the summer in Arkansas as well as having access to escape the heat if need be. “There are definitely trail systems here you don’t have to cool off at certain times of the year but during summer you need a cool creek or a lake or somewhere to cool off at,” he said.
Burton said there are many trails in that state that are accessible to new hikers, ones that are level and without difficult elevation changes. “There are a lot of places you can car camp for those that want to backpack but might be apprehensive to overnight,” he added. “They don’t have to carry all their gear and they can hike. And as they get more at ease with it they can get into backpacking.”
The range of trails in the state also include ADA accessible routes. Burton mentioned the Kingfisher Trail at Pinnacle Mountain State Park in Little Rock as an example of a short trail option that is paved. The gentle ½-mile loop is easy on the feet and knees and convenient for those pushing baby strollers. The Lake Ouachita Vista Trail also has a 1.25 mile Watchable Wildlife loop trail that is ADA accessible.
He added that hiking is an economically friendly activity for families that want to take their kids out. As an added bonus, people on trails are a friendly lot too. “I’ve met a lot of people on the trail,” Burton said. “I’ve never really had a bad experience. It seems everyone that makes the effort to get on a trail are the type of people that will say hi to you.”
Whether one enjoys a quick day hike or heading out on a multiple day backpacking venture, Burton said the ultimate goal of July 17 is to get outdoors, hit the trail, and enjoy the day and beauty of Arkansas.
For more details on Backpacking and Hiking Day in Arkansas, visit the event Facebook page here. For more details on the hiking and backpacking options across Arkansas, visit www.Arkansas.com/outdoors/