A Guide to Hiking the Mount Nebo Rim Trail in Arkansas
November 25, 2021
Mount Nebo is a state park in the Arkansas River Valley known for sweeping views and wonderful hiking trails. The park has a long and storied history. It is a certified Trail of Tears National Historic Trail Site for the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee and Seminole people that traversed the Arkansas River right below Mount Nebo in the 1830’s. In the late 1800s, a luxurious hotel was built that attracted wealthy visitors to the top of the mountain. The hotel burnt down in the early 1900s. Later on, the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) built much of the infrastructure and trails in the 1930’s. Much of what the CCC built is still there today.
In 1924, the women living on Mount Nebo organized politically and the area became the first recorded instance of a municipal government in Arkansas run entirely by women.
- Entry to the park is free.
- There is only one road up into the park and it’s quite steep. The road reaches an 18% grade and there are 11 switchbacks. I would recommend avoiding this road in icy conditions and always taking it slow.
- The park has a total of 15 miles of trails.
- The park is open year round, but I recommend visiting in the fall for beautiful foliage and mild weather.
Please make it a priority to Leave No Trace when exploring the outdoors. This includes leaving nothing behind, respecting wildlife, minimizing campfire impacts, respecting those around you, planning ahead and traveling on durable surfaces. For more details, read about the seven principles at lnt.org.
- 3.6 miles.
- Rated Moderate.
- 344 feet of elevation gain.
- Multiple options of starting points.
The Mount Nebo Rim trail is a 3.6-mile trail that follows along the rim of the park. The trail offers fantastic views in all directions as you hike around the mountain. There are multiple viewpoint opportunities where you can climb over rock faces to get the best view.
You can park at multiple places along the trail to begin the hike. This means you could also drive to many of the best viewpoints if you are unable to do the hike.
I began the hike at the visitor center and walked clockwise along the rim. The visitor center has restrooms, merchandise for sale and a fantastic view from their back porch.
Soon after beginning the trail from the visitor center, you will descend down a steep set of stairs. Parts of the trail are shaded as you walk along the cliffs and it’s a peaceful and beautiful part of the trail. There are a few houses up on the mountain and the trail is just feet away from their homes. Be sure to respect the property boundaries.
There is one point in the first half of the trail where you will cross the main road that leads up into the park. There is a crosswalk on the ground but no stop sign, so proceed with caution.
The first notable viewpoint that you will reach in this direction is Sunrise Point. The trail crosses beneath the rockface, and then leads up to intersect the viewpoint. This point provides an amazing, unobstructed view facing south. There are a couple large rocks that you can climb on and spread out. As the name suggests, this is also a good spot for sunrise.
About 3 quarters of a mile further down the trail, there is another great viewpoint near the beginning of the Gum Springs Trail. Here there is another rock face you can climb onto for an amazing view facing to the west.
The next point of interest is known as Lover’s Leap. This viewpoint features a unique rockface that sticks out into the air. It makes for a cool photograph, but be careful next to the edge!
Finally, the trail passes through a picnic area as you make your way towards Sunset Point. Sunset Point is the largest of the viewpoints, with a giant rock face that faces north, east and west. This is a beautiful place for sunset and there is plenty of space to spread out and take photos.
A great thing about the Rim Trail is that it connects to other trails in the park. You can easily add on hikes such as the Gum Springs trail, Nebo Springs trail and the Summit Park trail to extend the hike. Overall, the Rim trail is a fantastic hike that offers just a little bit of challenge and fantastic views along the way.
- Bench Trail: 3.6 miles, 367 feet of elevation gain and rated easy. The Bench Trail is similar to the Rim Trail because it goes around the mountain, but located lower down so there are less views. If you don’t have time to hike the whole loop, you can park at the Bench Overlook for a view facing East.
- Gum Springs Trail: 0.25 miles and rated hard. This is a steep trail that leads to a seasonal waterfall.
- Nebo Springs/ Nebo Steps Trail: 0.75 miles, rated hard. This trail leads to a historic stone enclosure of Nebo Springs.
- Summit Park Trail: 1.6 miles, 337 feet of elevation gain, rated moderate. The Summit Park trail is a loop that follows the same path guests would have taken to the Summit Park Hotel (which burnt down in 1918).
Mount Nebo has 15 cabins available to rent and 34 campsites. The campsites offered are a mix of hook ups and hike-in tent sites. The hike-in sites are located along the Bench trail. There are amenities offered by the park such as a pool, tennis courts and picnic areas that guests can take advantage of.
If you prefer a hotel, there are several options in Russellville, which is located 20 minutes outside of the park.
- Petit Jean State Park: Petit Jean is located about 45 minutes from Mount Nebo. It is one of the most beautiful places in Arkansas. It’s a great park to combine with a trip to Mount Nebo.
- Arkansas wine trail: There is a wine trail that follows along the Arkansas River Valley. Mount Nebo is centrally located about 45 minutes west of Movie House Winery and 45 minutes east of the wineries in Atlus (Cowie Wine Cellars and Mount Bethel Winery to name a few).
- Mount Magazine: Mount Magazine is an Arkansas state park that is home to the tallest point in Arkansas. Mount Nebo has better hiking trails, but Mount Magazine still has amazing views. It is about a 45 minute drive between the two parks.
For more places to hike in Arkansas, check out my Arkansas hiking guide!
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