On our drive from Houston to Branson, I knew that I wanted to drive through NW Arkansas. The pictures that I had seen of the Buffalo River area were downright gorgeous. I had a couple of ideas for trails to hike with my kids - but upon further research I found that all but one of them had been flooded out in storms about a month before our visit. So, I decided to hike the 3 mile round trip Hawksbill Craig Trail with my sister, five year old son and six year old daughter.
This area is remote. Really remote. I was very glad that my car was four wheel drive as we drove mile after mile on dirt roads. (And, yes, cell service is very spotty.) When we arrived at the parking area, one other car was there. When we left, there were about five cars. There is no water or bathrooms.
We did eventually, miraculously find the trailhead - thank you Google Maps. It is marked with a large stone at the beginning and red triangle blazes throughout. It is a rocky trail - definitely wear appropriate shoes. The trail is not too steep - but does go a bit downhill at the beginning. (So, you're climbing uphill at the end of the hike.)
There are a lot of steep drop-offs towards the Whitaker Point. So, this hike is best suited for kids who are old enough to be trusted with that and able to walk about a half mile uphill at the end of a 3 mile hike. My five year old boy made it back to the car - but it would have been too much for him at age four.
The first mile of the hike is through the forest. Yes, it's nice - but it's nothing special. We met several people hiking out on this section of the trail when we were returning to their car; they asked if it was worth it. (Yes, it is!)
The final half mile before Whitaker Point is along the cliff; there are lots of boulders to climb and a waterfall to see. (The waterfall wasn't very impressive the day of our visit. But, it was still fun to climb around the area.)
Whitaker Point is a much larger area than it appears. I'd say a group of 10-15 people could have a picnic out there without anyone falling over the edge. We were fortunate to be out there by ourselves for about 30 minutes (mid-morning, mid-week in July.)
If you're driving through the area and have a half day or so to explore, I highly recommend the Hawksbill Craig Trail. It's even worth a day trip down from Branson - if you're looking to escape the summer crowds there.