calcite formations in Mystic Caverns

Day 4 – Formations of the Arkansas Ozarks

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Day 4 of a Year Long Road Trip Along America’s Scenic Byways

Best Places to Visit for Formations in the Ozarks

Well today was much smoother than yesterday, though maybe not for the mama, papa and newborn puppies I found in the middle of the road.  They were near a house, but somehow I got the feeling they were dumped there.  I felt so sad…I certainly couldn’t house 6 of them with my unfriendly dog Petey.  I moved them to the side of the road and left them some food.  I hope a local took them in! Now I’m off to see didn’t rock formations in the Ozarks.

Pedestal Rocks

My first stop on the route today was Pedestal Rocks. My  Reader’s Digest Scenic Drive book explains that “natural forces – millions of years worth – have carved the rocks so that large boulders are upheld by pillarlike ones” and that the trail is one mile long.  It sounded pretty cool to me and “old dog doable”, so off I went. Pedestal Rocks is located in the Ozark National Forest

The Trailhead

The National Forests are more rugged than the National Parks and State Parks.  I pulled up and VANilla was the only car in the dirt parking lot.  As I approached the trail marker, a sign cautioned “Bears may frequent this area.”  My mom will be happy to know I carried along my bear mace, though I think the tags on my dogs’ collars jingle enough to scare the bears away.  The trailhead sign also showed a 2.2 mile hike (not 1 mile), a little long for the dogs, but it was the first hike of the day and somewhat cool, so I decided they could do it.

The only other items of interest at the trailhead were some “walking sticks” that looked like people had picked up and then left them at the end of the day.  I kind of wondered why in the world you’d need walking sticks for this trail.  I soon found out.  In my opinion, they weren’t for walking, they were for knocking down cobwebs!!  I’m not exaggerating when I say I walked through at minimum 50 cobwebs.  You could not suffer from arachnophobia and do this hike.  Spiders were everywhere (Speaking of spiders, a daddy long legs crawled across my shin as I was driving today…I nearly wrecked! I hope it doesn’t join me this evening).

The Hike

After about 30 minutes, I arrived at some rock ledges that overlooked a treed area and my first thought was I walked through cobwebs and sticker brush for this?!?  It was pretty, but not what I was expecting.  There happened to be a geocache in the area, so I walked a little farther, while keeping in mind that the brothers I met yesterday told me, “Be careful as it is easy to get lost if you stray from the trail.” 

It was worth straying a little…rock caves, huge boulders…really cool. Originally I was planning on and out and back hike to the cache to keep it short for my old mutts, but after seeing these rock formations, I continued following the loop. The loop featured pedestals, an arch rock, and waterfalls trickling down sheer cliffs.  The second part of the loop made this a fantastic hike!  I’m happy to report, the dogs made it. I’d love to go back and explore a bit more someday.

geocaching in ozark national forest
The cache at Pedestal Rocks

Alum Cove Natural Bridge Recreation Area

My next stop along my route through the Arkansas Ozarks was Alum Cove Natural Bridge Recreation Area.  It is located in the Ozark National Forest as well.  According to Reader’s Digest, “the combined actions of wind, water, and gravity transformed a huge mass of sandstone into an imposing natural bridge.”

130 feet long, 20 feet wide…you can walk across it.  I checked the map at the trailhead…it looked like the natural bridge was 1,000 ft or so down the trail, so I kept the dogs in tow.  I walked across the bridge and took a picture from the top looking down in an attempt to show how it formed. No such luck! Unfortunately, a good photo would require bushwacking.

Alum Cove Natural Bridge rock formation in the ozarks
Taken from Alum Cove Natural Bridge on side of mountain that is starting to get carved out like the bridge

The Grand Canyon of Arkansas

From Alum Cove Natural Bridge Recreation, I drove to an overlook for a view of Arkansas’ “Grand Canyon” as pictured below.  Slightly different from Arizona’s I’d have to say, but nice none-the-less.  I also passed through Jasper, a cute little town worthy of a picture.

Additionally, I stopped at a couple of different historical markers along the route.  One historical marker indicated the place where the marble for Washington’s Monument was taken in 1836.  The other marked the starting place of an ill-fated journey to California for 150 people.  With the exception of 17 children, all were massacred in Utah by Mormons disguised as Indians.

Buffalo National River

The brothers I met at Long Pool two days ago suggested I visit Buffalo National River. My Reader’s Digest Scenic Drive book said the same. Unfortunately, my time was limited and I really wanted to get to Mystic Caverns. As a consolation, instead of driving the twisting road to Ponca to to hike along the river, I drove over the river near Pruitt. Much like Long Pool, big boulders lined milky blue water.  I suppose I missed out here, and will have to return.

Mystic Caverns

My final scenic stop of the day (before using the wi-fi at McDonald’s in Harrison and then driving another hour or so toward Thayer, MO where the Reader’s Digest scenic drive begins tomorrow) was Mystic Caverns. I took a guided tour in one of the two caves as I didn’t want to leave the dogs in VANilla too long.  Mystic Cavern was discovered in the 1800s while the Crystal Dome Cavern, without a natural entrance, wasn’t discovered until 1967 when some workers were excavating some dirt and found it as they cracked the top.

The Crystal Dome Cavern has a spring which feeds into the Buffalo National River (the first National River by the way), so during strong storms when the river floods, it fills up with water.  Uniquely, it is right next to the Mystic Cavern, but there is an underground barrier so Mystic Cavern doesn’t flood.  The cave includes calcite formations called soda straws that are very new (meaning maybe a 100 years old), cave pearls, and sawtooth draperies just to name a few of the formations.

I just love seeing the formations and struck up a conversations with one of the guides. She said she wants to go RVing full-time and told me about a website called Escapees.  It is a forum for full-time RVers.  I’ll have to check it out so I know all the cheap places to camp, which local mechanics to use (hopefully none), and learn other tips and tricks of the trade.


In the meantime, I have found a campsite by a lake.  The mutts and I enjoyed a lovely sunset at the boat dock, just 10 feet from my hookup. My fourth state in four days. ETB

sunset in Missouri

Map of My Road Trip Across the USA

For a summary about my road trip across the USA, click HERE. For the interactive map, see the below link.

Other Articles About Arkansas You May Like


Check out the photographic note cards and key chains at my shop.  Each card has a travel story associated with it.  20% of proceeds are donated to charity.

photographic note card, blue spring in missouri
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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned award winning travel blogger and photographer sharing the earth's beauty one word and image at a time.

10 thoughts on “Day 4 – Formations of the Arkansas Ozarks

  1. I’m assuming a “cache” or “geo cache” is something other travelers leave?

    Also, “red sky in the morning, sailer take warning; red sky at night, sailer’s delight”!

  2. I LOVE your posts Beth! I’m thouroughly enjoying Beth “Finn” adventures. Keep blogging and safe travels! Mary

  3. Beth,
    I am tuning in too late since you have already passed my “roots”- lands. ‘Would love to have been a help. Looks like you are doing pretty well! Those berries are from the “American Beauty Berry Bush” found in the woods of the Ozarks, wild and rarely found in residential settings. I am racing on to today ( Sept 19th) in hopes I can find out if you are still in southern Missouri.
    Holly Farrell

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