Good company, a cozy cabin, and rain that wasn’t constant. These were some of the ingredients that made for a lovely weekend staying at Devil’s Den State Park near West Fork, Arkansas. John and I hadn’t been camping since moving to AR a year ago, and this was the perfect way to ease back into it while also being prepared for questionable spring weather here in the Ozarks. Our friends, Meredith and Nick (follow them on IG – they live in Fayetteville and are always in tune with what’s going on there!), love to explore the area so this made for a convenient opportunity for the four of us to check things out. It’s about an hour from our place in Bella Vista so wasn’t too bad heading down after work on a Friday.
We’d booked the “camper cabin” at Devil’s Den a couple of months before online, which was an easy process. The camper cabin made us all feel a little more confident that we’d enjoy the weekend in May even if the weather didn’t cooperate. Spring tends to be pretty rainy around here from what we’ve seen and heard, and hanging out in a soggy tent isn’t my favorite way to spend a weekend, so this was a brilliant option that allowed us to hang out without getting drenched. The camper cabins are a step above a tent site, but a step below the park’s more expensive and fully equipped cabins. It had a set of twin bunks and one full-size mattress, so would be a really convenient setup for a family with a couple younger kids. It also worked out great for the four of us! There is a sturdy table and four chairs, a couple little end tables, and my favorite part was the screened-in porch with Adirondack chairs. The site had parking for both of our vehicles, a well-maintained fire pit, a charcoal grill station, and a picnic table.
There was also a bathhouse just down the lane from our cabin – central to most of the camper cabins (we were in the end unit) and easy to walk to. It had a spacious shower in each bathroom (with a stool and some hooks for bath gear) and made the typical camping experience feel a little more comfortable. Both the camper cabin and the bathhouse were heated, too, which was great since it got pretty chilly the weekend we were there. It’s not exactly roughing it when you have temperature control on your camping trip, but made things nice during the cool spring storm, and was definitely worth the $68 per night (split between two couples it made for a really affordable getaway).
Our “long” hike on Saturday was the Yellow Rock Trail. With the weather forecast, we didn’t want to risk getting caught in a thunderstorm on the popular Butterfield Hiking Trail (which we hear is great for an overnight backpacking expedition) and opted for a shorter option. The Yellow Rock Trail started just down from our cabin and was about three miles total. It was the perfect distance that day, we took some great photos between rain showers, and we got to see some of the cyclists in the Joe Martin Stage Race (Devil’s Den Time Trials) on our way to and from the trailhead.
As for the Yellow Rock Trail itself, it was a nice moderate-level hike with nothing super technical or tricky. You get great views of Lee Creek Valley about halfway when you reach the rocky cliff that looks so awesome in photos. If you’ve got friends along, or there are some kind strangers up there, it’s the perfect locale to go stand on the outcropping while someone else snaps a pic from the other side. Just be careful out there – it’s wide and sturdy, but there is always a risk if you aren’t being careful and cognizant of your footing, and it is a long way down.
At the top of the trail (versus where we started, down by the bridge/camping area lower in the park) is a cool old Civilian Conversation Corps-built pavilion. It’s in great shape and offers a protective area if it’s raining, a spot for a picnic, or some shade if it’s a sunny summer day. There is also another trailhead at this location with a small parking lot. This offers an alternative place to start the hike, or even just get a glimpse of the area if you don’t have time to do the whole thing but want to scope things out.
I’d highly recommend the Yellow Rock Trail if you don’t have all the time in the world, if the weather is questionable, or if you’ve got friends and family who like more mellow hikes. The next morning John and I also did the short Devil’s Den Trail right from the visitor’s center, and we saw several families with young children and dogs hiking it, too. There were a couple tricky spots over rocks on this one that you need to pay attention to, however, so just a heads up if you’re taking a little one or a four-legged baby. The visitor’s center also has bathrooms and maps that you can take advantage of before/after your hike, and the trail starts just behind the building, on the other side of the road. This hike may be quick, but it encompasses some of the best Ozark geology in the area, and it is a worthwhile experience just to gaze at some of the huge rock formations and gaps (caves/deep crevices have been blocked to visitors due to the health of the bat colonies, but you can still see them as you hike by!).
There are plenty more trails to explore and things to do at Devil’s Den! I really hope to go back when we can make a three-day weekend out of it. We went on Friday night and headed back Sunday mid-morning, which didn’t give us that much time to see everything the park has to offer. There are tent camping areas as well as RV spaces in the park, so you have choices if you don’t want to do the cabins. If you like camping, (but also like heat, air conditioning, and a soft place to sleep) I highly suggest the camper cabin as an affordable option. Having a real bed in a solid structure was pretty great (you just bring your own linens or sleeping bags). It may have spoiled us for tent camping in the future.