Alum Cove Natural Bridge just outside of Deer, Arkansas - worth a stop and a hike!
From Fayetteville, Arkansas, I took: 412E, 21S, 16E, to Deer. Just past Deer, take a left onto NFM 28 - it is easily passed the first time - its a "used to be paved" "but turning into gravel" road with minimal signage from the direction we came in from. Naturally, when we left and headed the other way, there was an easy to see park sign!
(If you stay on the gravel road, you would come out in Jasper). You will be riding through flat lands, then there is a 'wayside rest' (a pull out) on the right, the next little road on your left is NFM 28.
It's a gravel road, but easy to navigate as there is enough traffic on it to keep it pretty well packed down, just had to swerve for potholes here and there. It was roughly 3 miles on gravel to reach the large parking area, complete with pit toilets, lots of picnic tables, and a picnic shelter. Some locals were walking off the trail and gave us a suggestion to walk down towards the Natural Bridge, but then veer off the main trail, to which there is a side trail that winds along side of the Natural Bridge, eventually ending underneath the natural wonder.
It's a 1.2 mile trail/loop to see the top of the Bridge. It added probably .5 miles going around and under it. It took us 1.5 hours to do the hike, wander off the path a time or two, take pictures, and climb the decent incline trail back to the bikes. The Bridge was pretty from the top - but you couldn't really tell it was a natural bridge that I was walking across.
but I highly suggest the side/bottom trail - the view from under the bridge was WAY better - and it gives a better perspective of just how incredible the Natural Bridge is.Alum Cove is one of the largest natural bridges in this part of the country.
The bridge spans 130 feet and is 25' wide. It is carved from solid rock by a small creek, which was pretty much low at this time of year. From the bottom of the bridge, we headed back uphill - and once the steeper side trail meets the bluff area, there's a big cave - it looked big enough to go into, but hiking with layers and leather on, in the heat, was enough effort and I felt with my luck, I would go in the cave and either get stuck or get lost.
So we headed to the right and kept following the bluffs - which hung slightly over the trail offering shade, which was a nice change in pace. One of the coolest parts about the hike was not only the bridge, the cave, and the water, but walking sticks!!! I had never seen one that close before - and luckily one of the girls knew what they were or I probably would have squeaked away from the weird looking things. The last stretch of the trail, back to the parking area, was a solid uphill hike, but there are resting benches along the way if needed. I hiked the entire thing in cowboy boots and the other girls had riding boots on, so probably not the ideal footwear, but it was good enough!
It was well worth the stop and the hike! It was weird because it wasn't too far off a main biker road, but yet, from the trails, we heard no signs of bikes - and we pretty much had the trails to ourselves. Happy we stopped!