Mount Nebo State Park
I have to start off with a disclaimer. Mount Nebo State Park is one of my favorite parks to visit. I spent three years in Russellville at Arkansas Tech University and I spent a lot of weekends with friends going outdoors to hike, mountain bike, and camp. One of the closest places for us to go was Mount Nebo, so it holds lots of great memories for me. I am a proud Wonder Boy Alumni from 2003 and I wanted Huxley to see the campus when we drove through Russellville. I also couldn't pass through Russellville without a stop at Feltner's Whatta-Burger just across from the ATU campus. This place is a LANDMARK in town and lots of students frequent it for lunch/dinner. I had to get Hux a burger and milkshake (he only wanted the classic vanilla).
The road going up Mount Nebo is extreme. The top of the peak is at 1,350 feet. The road is steep. Camping in a large travel trailer or RV on top of Mount Nebo is difficult. Vehicles over twenty-four feet are not permitted and the road includes eleven switchbacks and up to an 18% grade! We were crazy in my undergraduate days and road our mountain bikes up the road for a challenge.
One of my favorite memories at Mount Nebo was going up to sunrise point to watch the hang gliders take off. There once was an organized hang gliding festival or "fly in", but I haven't seen official information on one in a while. If you get a chance to see hang gliders take off, I would highly recommend the journey to Nebo. You can catch a video of hang gliding at Mount Nebo here.
Once we made it to the top, Huxley and I started at the visitors center. A nice warm fire was going and rocking chairs were open. We grabbed the additional brochures like most parks have and headed back out after a brief warm up. At Mount Nebo extra brochures include one on the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) legacy at the park and two brochures on the different trails in the park.
Originally developed before the 1860s with a few log cabins, the Mount Nebo heyday was in the 1880s. The flat topped plateau became a popular summer resort area before the days of air conditioning. The large Summit Park hotel (1889-1918) had rooms for 300 people. Mount Nebo State Park was designated as such in 1928, the second in the state park system. Most of the park"feels like a park" and I think that's why I like it so much. It doesn't feel commercialized and puts the visitor in nature. Much of what you see was constructed in the 1930s by the CCC or has roots to this period. The cabins, split rail fences, hiking trails, etc. are all part of the unique natural parkitecture. In fact this park is such an icon in the state park system, Cabin 1 was the first built rental cabin in state park history. Workers at Mount Nebo, like several other parks, during the CCC were WWI veterans.
The views are commanding and one of my favorite parts of the visit to Mount Nebo. The park also has some excellent trails that showcase these views. The Rim Trail (3.5 miles) around the top of the park and the Bench Trail (4 miles) a few hundred feet down the mountain both encircle the mountain and provide panoramic views of the area. There are also some shorter trails (Nebo Springs 3/4 mile and Varnall Springs 1 mile). Another trail is the Summit Park Trail (1 mile) . It is part of the National Trails System and is named for the original Summit Park Hotel built in 1889 on Mount Nebo as part of the first development of the area.
The campground area is small, but the playground and pool are super nice. Huxley gave this playground an 11/10 (yes you read that correctly) because it's the first time we found a merry-go-round!
We actually chose to do the Gum Springs Trail. It had been raining the day before and was so foggy there weren't great distant views that make the other trails so good. It had been mostly clear earlier in the day at the bottom of the mountain and in Russellville. But Mount Nebo, has it's own micro-climate. Often in the clouds and fog, the park also has temperatures 10 degrees or more lower than Russellville. With recent rainfall, I figured the waterfall on Mount Nebo would be flowing well so we did the 1/2 mile trail down. I would note that this trail is rated as strenuous (mostly because of the return trip up the mountain over rough and rocky terrain). It's also a fun trail to do because it's one of the original CCC constructed trails. It was built by hand and workers utilized mules during part of the construction.