Arkansas has so many great state parks and Mount Nebo State Park is one of the best!
Years ago when the television show The Walking Dead was new I was hiking on Mount Nebo. While there I sent a text to my children, “if the zombie apocalypse happens everyone make your way to Mount Nebo.”
I thereby confirmed forever my nerdiness in the minds of my children. But it seemed like a good idea to me at the time.
Mount Nebo is perfect for a zombie apocalypse. The steep sides make it easily defensible and it has water, cabins, and flat land on top. See? Ok, maybe not.
Fortuntately, Mount Nebo State Park in Arkansas is also perfect for hiking, mountain biking, camping, hang-gliding, and just plain ol’ relaxing!
Mount Nebo State Park in Arkansas
We visited Mount Nebo State Park recently on an unusually nice summer day to hike and enjoy the cooler temperatures.
Even though the top of the mountain is only at 1350 feet there always seems to always be a breeze on Mount Nebo and the temperatures are typically several degrees less than in the valley below.
Arkansas River Valley Tri-Peaks Region
Mount Nebo is located in the Arkansas River Valley. Although most of the land in this area is flat there are 3 peaks that rise dramatically from the bottom land.
History of Mount Nebo State Park
Mount Nebo rises from the surrounding landscape and has a slightly wider area or a “bench” near the top. Most of the springs on the mountain are near the bench and it also proved to be wide enough for road so this is where the early settlers built their cabins.
By the 1890’s Mount Nebo had become a summer resort. The Summit Park Hotel opened for business in June 1889. It had over 100 rooms including a ballroom, bowling alley, billiard room, post office, and doctor’s office.
The Hotel was completely destroyed by fire in 1919 which was the start of the mountain’s decline as a resort.
Mount Nebo was formally established as a state park in 1928 and was only the second state park in Arkansas after Petit Jean Mountain State Park.
There were no facilities or real infrastructure at the park until the development of the Civilian Conservation Corps. Over a two year period the CCC constructed roads, bridges, cabins, hiking trails, and pavilions. The main pavilion and 10 of the surviving CCC built cabins are listed on the National Register.
Arriving on Mount Nebo
Mount Nebo is near the town of Dardanelle, Arkansas. It’s sides rise sharply up from the ground. The road up has multiple very tight switchbacks and a steep grade. Therefore, no trailers longer than 24 feet are able to climb the mountain.
You will mostly see small trailers, pop-ups, truck campers, or tents in the campsites on top of Mount Nebo. This is not a place for a big RV or 5th wheel.
The Visitors Center
Mount Nebo has a nice visitors center with bathrooms and all kinds of information about the park. They sell a few necessary camping items and have a little gift area as well. Complete shopping areas are available in the nearby towns just off the mountain.
NOTE: Camping spots are assigned. If you plan to camp must check at the Visitors Center first.
The employees are helpful and knowledgeable about the Mountain. Be sure to pick up the trail guides and maps while you are there.
The Mount Nebo State Park and the visitors center has a nice back porch with a wonderful view. You can access the Rim Trail from behind the visitors center.
Staying on Mount Nebo
You have several options for places to stay on the mountain if you want to do more than a day trip…and I recommend staying at least one night in Mount Nebo State Park!
As mentioned you won’t be able to bring any campers over 24 feet up the mountain. However there are lots of options for smaller set-ups.
There are 24 campsites that are all equipped with tables, grills, water, electricity,and a fire pit. Metal bear cabinets and resistant trash receptacles are clustered conveniently among the campsites.
There is a very well maintained bathhouse with showers and restrooms.
The park does not have a dump station, but registered self-contained camping units are allowed to use the sanitary dump station at nearby Lake Dardanelle State Park free of charge.
You have to register at the visitors center in order to camp and I would suggest that you make reservations in advance to get one of the sites that are right on the edge of the rim with stunning views. Sites 16 and 17 are said to be some of the best.
There are 10 more walk in primitive campsites located along the bench trail for tent campers.
For those of us, myself included, who like a little less camping with our nature there are cabins available to rent from the state park.
There are 11 rustic, though updated, cabins that are 1930’s era and were constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Cabin 1 was the first cabin rental in state park history. There are also a few newer A-frame cabins available for rent.
The cabins are fully furnished with central heat and air conditioning. They have a full kitchen with electric range/oven, refrigerator, microwave, drip coffee maker w/filters, can opener, toaster, mixer, blender, skillets, pots and pans, baking pans, cooking utensils, basic dishes, glasses and silverware.
They also furnish kitchen towels, dishcloths, oven mitts, dishwashing soap, mop, broom and dustpan and provide pillows, blankets, linens, washcloths, iron and ironing board.
NOTE: There are also private homes on Mount Nebo and some are interspersed with the homes owned by the state park.
NOTE: Some of the private homes are also available for rent. This AirBnb, Mountain Top Retreat, located near Sunrise Point gets great reviews.
There are shaded picnic areas and playgrounds as well as a nice swimming pool which is perfect when you are staying on the mountain with children.
Some of the campsites are situated so that the playground is basically in your back yard which makes it easy to relax and keep an eye on the children while they play.
There is a large enclosed pavilion as well as a smaller pavilion available for rent.
Things to do on Mount Nebo
Hiking and biking, hang-gliding, watching the sunrise and sunset, and enjoying nature – there are so many great things to do on Mount Nebo.
There are both hiking and biking trails on the mountain and some allow both activities so be sure to check out the rules and be courteous of one another.
The Rim Trail
This is my personal favorite of the hiking trails. This is a hiking only loop that goes all the way around the top of the mountain. There are gorgeous views and it is mostly easy.
TIP: If you start behind the visitor’s center and turn right the hike is easier than if you turn left. On a clear day you can see miles of the Arkansas River valley as you walk around the mountaintop. There are some steep drop offs so be aware of that if you are hiking with children.
The Rim Trail is about 3.5 miles and also gives you access to various other trails.
Bench Road Trail
As mentioned above the bench road was the first way that the original settlers of Mount Nebo accessed their homes and the springs on the mountain. These days the trail lies approximately 300 feet below the rim trail and also circles the mountain. It is mostly flat and used by hikers, bikers, and horseback riders.
There are smaller interconnecting trails along the bench road trail that go up to access the rim trail.
Nebo Springs and Nebo Steps Trail
Ok, this one is a little steeper and more strenuous but is only 3/4 of a mile. You start on the rim trail behind the visitors center, turn right then take Nebo Steps down to the Bench Road Trail turn right again and follow until you see the sign for Nebo Springs. The stone enclosure of the springs dates back to the early settlers in the 1800’s.
Waterfall / Gum Springs Trail
This is a short trail of only 1/4 mile, but it is very steep with multiple switchbacks. It can be accessed from wither the rim trail or the bench trail. The waterfall is beautiful when flowing, but, like most Arkansas waterfalls is seasonal. If there has been rain recently it is definitely worth seeing!
Summit Park Trail
This is named for the hotel which once stood near the trailhead in the late 1800’s. This 1.5 mile trail will take you past Fern Lake and makes a loop on the west side of the mountain. It follows the Rim Trail on one side then cuts into the woods and almost down to the Bench Trail before coming back up to the Rim Trail.
If you are going to hike this trail be sure and pick up a brochure at the visitors center which will tell you about certain historical points of interest along the Summit Park Trail.
Varnell Springs Trail
Varnell Springs was once the water source for the nearby town of Dardanelle. You can still see some of the old waterpipes. The trail runs from the the Rim Trail, across the Bench Trail and farther down the mountain. The return is steep! The trail is 1/2 mile one way.
In recent years Mount Nebo has become a hot spot for mountain bikers!
This is in part due to the Monument Trails program. The Monument Trails are a collection of world-class, mountain biking destinations within Arkansas State Parks.
Monument Trails are created through a collaboration between Arkansas State Parks and Arkansas Parks and Recreation Foundation. The Walton Foundation is a big contributor. This program is a reason that Arkansas has become known as a destination location for mountain bikers.
There are over 25 miles of bike trails on Mount Nebo from beginner to expert. Many of these can be looped together. Do be aware that many of the trails are shared by hikers so be mindful of other users. The Chickalah and Hayes Creek Run Downhill are the bike-only trails. The Ox-Pull Climb trail is a biker-up hill-only trail. Hikers can go both directions.
There are only two state parks that offer gliding launch sites in Arkansas. Mount Nebo is one and Mount Magazine is the other.
At Mountain Nebo you can glide from either sunset point or sunrise point. These are launch sites for experienced hang gliders, using their own hang gliders. Only those with proof of an advanced pilot license are allowed to fly and you must stop in at the Visitor Center and show your certification.
Truly there are vistas all around Mount Nebo but the two most popular and easily accessed are sunrise point and sunset point.
These are pretty self explanatory as far as where to go when! From both you can take a seat on some of the massive stones and watch the colors of the sky change as the sky rises or sets. If you are lucky you will also be able to see some hang gliders launching themselves off the mountain and into the air.
Hope you enjoy your visit to Mount Nebo State Park in Arkansas!
If you are reading this in the fall here is a list of the best places to see fall color in Arkansas!
If you are reading this in the summer we also have a list of the best ways to beat the summer heat in Arkansas.
Thanks for stopping by!