This is the first of a series of articles I will be writing on the state parks of northwest Arkansas. The horse trails of Devils Den State Park are worth exploring. Get your horse, your trailer and your camping gear and get ready to explore the Gorley King Horse trail at Devils Den State Park.
The Gorley King Horse Trail, named for Mr. Gorley King of Springdale Arkansas, is 7 miles long. Difficulty is moderate. Allow 4 hours to complete the trail. Trail markers for the Gorley King Horse Trail are horseshoes mounted on red plates. Parts of the trail venture out of Devils Den State Park and into the Ozark National Forest. Amazing views from this trail are a treat anytime of year. The trail crosses Lee Creek in 4 places. During the wet season the creek can run on the high side and this can make crossing dangerous. Gorley King Horse Trail intersects with an overnight hiking trail in several places, so you will encounter occasional foot traffic and perhaps an occasional mountain bike. Hikers and bikers must give horses the right of way. Devil’s Den has specific rules about where horses can ride, check with the park office for details before visiting. A special horse campground is available for overnight stay with your horses. Park officials will be happy to inform you of the current trail conditions and alert you to any issues you should be aware of.
Once you know about the weather and trail conditions, set out on your ride. The Gorley King trailhead is located on the east side of the horse camp along with the Vista Horse Trail trailhead (in green). From the trailhead, follow the path down to Lee Creek. Cross the creek and continue on, following the red horseshoe trail blazons. You will pass though a limestone glade. The trail joins up with a hiking trail (Butterfield Hiking Trail) just after the creek crossing. The Butterfield Hiking Trail is marked in blue (no horseshoes). Follow the Gorley King Trail, it bears to the left. At this point there are 3 trails that are following the same route: the Gorley King Trail in red, the Butterfield Hiking Trail in blue, and the Vista Horse Trail in green. You will begin to ascend up an incline up from the creek that will be about 50 feet in elevation change. Follow the trail up the hill, past a camping area and maintenance building. Be sure to follow the red horseshoe trail blazons as the hiking trail breaks off from the horse trail. The next part of the trail is a fairly steep incline. There will be a 350 feet increase in altitude over the next half mile. After about a mile or so the trail will level out to the Holt Ridge Overlook area. Take a while to enjoy a marvelous view of the creek and surrounding park areas. This is a good place for a picnic lunch. When ready, continue on the trail. Shortly after Holt Ridge, the Gorley King Trail meets up with the Butterfield Hiking Trail. They both continue for the next mile and a half. Then the horse trail breaks off to the right (follow the red horseshoe trail blazons) and starts a descent down toward Lee Creek. This descent will take you down along the ridge for a drop in elevation of 350 feet. After following an old logging road, you will cross Lee Creek. The view changes as you leave the road and pass through a stand of cedars. About half a mile through the cedars, you cross Lee Creek a third time and follow the ridge to where the Gorley King Trail meets up with the Butterfield Hiking Trail. Both trails descend down the mountain, past the natural bridges. You may want to take time to enjoy the views from this area. From the natural bridges, the return to camp is easy. Follow the red trail horseshoe blazons, cross Lee Creek a final time and return to the Horse Camp.
Devils Den State Park is located in West Fork, Arkansas. It was built in the 1930’s by the Civilian conservation Corps (CCC). Other activities include hiking, fishing, boating and swimming. Some of the hiking trails have sandstone caves and crevices to explore. You can find out more about the trails, fees, and other amenities by contacting the park office at 11333 West Arkansas Highway 74, West Fork, Arkansas 72774. You can also call them at (479) 761-3325.
You can read more articles on parks by this author by clicking on the links below:
The Best Campgrounds for Kids in Adirondack Park
Great Scenic Driving Tours of Adirondack Park
Upstate New York RV Campgrounds
Summer Guide to Visiting Thousand Island Region of New York