White Rock-Shores Lake Loop
A 13 mile loop through the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas between White Rock Recreation Area and Shores Lake Recreation Area. This trail narative starts at White Rock and goes counterclockwise.
The Map: Nominal 1:24,000 based on USGS 7.5 minute quadrangle topographic maps. Printed in color on 11x17, "Rite in the Rain” all weather writing paper. The Loop was mapped with a WAAS enabled GPS and is drawn in blue to match the blazes on the actual trail. Also shown is the Ozark Highland Trail and selected roads. Other features include trailheads, segment mileage, general directions, waypoints and waypoint coordinates.
The Hike: It is a long dayhike or moderate overnight trip and an ideal place to experience the Ozarks; a high volume waterfall, hidden grotto with a small water fall, scenic stops and good leg pumping climb. There are two trailheads, one at each of the two recreation areas. White Rock is on top of a typical flat-topped Ozark mountain with a terrific view of the Arkansas Valley to the south. Since it sits about 1400 feet above Shores Lake, your over night trip planning should take into account when you want to make your big climb. Hiking is best in the fall, winter and spring. Arkansas summers are extremely hot but water should be available year-round at a minimum of 3 sources White Rock Creek and both Recreation Areas. There is always water in Salt Fork Creek, but it is not very accessible to the trail). The loop is well marked with blazes; blue blazes on the loop proper, white on the section shared by the Ozark Highland Trail (OHT). The forest is dominated by oak with occasional pine trees.
It should be noted that there is a discrepancy in the overall mileage of the loop. Tim Ernst, who is responsible for most of the trails and author of most of the guide books in the area, puts the trip at 14.4 miles. In comparing the GPS distances with his trail descriptions, there are differences of 0.1 and 0.2 miles spread through out the loop. However, there is a 1.1 mile difference in the section between the junction of the White Rock spur and OHT near the top of White Rock Mountain and where the east loop trail separates from the OHT at the bottom of the mountain (ENE of White Rock). The GPS reading is shorter. Most of my GPS mileages match pretty well with Ernst, but in this case I cannot account for his extra mileage. Mileages on the map are from the GPS.
White Rock trailhead is in the campground/picnic area (WP-01 on the map). Rustic cabins built by the CCC in the 1930’s are available, but reservations are suggested. The trail heads east with blue blazes and descends a 100 feet to the junction of the White Rock spur and OHT (WP-02, 0.3 miles). Turn right (west) on combined trail (white blazes). At 1.1 miles the OHT splits off the west trail loop. The OHT goes straight and the west loop goes left following the blue blazes).
The trail descends steadily for about 2 miles until you get to White Rock Creek, crossing Forest Road 1003 on the way (this is probably the road you drove up to get to White Rock). The area around the creek has many features. First, the trail will cross the creek twice in 0.2 miles and your crossings can be wet if the water is up. Second, there are lots of flat areas for camping just as you reach the first crossing and on the other side. There is a grotto up the creek before the first crossing that has a high but small waterfall (probably dry in the summer). Last, but not least, is the water fall between the two crossings. It is high volume with a large pool and can be seen from either side of the creek.
The trail continues south following White Rock Creek and crosses Bliss Spring Hollow at about 4.5 miles. The crossing is dry and the area scenic. At 5.5 is the spur trail to the Shores Lake Trailhead (WP-04) and the gateway to the Shores Lake Recreation Areas, its campground and 82 acre lake. Swimming is allows.
The spur trail marks the beginning of the east loop trail. It stays pretty level for the next 5.2 miles following the boulder strewn benches above Salt Fork Creek. There is a small creek at mile 8.4 miles with a scenic crossing and primitive campsite down stream.
The junction with the OHT is past the crossing at FR 1003 at mile10.7 (WP-3). Turn left, following the OHT, and start your 1,200 foot climb back to White Rock. Watch for the junction of the White Rock spur trail and follow the blue blazes back to the starting point.
Info: Featured in Waypoints, Backpacker Magazine, September 2005, Midwest Edition. USGS 7.5 minute quadrangle topographic map: Bidville (trail not shown). Reservations for the cabins and lodge can be made by calling White Rock Mountain Concessionaires at (479) 369-4128. Call the Ozark National Forest, Boston Mountain Ranger District at (479) 667-2191.
Directions: I 40 to Exit 24, Mulberry, AR. Go north on state highway 215 to Shores Lake (this is an alternate trailhead with car camping and a lake). Follow the signs to White Rock via Forest Road (FR) 1505 and FR 1003. The White Rock trailhead is at the south end of the campground.
To Buy Map: This map is available at Backwoods in Tulsa, OKC and Norman, Ozark Outdoor Supply in Little Rock, Pack Rat Outdoor Center in Fayetteville and by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org ($5 plus S&H).