West Fork, AR
Devil’s Den State Park is within reasonable driving distance from St. Louis, about 6 hours southwest near the Arkansas border. The 15-mile Butterfield Trail loop would be a wonderful trip for a beginning backpacker. The trail is well marked and save for a few dips into or ascents above the wooded valley, there isn’t much elevation change. This loop would also make for a great long training run for trail or obstacle course runners.
Bluffs in AR
Make sure to stop by the Visitor Center to obtain a free backpacking permit and let the ranger know your plan. The trail is enjoyable starting from either direction, but we opted to do it clockwise, allowing us to hike along Lee Creek for the last couple of miles out. The water was the chill, vibrant blue of so many Ozark streams.
There are many inviting backcountry campsites along the trail, many of which include a fire-pit and some crafty stone seating. One of the most appealing camps you will encounter is about 6.3 miles in, called Rock Hole Camp, which is a cozy camp in the bluff walls. Although it is near to the trail, you’re unlikely to see many other hikers passing by in the winter. If you’d like trek in further on your first day, the Junction Camp is about 8.8 miles in and rests near the creek.
For a more detailed overview of the trail or to pre-order a map, visit http://www.ouachitamaps.com/Butterfield.html