This trail segment is a marked departure from Denby Bay and Tompkins Bend. As you enter the trail you immediately begin a .75 mile downward grade that terminates at a secluded creek crossing covered by towering old growth hardwoods. After traveling about 1 mile on an old forest service fire road, there is a second wet crossing over Irons Creek. From here the trail parallels a beautiful creek lined with ferns and massive old rock outcroppings coated in emerald moss. There are several small waterfalls but the highpoint of this stretch is the five step Irons Creek “Cascade” located on the left about ½ mile from the crossing. Take a short 100 foot spur trail (see the sign and rock cairn) for a great photo opportunity or a soothing place to catch your breath.
One mile from the Cascade spur, you will come to a rock cairn and sign identifying your arrival at “Hot Dog Falls” and the foot of Hickory Nut Mountain. Here is where it gets hard. The next 1.5 miles is all uphill, rocky and increasingly steep until you reach two severe switchbacks just before the summit of the mountain.
Strenuous. Five bridge-less creek crossings and a mile of steep climbing with two sets of switchbacks over the last mile to Hickory Nut Mountain. Moderate with one short, steep grade back toward Tompkins Bend.
Bathrooms, food, and water are available at the Joplin Store, located at the Highway 270 and Mountain Harbor Rd. intersection. There is a lodge restaurant at Mountain Harbor Resort , and there is a Subway restaurant at the Mountain Harbor Marina on Lake Ouachita; both are open seasonally, so check ahead.
Directions to Trailhead:
Go east from Mount Ida about 10 miles, or west from Hot Springs about 24 miles, on U.S. Highway 270 to Mountain Harbor Rd. at the Joplin Store/Mountain Harbor Resort sign. Turn north on Mountain Harbor Rd. and travel about 1 city block past the Joplin store and several mobile homes on the right. Turn right on the next road opposite the entrance to the Joplin Methodist Church (the Trail is marked with brown hiking sign). Follow the road east 4/10th mile to the parking area on the right.
To go west to Tompkins Bend Trailhead, exit the Joplin Trailhead parking area and backtrack on the road to where the Trail crosses Mountain Harbor Rd. It is 5 miles to Tompkins Bend.
To go east to Hickory Nut Mountain, exit the Joplin Trailhead parking area and go right (east) about 1/10th mile to the fork in the road. Bear left at the fork another 1/10th mile to the trail sign and take a left onto the Trail. It is 4 miles to the Hickory Nut Mountain Trailhead where there is parking for a dozen vehicles.
The Joplin Campground and Mountain Harbor Resort and Restaurant are each about 2.5 miles north on Mountain Harbor Rd. Follow the signs. Both Lake Ouachita Vacation Realty and Lake Ouachita Rentals have accommodations in the Harbor East area adjacent to Mountain Harbor Resort. The Joplin Inn at Mountain Harbor (formerly the Colonial Motel) is at the corner of Highway 270 and Mountain Harbor Road across the highway from the Joplin Store.