This south to north 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 arrow) for a must photo opportunity or a 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, steeper and steeper until you reach two severe switchback just before the summit of the mountain.
Strenuous. Five bridgeless creek crossings and a mile of steep climbing with two sets of switchbacks over the last mile to P5 Hickory Nut Mountain. Moderate with one short, steep grade back toward P3 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 trailers on the right. Turn right on the next road (see brown hiking sign.) Follow the road 4/10th mile to the parking area on the right.
To go west to P3 Tompkins Bend Trailhead, exit the 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 P5 Hickory Nut Mountain, exit the parking area and go right 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.