Favorite Ozark Campgrounds
You don't often get to camp on top of a mountain without hiking there. Even more seldom do you enjoy incredible mountaintop vistas just a short walk from your campsite. Both of these pleasures are yours at White Rock Mountain, though you'll have to drive ten miles of gravel roads to get there.
You can see for miles during the day and enjoy cooling high-country breezes at night. It's 1,600 feet higher than the surrounding lowlands and the top of the 2,260-foot White Rock Mountain is always a bit cooler. White Rock is historical as well as beautiful. Its lodge, cabins, and trail shelters were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. Over the years these rustic structures weathered badly. In 1987 the Friends of White Rock was formed to renovate the structures, and the renovation work finished in 1991. The old stone and wood cabins with rock fireplaces and original furniture can be rented year-round. Though this sounds like a commercialized place, it's really not.
The nearest town is 17 miles away, and dirt roads sort out those who hate dust and bumps. The campground is on the right as you drive into the area, and the picnic area is 100 yards beyond. Each site has a stone-lined tent pad and is set well away from its neighbors. While there are enough trees to provide some shade for each site, the mountaintop's thin forest with little underbrush means all your neighbors are visible. But that's okay because this small campground doesn't feel cramped even when it's full.
Sites 1 to 4 are between the loop and the White Rock entrance road. I prefer sites 5 to 8. They are on the outside of the loop, away from the road. From these sites you get hints of views through the trees, and the tent pads are set a short way down the hill for a bit more privacy. It's nice to hang out in the campground at White Rock and listen to the mountain breezes as they sift through the treetops. If you walk over to the picnic area and down the short spur to the trail shelter built on the cliff's edge, you can enjoy a 270-degree panorama. This shelter is a wonderful place to watch the sunset. Arrows painted on top of the wall point to local towns and give their distances from the mountaintop. At sunset, just before the overlook closes, you can see the lights of each town.
To check out all the views from the peak, hike the 2.1-mile White Rock Rim Loop. It's an easy, level hike all the way around the mountaintop, with vistas almost all the way. This hike's official start is at the trailhead at the end of the cabin road, but you can pick it up from the picnic area overlook, too. A mile north from the trailhead is the first of four trail shelters. This overlook is a fantastic place to greet the sunrise. Looping around to the west side there is another shelter that's only a short distance from the campground loop. Just beyond this shelter a couple of paths lead up to camp.
The only drawback to this incredible hike is safetydo not bring your children on this hike. It follows the bluff-line for most of its length, and one slip could be fatal. A sign on the entrance road warns, "Watch Children6 Have Fallen to Death."
White Rock is also part of the 14-mile Shores Lake-White Rock Mountain Loop. This tough trail gains 1,700 feet coming up from Shores Lake. It makes a perfect weekend hike. You can set up camp or stash your gear in a rented cabin on White Rock Mountain, then drive back to Shores Lake. Leave your car there and enjoy the steep climb without a pack, spend a night on the mountain, and head back to Shores Lake the next day.
A 38-mile mountain bike route shows all the forested beauty between White Rock Mountain and Cass, 16 miles east of the peak. Follow the ups and downs of FS 1003/White Rock Mountain Road all the way to Cass. On the way you can stop at Gray's Spring, a pretty mountainside picnic area. A short way past Gray's Spring the road squeezes through Bee Rock and then descends 2.5 miles to AR 23 at Cass. A 1-mile side trip south on AR 23 is the Turner Bend store, where you can buy a sandwich and have a picnic next to the Mulberry River. Ride back to White Rock Mountain on Forest Roads 1520, 1506, 1007, and 1505, passing some cool rock outcroppings on FS 1505. The trip back can be confusing, so buy a forest map or trail guide at the Turner Bend Store.
© Article copyright Steve Henry, 2001. All rights reserved.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication