A Tale of Two Sugar Loaf Mountains
Both offer sweeping scenic views, great hikes, and the satisfaction of a good climb.
Getting to Sugar Loaf Mountain is half the fun since it’s an island on the western end of Greers Ferry Lake. A shuttle runs from Fairfield Bay Marina all year long. More adventurous folks rent kayaks and paddle about 1.5 miles across open water to a courtesy dock on the island.
From the courtesy dock, take the foot trail built by employees of the Greers Ferry Project Office of the Corps of Engineers’ Little Rock District. A large informational sign provides a map and description of the island trails.
Take the short trek (1.6 miles roundtrip) to the high point for panoramic views. Another trail circles the base of the mountain top. Along Arkansas’s first designated National Scenic Trail, you’ll see bluff formations and native flora and fauna. A series of wooden stairs at the southern end lead to the top for amazing vistas from 500 feet above the surface of the lake.
Sugar Loaf Mountain is the result of a long erosional and weathering process. The rocks forming it are more than 300 million years old. The flat-topped surface serves as a protective cap for underlying softer shale and sandstone.
You’ll see plenty of wildlife. The island is also a game refuge, and deer have been observed making their way to the island from the mainland.
Established as a resort and retirement village, Fairfield Bay is full of weekend retreat opportunities with condos, luxury residences, and lodgings with resort-style amenities. Popular events throughout the year include Bloomin' in the Bay (April), Surf the Bay (June), 4th of July, fall festivals, holiday festivals, and music, plays and more at the outdoor amphitheater. Situated 75 miles north of Little Rock, the Bay is located along Ark. 16, east of Clinton.
Sugarloaf Mountain, a 690-foot erosional remnant near the Little Red River, is a popular spot in Heber Springs.
The Osage Tribe who used to live there called it Tonawanda. The earliest white settlers called it Sugarloaf because it looked like the shape of the loaves of unrefined sugar in use at that time. That also became the name of the community that developed nearby. While the town name was later changed to Heber Springs, the mountain retained the name Sugarloaf, according to signage on the mountain trail.
The view from the mountain extends for miles in every direction, making it a popular destination throughout the years. Unfortunately, in addition to those who enjoyed getting out in nature to hike and climb Sugarloaf, it was also popular with graffiti artists. More than a decade ago, every boulder and surface along the trail up to the summit was painted.
But area residents formed the Sugarloaf Heritage Council to combat the problem. After a decade of hard work, the organization, and the people who embody it, have much to celebrate—graffiti-free rock, new trails, community pride, plans accomplished, and plans for the future.
The Summit Trail is the most difficult because hikers must climb the rock to the top. It’s worth the effort with a view that extends for miles in every direction. The Tonawanda Base Trail is a moderate trail, and the Hidden Pond Trail is handicap accessible. The Wildlife Trail will be complete by summer 2018. This trail will eventually connect to the Heber Springs Sulfur Creek Trail that ends near Greers Ferry Lake.
Heber Springs, founded as a health resort, now serves as a gateway to Greers Ferry Lake and the Little Red River. The U.S. Corps of Engineers completed the 31,500-acre lake in 1963, and President John F. Kennedy came to Heber Springs in October of that year for the dedication. The historic downtown district includes a stately county courthouse with traditional square, a museum, antique shops, restored theater and Spring Park, with its mineral springs that attracted the original settlers.
Greers Ferry Lake is known for great fishing and water recreation. Camping, cabins and world-class resorts overlook one of the state's most popular lakes. Below the massive Corps of Engineers dam, the Little Red River is internationally known as the home of the former world-record (40-pound, four-ounce) brown trout. Trout resorts and outfitters are available. The lake and river have served as national models for environmental cleanliness.