TRAIL REVIEW: Hiking for a cause at Mount Kessler

Known as “Rock City,” this portion of the trail boasts beautiful rock formations.

Photo by Caroline Bauman

Note: This is the final post in a seven-part series of Northwest Arkansas trail reviews. Read more here. ×

Trail: Mount Kessler Trail
Duration: 8.5 miles
Activities: Hiking, Mountain Biking, Trail Running
Mountain biking map:

Reaching a summit of 1,854 feet above elevation, Mount Kessler is one of Fayetteville’s greatest hidden treasures, tucked away in the southwest corner of the city.

It seemed only right to end this trail review series with Mount Kessler. Running about 8.5 miles, the Mount Kessler Trail weaves through private property owned by Frank Sharp. The trail was constructed by the local mountain biking club, Ozark Off Road Cyclists, and has been steadily growing in popularity amongst hiking and mountain biking communities. What’s incredibly unique about Mount Kessler is that it’s a trail owned by Fayettevillians, built by Fayettevillians for Fayettevillians (and all willing adventurers, of course).

All bikers and hikers are required to sign a waiver and release of liability with Sharp before getting started, and he can be reached at 479-957-4069 or [email protected].

Called, “The Pub,” owner Frank Sharp’s property preceding the trailhead includes restrooms.

Caroline Bauman

The trailhead on Smokehouse Trail is easily accessible from Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, and parking is available by Sharp’s house or further down the road. Smokehouse Trail will come to a fork, and Sharp’s house is on the left. If you see a beautiful stone house and some friendly goats and dogs, then you’ll know you’re in the right place. There is also a trail access point off of Finger Road, but the Smokehouse Trail trailhead is recommended. Past Sharp’s house, the road will curve uphill to the left. You will find the trailhead shortly on the right, marked with a small gate and a red private property sign.

The first stretch of the trail is known as the Rock City Trail. Beautiful rock formations and hillsides on the left are accompanied by gorgeous views of the distant Prairie Grove and Fayetteville skylines to the right. In the wintertime, Sharp said hikers and bikers can see as far as 1,000 miles acres across the valley below. The trail then winds into Rock City itself, an area known for its stunning rock formations on either side of the path.

The next landmark on the trail is a fire pit, where the trail will then split into a series of loops. The path on the far right leads to the Spell Bound Loop, the path in the middle leads to Trent Trail and the path on the far left leads to the Serpentine Loop, which later turns into the Bloody Mary Trail. All loops circle back to the fire pit, and from there you can return on the same path to the trailhead.

By opening up this beautiful mountain to the public, Sharp said he hoped hikers and bikers will want to become “advocates,” individuals dedicated to seeking the preservation of the mountain in its natural state. What makes exploring Mount Kessler so incredible is that unlike state parks or local trails, this trail connects you directly to the history of the land. Sharp was four years old when his parents bought their land and built the stone home he still lives in. He has been working to conserve and maintain this piece of Fayetteville soil his entire life, and by taking the time to go explore it, we are helping to maintain it as well.

So how are those New Year’s resolutions going? I hope these trail reviews have inspired you to get outside a little bit over this past week and keep those resolutions to exercise and stay healthy. But February is a long way away, and to beat the odds, exploring the outdoors should become more than a means of exercise. It should become a passion for taking advantage of all the beauty and adventure Northwest Arkansas has to offer.

More photos

Owner Frank Sharp leads the way to the Mount Kessler Trail entrance with two of his trusty pups.

Photos by Caroline Bauman

A rocky single track, Mount Kessler Trail is open to mountain bikers and hikers alike.

The Mount Kessler Trail spans over Frank Sharps’ land.

The first mile of Mount Kessler Trail offers beautiful overlooks of the Praire Grove and Fayetteville skylines.

Along with his dogs, owner Frank Sharp often hikes his trail with his goats.