OXLEY — While the west side of Searcy County has the Richland Valley that is full of waterfalls and trails, the east side of the county has nature hikes to offer as well.
Outside of the town of Oxley, there are a couple of nature trails that will help one stay in touch with the Natural State.
The town of Oxley has a bicycle trail that is part of the Ozark Grinder Trail. The Ozark Grinder Trail is a 120 mile ride that wonders in and out of the county. There is a loop where a rider can start and end back in Oxley without riding 120 miles. This trail is approximately 12 miles in length.
Another part of the nature in the area is the Stem Rock hike.
This hike is a total of 1.5 miles and is an in and out trail.
One of the rewards for walking the .75 miles to get to Stem Rock is a view over the valley of the Ozark Mountains.
The view of a mountain in the distance is Angora Mountain in Stone County.
The other reward is a view of Stem Rock. Stem Rock is a 55-foot tall free standing pedestal rock.
Stem Rock gets it name from a particular stone formation that is located to the left side of the view.
This rock starts as a broad stone on top and moves to the root of the stone which is narrow.
The structure is large enough that trees have grown on the top of the formation.
There is more to the rocks than the view at the top. There are ways to get to the bottom of the stones to see more amazing nature.
The easiest path to the bottom will be on the left side of the Stem Rock. There is one large step, but it is easy after that to make the descent to the bottom.
When moving down this area, there will be a cave like structure on the left side. It has a hole in the top that allows rays of sunshine to illuminate the area.
When moving to the right, Stem Rock will be about 25 steps away. Of course with all nature things, idiots have defaced the area with spray paint.
However, the view from the bottom is spectacular. It is hard to believe that much rock can be on the little base.
After moving past there, the rocks form a shelter and the shape resembles a set of parentheses. There is seating here in the rocks and the change in temperature is amazing.
There are many other areas to search. Some require crawling on knees to get through some of the rock formations.
While exploring the area, there is a reminder of the danger of the rocks. There is a memorial to a man that has fallen from the top of the formation.
The hike to the sight is very easy. There is a path that is very wide and can be accessed by a four-wheel drive if there is a need to carry out someone.
A baby stroller has made the hike with no problems except for fording the many water puddles that were left after heavy spring rains.
The walk is very level and offers sights of Arkansas hardwood trees. Those same trees make a canopy of shade on the stroll.
The directions to Stem Rock are very easy. Travelers take Highway 65 South to the town of Leslie. Turn left on Highway 66 that moves toward Mountain View.
Upon reaching Oxley, which is approximately 7.3 miles from Leslie, there is a country store on the right hand side of the road.
Just past the store there is a small lane on the right hand side of the road. Take this road. It is called Oxley Road and County Road 69. After getting on this lane, .3 of a mile travelers will veer right staying on the paved road. This road is County Road 71. Only .9 of a mile from there is a sign on the right hand side of the road that show the location of Stem Rock. Should the first entrance be missed, there is a second one that will take the car back to the trailhead of the hike.
This hike is another reason why Arkansas is known as the Natural State.