In Lake Catherine State Park near Hot Springs, you'll find the pup-friendly Dam Mountain National Recreation Trail, a moderately difficult hike to the top of Dam Mountain. The trailhead begins at a campground in the park at the base of the mountain and follows the Ouachito River to a swinging suspended footbridge over the Little Canyon Creek where the dam that created the lake is located. Up ahead is a seasonal waterfall, and you will also see that the Dam Mountain Trail meets up with two other trails in the park that you can add to your itinerary, or can explore another day.
Abundant plants, wildflowers and animals are on all sides as you climb to the summit of Dam Mountain, and you'll encounter several streams with wet crossings where you and the fur-pup can refresh yourselves and take a break. Benches pop up along the trail here and there, and all afford great views of the wildlife and Lake Catherine below, and some have stone steps to the lake. You and the pooch might want to cool off with a swim!
Near the top of the mountain, the trail snakes around mountain glades with grassy surfaces surrounded by trees, and from the overlook ridge at the summit, you can feast your eyes on furtastic views of Rimmel Dam, Lake Catherine and the tops of the buildings in the town of Hot Springs.
The loop back to the base is less strenuous, although the overgrowth in summer may need to be pushed out of your way as you walk. The pine and hardwood forest seems to be plotting to take over the trails, and it sometimes seems to be winning! But the solitude and quiet you'll find on this trail is magnificent, and the opportunities for photos abound!
Be sure to bring waste bags for the pooch and be prepared to carry them off the trail with you. Also take plenty of water for you and Fido as the climb can be rigorous and it's often hot. This is a challenging, but lovely hike that both you and your pup will enjoy!
Wear protective clothing and good shoes to protect from the summer's high grasses, many ticks, and snakes. A walking stick to move summer vegetation out of the way and alert wildlife to your approach is helpful, too. Bug spray is a must! On the descent in the spring, especially near the waterfall, you may encounter some large, slick boulders that can land you on your bottom. There are no restrooms once you leave the trailhead at a nearby campground.