THEY’RE CALLED stocknägel in the German Alps where the custom started, those medallions that hikers affix to their walking sticks after conquering a trail. Though they’ve got a less poetic name here in Arkansas—we suppose they’re just called “hiking medallions”—the ritual endures, and you can start your own collection this month at Lake Dardanelle State Park on National Trails Day (June 2). You’ll spend the morning selecting and bedazzling your stick (feathers, anyone?), then put it to use on the park’s Meadowbrook Trail loop, which’ll earn you your first medallion. On second thought, let’s just call ’em stocknägel. Way more fun. ($20;


These are the trails that’ve tested us Arkansas Life-ers—we wear our stocknägel proudly (and, having learned our lessons, now always pack snacks, check the weather and read the trail maps pre-hike).

“There’s no better way to promote male bonding than having to share a sleeping bag with your fellow Boy Scout to keep warm. After hiking the Mount Nebo Bench Trail one rainy day in winter, despite our ponchos and hiking gear, most of us had at least one crucial item that was soaked by the time we reached the campsite. So … we made do. Of course, the second we returned to our cars the next day, the storm lifted.”

—Wyndham Wyeth, associate editor

“As a good and doting son, there’s plenty I know about my mother. I know she’s vegetarian but is open to fish. She loves collage and squirrels and her voice pitches higher than its normal register when something is amiss. It wasn’t until a few years back, however, 6 miles into a hike, when our path along The Goat Trail began to narrow, skirting ever closer to the sheer drop leading to the river, that I learned an important lesson. On that day, I learned my mother is deathly afraid of heights.”

—Jordan Hickey, senior editor

“My thoughts on Pinnacle Mountain’s East Summit: The only people who climb it are gluttons for punishment or tourists who have no idea what’s in store. My mom and I were in the latter camp. It was only when we came to the massive field of boulders at what seemed like a 90-degree incline that we realized what we were in for. But upon reaching the top (after much scrambling and wheezing), I realized that people climb it for the amazing feeling of accomplishment you have when you get there.”

—Emma Devine, creative director

“I’ve never savored a sandwich like the Ozark Cafe burger I scarfed down after my first trip down (and back up, up and up) the Hemmed-in Hollow Falls Trail near the Buffalo River. Reaching the 209-foot waterfall was well worth the effort, but I still cringe when I remember braving that 1,328-foot elevation gain on a mostly empty stomach.”

—Katie Bridges, editor

“Hiking the Bear Cave Trail at Petit Jean State Park was one of my very favorite experiences—it’s neither long, nor difficult. It’s a fairly easy trail stretching between cavernous caves and boulders. But what I’ll always remember is the little bit of ingenuity (and curiosity) that led to climbing the mounds above the cave. That decision led the witnessing one of the most spectacular sunsets I’ve ever seen.”

—Arshia Khan, photographer