Ouachita National Forest

Hiking - Athens-Big Fork Trail

Rather than running east to west along creek beds like other trails on the Caddo Ranger District, this trail runs north to south across the mountains. Crossing eight mountains, the trail is considered extremely strenuous. Trail features include spectacular views of the Ouachita Mountains from such high points as Eagle Rock Vista, Brushheap Mountain and Hurricane Knob. A mystical cave, located 35 feet below the trail on the south side of Brushy Mountain and a geologic outcropping, located 150 feet south of the highest point on Brushy Mountain, add to the hiker's experience.

Surrounding Areas: Shady Lake Recreation Area, a well developed camping and day use area, offers swimming, camping, picnicking, hunting and fishing opportunities. For a more primitive camping experience try Bard Springs Recreation Area. The Little Missouri Trail, Viles Branch Equestrian/Hiking Trail and the Eagle Rock Loop connect with this trail at the north and south ends.

Length: 10.1 miles, one way.

Directions Southern trailhead: Take Highway 246 west from Athens to Forest Road 38 and turn right for 9/10 miles, turn on right to Weyerhaeuser Road 53800 for 7/10 mile, then left on Forest Road B23F and follow it 9/10 mile to the trailhead sign. Northern trailhead: Take Highway 8 from Big Fork to Forest Road 38 and turn south. Travel for 1.5 miles to Forest Road B15. The trailhead is at the end of the road. Interior trailheads: Located on Forest Road 25 and 106.

Trail Information: The trail is unsurfaced. Travel time is about 8 to 10 hours one-way. The trail is marked with white rectangles.

Difficulty Level: Most difficult.

Recommended Season: Fall and winter.

Safety: Be sure to carry an adequate supply of water. Drinking water only available at Recreation Areas.

History: This historic, 125-year-old postal service trail was partly restored in 1986 through the joint efforts of the Forest Service and the Bayou Chapter of the Ozark Society. The trail was completed by the Student Conservation Association in 1993.

Restrictions: This trail is restricted to hiking and nonmotorized vehicles. Horses are welcome on the Viles Branch Equestrian Trail.


Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 3 Nov 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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