Ouachita National Forest

Hiking

Arkansas state has over 250 hiking trails totaling over 1,500 miles. And some of the best ones are in the Ouachita National Forest. More than 600 miles of trails are available. Trails vary in difficulty from primitive in wilderness areas to paved, interpretive trails. The forest has an active trail construction program: New trails are being blazed and old ones upgraded. Typical for national forests, most trails are mixed use, meaning they are shared among mountain bikers, horseback riders, and hikers.

The long and rugged Ouachita National Recreation Trail is the king of the forest trails. Stretching for 236 miles across the length of the Ouachita Mountains, the trail crosses the highest mountains, and wildest landscape, in Middle America. To hike the whole thing takes anywhere from three weeks to a month.

None of the other trails of the Ouachita can compare in length. The other long-distance trails range in the 20- to 30-mile range. At 27 miles, the Eagle Rock Loop Trail is the longest loop trail in Arkansas. Take this route, and over a three-day period you'll cross the Little Missouri River nine times and travel over nine mountains.

If you want to be out for the day, or at most overnight, you have plenty of options. The Horsethief Spring Trail is one of the prettiest trails around, crossing many small springs before looping around on the Ouachita Trail. Lovers of water features will appreciate the Big Brushy Trail Complex. You can piece together a hike anywhere from three to 12 miles in length, and take the opportunity to explore streams, waterfalls, dramatic rock formations, and quiet woodlands.

If you're in for a workout, take a crack at the Athens-Big Fork Trail. This spectacular trail goes against the grain, crossing across the ridgelines, and offering spectacular views as well as, at one point, the opportunity to explore a mystical cave.

If strenuous ain't your bag, the forest has several wonderful short trails, some of them paved and wheelchair accessible. The Lake Sylvia Trails even offer Braille signs for the vision impaired. If you like lakes, the Cedar Lake and Old Pine Trails circle a nice one. At just a little over four miles, Hunt's Loop makes a nice day hike that may be short on miles but is long on views.

But hey, don't let us tell you what to do. There are many more trails, all worthy of the hiker's consideration. Let's get started...

Trails

0-5 miles
Cedar Lake/Old Pine
Danville Mountain
Earthquake Ridge
Friendship
Hunt's Loop
Kerr
Lake Sylvia Trails
Little Pines
Mountain Settlers
Possum Kingdom
Serendipity
Shady Lake

5-10 miles
Billy Creek
Big Brushy
Athens-Big Fork
Charlton
Hole in the Ground
Possum Kingdom
Little Blakely
Buffalo Gap

10-20 miles
Athens-Big Fork
Beech Creek
Black Fork Mountain
Boardstand/Old Military Road Trail
Caney Creek Wilderness
Eagle Rock Loop
Fourche Mountain
Horsethief Springs
Little Blakely
Little Missouri
Ouachita
Wildcat Mountain

20+ miles
Boardstand/Old Military Road Trail
Eagle Rock Loop
Ouachita
Viles Branch Equestrian Trail
Womble


Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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