Ozark Highlands Trail in Northern Arkansas
Length: 218 miles
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Description: The Ozark Highlands Trail (OHT) is one of the most spectacular hiking trails in the United States. This cross-country route in northwest Arkansas stretches 218 miles from Lake Fort Smith State Park, across the Ozark National Forest, to the Buffalo National River and then on to just before Norfork, AR. The trail passes through some of the most remote and scenic portions of the Ozark Mountains, like the Hurricane Creek Wilderness Area. It also visits White Rock Mountain, Hare Mountain, the Marinoni Scenic Area, and countless other breathtaking spots. One of the nicest things about the Ozark Highlands Trail is the fact that it is still relatively undiscovered - even on a prime spring weekend you will seldom see other hikers.
The Ozark Highlands Trail crosses more than 60 named creeks, streams and rivers, and passes hundreds of seasonal waterfalls, lots of sandstone bluffs, giant boulders and scenic vistas. Springtime, with flowering dogwoods, redbuds, and a profusion of wildflowers, makes for a photographers paradise. The lush upland hardwood forests create one of the most wonderful splashes of fall color that you can find anywhere in the country. Winter too is great for hiking, with lots of ice formations and the best views of the year along the entire route. And there are plenty of unique swimming holes during the hot summer months.
The Ozark Highlands Trail is great for dayhikes, weekend adventures and extended backpacking trips. It is accessible at more than 50 forest roads and highway crossings, plus nine public campgrounds and numerous other trailheads. All that you have to do is decide how far you want to hike, and you will find many stretches between access points that will meet your needs. Camping is allowed anywhere along the trail. No permits or fees are required to hike the trail, build fires or camp (except in the campgrounds). The hiking trail is open and is great hiking all year.
The Ozark Highlands Trail has wonderful vistas, terrific streamside walks, lots of deep green pools to swim in, bluffs and rocks and boulders galore, forests that go on forever, and hundreds of waterfalls. It is currently 165 miles from end to end, with 27 additional miles of connecting spurs and loops, so it makes for a great long-distance backpacking trail. The Ozark Highlands Trail passes through 18 campgrounds and other trailheads and crosses more than 50 forest roads and highways, providing plenty of access for dayhikes of all lengths.