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The definitive Ozark Highlands Trail Guide

Ozark Highlands Trail Guide by Tim Ernst

Trail Map

 

OHT Maps & Info

(Rev 10-27-12)

 

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 165 miles from Lake Fort Smith State Park, across the Ozark National Forest to the Buffalo National River, then along the Buffalo as Buffalo River/Ozark Highlands Trail, thru the Lower Buffalo River Wilderness as a GPS bushwhack route, and thru the Sylamore Ranger District again as hiking trail to near Norfork, Arkansas, 254 miles in all, of which 218 miles are constructed trail and growing! 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 (best sunset in the Arkansas!), Hare Mountain, the Marinoni Scenic Area, Dead Dog Bluff, and countless other breathtaking spots. And one of the nicest things about the OHT, is the fact that it is still relatively undiscovered – even on a prime spring weekend you will seldom see other hikers.

The OHT crosses more than 66 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. And 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 trail is great for dayhikes, weekend adventures and extended backpacking trips. It is accessible at more than 65 forest road 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). It is open and is great hiking all year. Cabins are available at White Rock Mountain (479-369-4128).

 A brief description of the Ozark Highlands Trail: It 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 253 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 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.

The OHT begins at Lake Ft. Smith State Park near Mountainburg on Hwy. 71. It is well blazed, and has mile markers every mile. It runs along Lake Ft. Smith, crosses Frogg Bayou, then up Jacks Creek and over to Hurricane Creek, then climbs up to White Rock Mountain, one of the best views in the country. A loop trail runs around the rim there, and another loop goes down to Shores Lake. The OHT crosses Salt Fork, goes up and over Potato Knob Mountain, down to Spirits Creek, up and over Black Mountain, along a historical railroad route, across Fane Creek, up Whiting Mountain, and crosses the Pig Trail National Scenic Byway (Hwy. 23) at Cherry Bend.

It heads on over to Hare Mountain, the highest point on the trail at 2360′, passes the Redding/Spy Rock Loop Trail, drops down to Herrods Creek and Indian Creek, goes through the Marinoni Scenic Area, across Lick Branch, the Little Mulberry River, Lynn Hollow, Waterfall Hollow, the Mulberry River Wild And Scenic River, and crosses Ozark Highlands National Scenic Byway (Hwy. 21) at Ozone Campground. From there it crosses Little Piney Creek, Lick Creek, Cedar Creek Scenic Area, Gee Creek, and crosses Hwy. 123 at Haw Creek Campground.

It passes over Big Piney Wild and Scenic River and enters the Hurricane Creek Wilderness Area, an impressive chunk of wild country. It crosses Hwy. 7 National Scenic Byway at Fairview Campground, crosses Richland Creek , skirts the Richland Creek Wilderness Area, crosses Falling Water Creek, and comes out at the Richland Creek Campground. It crosses Richland Creek again, works its way up to near Stack Rock, down into the Dry Creek drainage, across the Buffalo Wildlife Management Area, enters Buffalo National River near The ‘Nars, and comes alongside the Buffalo River at Woolum. A connecting section Buffalo River/OHT Trail, heads downstream from that point, crossing Richland Creek, passes a number of spectacular views of the river from high bluffs above, goes through the Tyler Bend Recreation Area, and currently ends at Hwy. 65.

 Volunteers are building BNR/OHT on downstream 26 miles from Hwy 65 to the Lower Buffalo Wilderness Area where the OHT continues as a GPS bushwhack route (See Hiker’s Guide Ozark Highland Trail Route, Lower Buffalo Wilderness), then across Ozark National Forest, Sylamore District 32 miles to Matney Knob near Norfork, AR.  The trail has a few miles built from Norfork Dam to Tracy Arm.  In the future the trail will connect with the Ozark Trail near Tecumseh, Missouri, and run all the way to St. Louis – a trail system of nearly 1000 miles! Your help is needed – join the Ozark Highlands Trail Association.

OHT section

Free downloadable topo maps of the Ozark Highlands Trail (OHT) from Lake Fort Smith State Park to Woolum (Mile 0 to 165) are available at:  http://www.ouachitamaps.com/OHT.html  Ozark Highlands Trail Guide by Tim Ernst also covers this and the Sylamore Section. Click on the guide book image on the left side of this page.  Sylamore Section Maps are downloadable .pdf files by section:

Spring Creek A         Print or View

Spring Creek B         Print or View

Moccasin Spring       Print or View

Brush Cr.- Birm. Hol. Print or View

Twin Creek             Print or View

Matney Knob           Print or View

From Woolum to Hwy 65 (Mile 165 to 180) see commercial trail guides. Click on the guide book image on the left side of this page.

From Hwy 65 to Hwy 14 (Mile 180 to 206) the Buffalo River Trail/OHT is under construction with some segments open to hiking now.  Contact Buffalo National River, Harrison, AR for detail.

From Hwy 14 to Spring Creek Trailhead (Mile 206 to 222) there is only a GPS bushwhack (no built trail) route presented in Hiker’s Guide, Ozark Highlands Trail Route, Lower Buffalo Wilderness(includes topo maps and GPS waypoints).  Click on the guide book image on left side of this page.

From Spring Creek Trailhead to Matney Trailhead (Mile 222 to 253 or 0 to 31.6 on section maps above) See U.S. Forest Service, Sylamore Ranger District, Mountain View, AR OHT Sylamore Section Recreation Opportunity Guide for topo and local information, or see Ozark Highlands Trail Guide late 4th edition or later by Tim Ernst.  Click on the guide book image on the left side of this page.

There is an 8 mile gap from Matney Trailhead to the west end of  Norfork Dam (Mile 253 to 261) that is covered by Arkansas Highway Transportion Maps.

From Norfork Dam to Tracy Arm (Mile 261 to 264) the OHT is maintained by the Corps of Engineers, Lake Norfork Project, Mountain Home, AR.  This is a shoreline trail that is to be extended to Tecumseh, Missouri to meet the Ozark Trail (Missouri) as part of the Trans-Ozark Trail.