You are just as safe hiking alone as you would be walking through any mall in the country, and probably even a lot safer. There is no inherent safety problem with hiking alone, and many folks prefer to hike that way. It really has to do with your own comfort level. And there really is no difference if you are a man or woman – i.e. there normally aren’t any folks lurking on the trail just waiting to attack lone female hikers! Solo hiking can be a wonderful experience, but that is not to say something terrible would never happen – LIFE HAPPENS no matter who you are or where you are!
Yes, the trail is open all year. However, some short sections of the trail may be closed for short periods of time due to a controlled burn in the area, or for regeneration work being done to control red oak borer which has killed many tree
The trail is not maintained from late spring until early fall, so summer hikers can expect to encounter heat, humidity, dense vegetation, wildlife including poisonous snakes and insects. Maintenance begins in mid September, continues into late fall, and responds to storm damage into late spring. Most hikers opt for leaf-off for hiking in Arkansas.
The Boston Mountains, Buffalo River, and Sylamore segments are maintained by OHTA volunteers.
Restrictions have been established by the land managers. Dogs are not permitted on trails within the Buffalo National River. Elsewhere, dogs are permitted but need to be leashed.
Join the Ozark Highlands Trail Association, and bring some friends out hiking with you. As you hike along you can help out a great deal by simply kicking off downed limbs and loose rocks on the trail. If you come across larger trees or limbs across the trail and can do so, please take the time to stop and pull them off the trail. If a tree is left across the trail and hikers have to go around it, soon a new trail will develop around the tree, in a bad location, and that new path will eventually have to be covered up by volunteers.
If you come across problems along the trail such as large downed trees blocking the trail or washouts, please note the location of the problem (GPS coordinates are best) and send as much info as you can to the Maintenance Manager. A photo can be helpful.
Yes. There is an eight color cloth patch of the trail available for sale for $4. Send to OHTA, P.O. Box 4065, Fayetteville, AR 72702-4065.
There are many sandstone bluffs located along the trail, and some of them might make for good rock climbing, however there are no specific locations at this time that are official great rock climbing spots.
Not really. You may find some overhangs and other eroded caverns, but nothing of significance. All caves on Federal land are currently closed to entry to protect bats from a deadly spreading disease.
There is very little cell phone service along the trail, despite what the salesperson told you! However, as more and more cell towers are constructed around the country, there will be more spots along the trail where you might be able to pick up a signal. The best places to try are on the highest ridgetops, but the signal will be dismal at best.
Generally speaking you want to carry lightweight food that is quick and easy to prepare with a limited amount of mess. There are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of good trail cookbooks on the market. Avoid foods that are packaged in cans or glass bottles, or that need refrigeration if you are hiking in the summertime. Just use common sense, keep the weight down, and you can often eat the same foods that you do at home. Look through some of the trail cookbooks at your local outdoor store for ideas.
Some of the streams along the trail have small blue gill and even a rock bass or small mouth bass or two, but it really is not worth bringing your fishing rod, and you certainly cannot plan to eat fish during your hike. There are no trout in the streams along the OHT.
We have an abundant supply of snakes in the forest, including rattlesnakes, copperheads and water moccasins. Generally speaking, unless you are playing with a snake, or happen to sit down right on top of one, you will never have any problems with snakes. There has never been a reported incident of a hiker getting snake bit on the OHT, although certainly folks do get bit from time to time. Most snakes are good snakes, although it is a good idea to avoid all snakes all the time – they are wildlife just like everything else.
Yes, there is an expanding population of black bears in the forests along the trail. Are they dangerous – not really. Most of the black bears are quite small – less than a hundred pounds – and are afraid of humans. Some of them are much larger though, and have lost their fear of man. Bears do not hibernate in Arkansas, but rather dig themselves back into rock formations and even down into large hollow trees, and spend the winter months sleeping. In the late spring and early summer they come out looking for food. If you have food stored inside your tent at night, you just might come face to face with a hungry bear – NEVER keep any food or other sweet items (like toothpaste) inside your tent at night. The best method is to “bear bag” your food, or carry a bear proof container. We probably receive a dozen or so reports of bear sightings on the trail per year – they are vary rare, and if you see a bear, chances are it will only be a quick glimpse of his hind end as he runs away from you. The two most populated sections of the trail with bears are the White Rock Mountain area and the Horn Mountain Area (east end of the trail). There are no grizzly bears in the wild in Arkansas.
There is a lot of wildlife that lives in the forest along the OHT including white-tailed deer, black bear, elk (in the Buffalo River area), coyotes, bobcats, wild turkey, grouse (rare), squirrels, armadillos, chipmunks, and a large variety of birds and other wildlife. Most hikers make way too much noise when they hike and don’t see all that much wildlife. Also most wildlife is nocturnal and you won’t generally see them out in the middle of the day. The best way to see wildlife is to get up early in the morning, and find a place where you can see far out into the forest, then sit there quietly and motionless for a good long while – you will be surprised at all the critters you can spot!
Are you going to be shot just because you are hiking during hunting season? Certainly not. You are as safe out on the trail during hunting season as you are walking down the street in your front neighborhood, or indeed walking in any town in the world. Can a stray bullet strike you? Of course, but you have a much better chance of hitting the lottery. During hunting seasons you might hear gunshots and see hunters, so it is always best to be aware of when the hunting seasons are. The Ozark Highlands Trail Association always schedules outings during even the most busy hunting seasons. There has never been a reported injury of any kind associated with hikers and hunters along the OHT. This does not meant that it won’t ever happen, just that it is not really an issue. IF you are hiking during the regular gun deer seasons, it is best if you wear some sort of blaze orange cloth on your person and/or backpack. Check with the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission for seasons
Yes. The parts of the OHT that pass through the Ozark National Forest and Buffalo National River lands are open to hunting during all regular hunting seasons. Hunters are typically good stewards of the land and are not to be feared. Check with the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission for seasons.
During most of the year you will cross water many times during the day along the OHT. Consult the guidebook for the exact locations. In the drier months (July – September) the water can be hard to find, but not impossible. If you are planning an end-to-end hike of the OHT during these months it is a good idea to stash some water along the route, just in case. Generally speaking the water along the OHT is clean and relatively pollution free. However, it is advisable to treat ALL water that you consume from any unknown water source – most folks use water filters, but boiling is OK too, just more of a pain.
Your vehicle is as safe at any trailhead as it is parked in your front yard or in any shopping center parking lot in the country. There are no guarantees in life, and your vehicle can be broken into at anyplace, anytime. There is no particular history of vandalism at OHT trailhead parking lots, although none of them are supervised in any way. Obviously, remove any valuables, or at the very least keep them out of sight.
That depends on each individual hiker, the hours of daylight, etc. Trail varies from constructed trail to GPS bushwhack route in the Lower Buffalo Wilderness. A complete thru hike is difficult but possible with careful attention to all details, but hiking the longer segments is not unusual. It may take 10 to 14 days for the 164-mile Boston Mountains segment, for example. Continuous built trail is in place from Lake Fort Smith State Park to AR-14, or 207 miles.
That depends on YOU. All hikers are different, and there are so many variables like your personal condition and experience, weight of your pack, how good your boots are, how early you get up and start hiking and how late you hike in the day, etc. etc. Many hikers, especially those new to the sport, tend to try to hike too many miles in a single day. The result is very sore feet, muscles and bones, and an unpleasant hiking experience. It is best to start off with fewer miles per day and work up to longer miles as you gain experience.
There are currently no grocery stores located within a reasonable hiking distance from the trail. There are small post offices located at Ozone and Pelsor where you can have resupply packages mailed to you (both within two miles of the trail).
Yes, at White Rock Mountain. Lake Fort Smith State Park has campsites by reservation with excellent hot showers. There are other rental cabins in the Cass Mulberry River and near highway crossings, but these are not right on the trail.
Yes, there are several shuttle services that can shuttle hikers for a fee. Some of these are listed in the OHT guidebook
Turner Bend: turnerbend.com
479-667-3641 Western and Central OHT
Mark Hodge: [email protected]
479-979-5361 Central OHT
Sassafras Shuttle: HikeArkansas.com/Sassafras.html
Ron Ferguson 870-446-2910 Central and Eastern OHT
Buffalo River Outfitters: BuffaloRiverOutfitters.com
800-582-2244 Eastern OHT
(Fiftysix, AR) 870-757-2270 Sylamore Section OHT
Not at all! The trail is used by hikers throughout the year so the numbers of hikers are spread out. You will seldom see other hikers along the trail at any time of the year. At most you may pass a dozen or two hikers throughout the day, but you will often not see another soul during your entire hike.
ALL of the OHT is scenic! Tim Ernst lists hundreds of Special Scenic Spots (SSS) locations in the guidebook, and you will find them listed all along the trail, plus there are many hundreds more waiting for you to discover on your own. Here are some highlights of the Boston Mountains segment: White Rock Mountain, Spirits Creek, the old railroad grade, the rockhouse, Hare Mountain, Marinoni Scenic Area, Eldridge Hollow Waterfall Area, Lynn Hollow, Slot Rock, Cedar Creek Pool, Haw Creek Falls, Hurricane Creek Wilderness Area, and on and on and on…
ALL of the OHT is the best section! This trail was designed and constructed by HIKERS who wanted a great trail to hike – there are no bad sections of the OHT.
All of the trail is great hiking, and there are many sections that are short enough for a weekend trip – consult the guidebook for access points and mileages.
Here are some:
- The Shores Lake to White Rock Loop Trail (13.4 miles)
- Redding to Spy Rock Loop Trail (8.8 miles).
- Within the Tyler Bend area the Rock Wall, Spring Hollow, and River View trails all connect to the BRT/OHT at their south end with their north ends converging in the campground.
There are maps and detailed descriptions of the first two in the guidebook. The only way to make a longer loop hike utilizing the OHT would be to loop back around via roads or bushwhack on your own. We do hope to construct additional loop trails in the future.
No permits are required to hike or camp along the OHT. There are registration boxes located along the trail, and it is advised that you sign in at each register that you pass. This helps the forest service know how many hikers are using the trail in order to justify its existence. It also helps track your movements in the case of an emergency – it will be easier to find you. There is no need to put any detailed personal information on the registration cards, like address, phone number, etc.
Yes. Public campgrounds are located at Lake Ft. Smith State Park, White Rock Mountain, Shores Lake (via spur trail), Redding (via spur trail), Ozone, Haw Creek Falls, Fairview, Richland Creek, and Woolum (you have to wade the Buffalo River to get to it), Tyler Bend (via spur), South Maumee (via road walk), Camp Matney (via spur), and probably a couple in the Lake Norfork area.
Most of these campgrounds are open all year long and some charge a fee.
Yes. You are generally allowed to camp anywhere along the trail as long as you are at least 200 feet and out of sight from the trail and any water source. There are no official campsites along the trail – other than in established public campgrounds. However, many unofficial sites have been established over the years in the normal expected areas.
Yes. Campfire RINGS are not allowed, at least not any new one. Contrary to popular opinion, it is not necessary to build a campfire ring in order to build a campfire, and in fact these rings – normally made out of stones – actually create a fire hazard by containing glowing embers that can escape and start a forest fire long after the hiker has left the campsite. HIKERS WHO START FOREST FIRES ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR ALL COSTS ASSOCIATED WITH PUTTING OUT THE FIRE! Make sure any campfire is DEAD OUT! Using rocks to construct campfire rings also leaves behind ugly blackened rocks that will last for generations. It is OK to use an existing fire ring, just don’t construct a new one.
No. The OHT is for foot traffic only and vehicles of any kind are not allowed.
A short portion of the trail within the Buffalo National River between Richland Creek and Calf Creek is open to equestrian use and has yellow blazes to indicate that. The remainder of the OHT is for human foot traffic only. These restrictions are established by the land managers.
No. The OHT is for foot traffic only and vehicles of any kind are not allowed.
The best hiking season begins in October and runs into early June. Winter is especially great for hiking, as is the early spring, spring, and early summer. The summer months of July, August, and into September are the least favorite times to hike, although the forest is much cooler than temps you will find listed for Arkansas cities. Water levels can get quite low in the summer.
The trail is not maintained from late spring until early fall, so summer hikers can expect to encounter heat, humidity, dense vegetation, wildlife including poisonous snakes and insects. Maintenance begins in mid September, continues into late fall, and OHTA Maintainers respond to storm damage into late spring. Most hikers opt for leaf-off for hiking in Arkansas.