We had to be prepared for cold and wet conditions. Ouachita National Recreation Trail is a 210.9 mile moderately trafficked point-to-point trail located near Talihina, Oklahoma that offers the chance to see wildlife and is rated as difficult. I wasn’t sure if I was ever going to have the time to do any of the truly large thruhikes, but I wanted so desperately to be able to call myself a thruhiker. The USFS has produced maps of the Ouachita Trail and has given us permission to use them here. The first 70-odd eastbound miles are the most challenging. I had quite a few constraints going into my first thruhike. My buff is one of my favorite pieces of gear. The trail is lightly used and avoids towns and major roads. Fort Smith, Arkansas, approximately 1 hour from Talimena State Park, has commercial air service. The trail is primarily used for hiking, camping, nature trips, and backpacking and is accessible year-round. It traverses the only East-West Mountain Range in the lower 48. Naomi carried the Leki Jannu poles, which are no longer in production. I am notoriously tough on my poles (and all my gear), and I have yet to break these poles over over 6,000 miles miles of use. We purchased the app for the Ouachita Trail. Summers in Arkansas are too hot, muggy, and buggy. The Ouachita National Recreation Trail is 223 miles stretching from Talimena State Park in Oklahoma to Pinnacle Mountain State Park on the outskirts of Little Rock, Arkansas. The Ouachita Trail is subject to weather extremes: strong thunderstorms, sub-freezing temperatures, ice- and snowstorms, and hot and muggy conditions. Naomi carried the Westcomb Shift LT men’s jacket. The Penney Campsite is 0.9 miles off-trail and accessed by a spur trail. While there were no people out that early, the ticks and chiggers came out early this year. Highlights of the Ouachita National Recreation Trail available here. We had the solitude that is increasingly rare on long trails. Our gear list was complicated by our early start. Naomi and I would thru-hike it again, perhaps linking it via shuttles with the Ozark Mountain Trail. Kiamichi River Trailhead to Oklahoma border (GPS N 34 39.594, W 94 32.498): As one of the most advanced trails in the Ouachita National Recreation Trail System, the nearly seven mile route from the Kiamichi River to the Oklahoma-Arkansas border begins with an easy to navigate trail scattered with primitive tent sites. While most spring starts are in late March and early April, Naomi and I chose an early start date because we wanted to hike before ticks emerged, temperatures warmed, and seasonal water sources dried out. Friends of the Ouachita Trail (FoOT) is a non-profit organization (IRS 501c3) created by trail users to maintain the Ouachita National Recreation Trail as a healthy and enjoyable outdoor recreational asset. In the west, the trail begins at Talimena State Park on Highway 271 near Talihina, Oklahoma. This is a hiking trail which allows mountain biking through remote sections of the Ouachita Mountains. Solitude. Naomi and I sent resupply boxes to the Bluebell Cafe in Story at mile 122. This is the longest trail in the Ouachita National Forest spanning 192 miles across its entire length. There was plenty of water, and we had the trail to ourselves-mostly. The park section travels through upland forests along rocky hillsides and the edge of the scenic Big Maumelle River. The eastern boundary is south of Perryville, Arkansas on Highway 9. It keeps my bald head warm when I sleep, keeps my neck warm or supplements my fleece cap on cold days, and looks quite stylish. I discovered a tick on my leg during a break. The trail had to satisfy a few conditions for me to choose it: 1. Please respect these boundaries. Dogs are also able to use this trail. You can download both from Ouachitamaps.com. All three pads are reviewed in our Best Backpacking Sleeping Pads story. Distance: 223 miles (375km) from Talimena State Park, Oklahoma to Pinnacle Mountain State Park, Arkansas, Elevation gain/loss: 34,300’ (10,455m) ascent; 34,900’ (10,648m) descent. We used trash compactor bags as pack liners to protect our gear from the expected rain. A thru-hiker on trail a week after us had to quit early after a week of strong storms. In the west, the trail begins at Talimena State Park on Highway 271 near Talihina, Oklahoma. There are big views of the surrounding area. It is USB charged, lightweight, comfortable, and has three modes: highly adjustable directed beam, flood light, and red light. This is a long distance trail through remote sections of the Ouachita Mountains beginning in Talimena State Park, northeast of Talihina, Oklahoma, and eventually concluding at the Visitor’s Center at Pinnacle Mountain State Park. Phone:  (501) 984-5313, Mena/Oden Ranger Below are the resources we used for our thru-hike: We purchased the Ouachita Trail Guide to get an overview of the trail and trail descriptions. Most of the trail (177 miles) is in Arkansas, with forty-six miles extending into Oklahoma. The 50 mile and 50 km runs feature a picturesque climb over Pinnacle Mountain followed by an out-and-back traversing the rolling hills along the north shore of beautiful Lake Maumelle. The eastern boundary is south of Perryville, Arkansas on Highway 9. The Six Moon Designs Haven Tarp with inner NetTent is a lightweight, 2-person shelter. We printed out color, 11 x 17” maps that are available for free from ouachitamaps.com. Ouachita National Forest A note regarding COVID-19:  Our Ouachita Trail thru-hike occurred just prior to the COVID-19 lockdowns and travel restrictions. Queen Wilhelmina Lodge also has beautiful rooms and a restaurant serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. All rights reserved. I thru-hiked the Ouachita Trail with Treeline Review co-founder and Chief Operations Officer Naomi Hudetz in 2020. Numerous road crossings and access points provide opportunities for point to point hikes of various distances. The 223-mile Ouachita (pronounced “ Wash -i-tah”) Trail is a National Recreation Trail that runs through the Ouachita Mountains from Talimena State Park in eastern Oklahoma to Pinnacle Mountain State Park near Little Rock, Arkansas. Throughout the Ouachita National Recreation Trail there are many road crossings and trail access points that allow for runners to explore the trail in a variety of ways, making easy to customize distances and scenic opportunities of the run. They do tear very easily, though, so I only use them on trails that are well-maintained and will not require any bushwacking. A line of blue blazes lead Naomi down the trail. Shuttles are available from Fort Smith to Talimena State Park (see below for information on shuttles). The route has of a number of trail segments, along with some short out-and-back or loop spurs. The 222 mile trail begins at the Visitor Center and winds for 2.5 miles through the park and then for 220 miles through the Ouachita Mountains ending in southeast Oklahoma. Ouachita National Recreation Trail: 223 359: Arkansas and Oklahoma: longest trail in Ouachita National Forest: Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail: 214 344: Southeastern United States: Abingdon, Virginia & Elkin, North Carolina: Kings Mountain National Military Park: Y-shaped trail commemorating the historic route of the Overmountain Men. This is the longest trail in the Ouachita National Forest spanning 192 miles across its entire length. There are even mileage markers along the entire route. We only saw six other backpackers and very few day hikers until Pinnacle Mountain State Park. The trail meanders through the Ouachita National Forest with spurs providing lake vistas. The Ouachita National Recreation Trail is maintained by a non-profit group, Friends of the Ouachita Trail (FoOT). Phone:  (580) 494-6402. Pinnacle Mountain State Park is a 30-minute drive from Little Rock, Arkansas. Approximately 177 miles of the trail is in Arkansas and 46 miles of the trail is in Oklahoma. I prefer an umbrella to a wearing drenched jacket hood when hiking through long hours of rain. We were fortunate to have dry conditions, as this section could be treacherous when wet or icy. Fax:  (501) 321-5305, Caddo/Womble Ranger Destination: Start Location: Today's Miles: 0. We needed to be prepared for both frigid cold, snow, and rain, as well as warm, muggy conditions. This is the only section of the Ouachita National Recreation Trail currently open to mountain biking. Since the Ouachita Trail is best experienced as an early spring or late fall hike, you’ll want some skills to stay warm and dry. Abundant wildlife including bears, turkeys, deer, and eagles. In the west, the trail begins at Talimena State Park on Highway 271 near Talihina, Oklahoma. With some planning and advanced route-planning, some hikers have connected the Ouachita Trail with the ~170-mile long Ozark Highlands Trail to create a longer thru-hike. Hot Springs, AR 71902 It provides excellent rain protection, holds up great in the wind, and is easy to pitch. Ouachita National Recreation Trail - General Map, Ouachita National Recreation Trail - Detailed Map. This was a good decision for the few nights when temperatures dropped into the teens since we find Katabatic quilts to be true to their temperature rating; however, we were too warm as temperatures rose above freezing. The trail will pass through some boulder fields at times. The trail in winter can be subject to harsh storms and frigid temperatures. Below is a list of the clothes Naomi and I wore: A good headlamp is especially important for shoulder season hikes, as hte days are short. Because that section is not on national forest land, the only legal camping spot is the Penney Campsite, approximately 15 miles from the eastern terminus at Pinnacle Mountain State Park. Like the Appalachian Trail, the route can feel like an endless series of 500’ to 1,000’ (150-300m) ascents and descents. Unfortunately, the gift shop only had light snacks and sodas. Fortunately, one difference is that the Ouachita Mountain forest is fairly open and often offers nice views along the high ridges. Waldron, AR Jessieville, AR We’re 100% reader-supported publication. Below are some of the biggest challenges we faced: Like the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, the Ouachita Trail can feel like an endless series of 500’-1,000’ ascents and descents. It has great battery life and provides ABC-altimeter, barometric pressure, and compass functions. We did miss the mosquitoes, but a mild winter brought ticks out early. The Soto is the Windproof Winner in the Best Backpacking Stoves story. Photo by Mike Unger. 11901 Pinnacle Valley Road Little Rock, AR 72223 There is no additional cost to you and the decision to buy something is up to you. Sign up with your email address to be the first to know when we release new gear reviews! Lori recommends hikers call from the Suck Mountain Shelter (mile 109) to pre-arrange rides. Buggy. There are several shuttle services serving the entire trail. Our strategy is to layer with lightweight fleece and tights under our rain gear. Naomi demonstrating how to stay well-fed on the trail. FOOT provides a detailed trail overview, a listing of trail shuttle services, current trail conditions, and information on how to support the Ouachita Trail. The Bluebell Cafe in Story, Arkansas -- near the trail’s halfway point -- is the traditional resupply point for Ouachita Trail thru-hikers. The Ouachita Trail is a shoulder season hike, meaning it’s best to hike in the spring or fall. We also carried Patagonia Houdini wind shirts, which are my favorite piece of gear. We are always on the lookout for new shoulder season hikes, and this was a relatively new part of the country for us. For more, read our Best Backpacking Tents story. However, temperatures rose by around 30 degrees within a few days. The Ouachita Trail Guide by Tim Ernest provides a nice overview of the trail and a detailed description of trail sections. In the west, the trail begins at Talimena State Park on Highway 271 near Talihina, Oklahoma. Trail open to foot traffic only for 55 miles. Lingering snow on the Ouachita Trail. Phone:  (870) 867-2101, Jessieville/Winona/ The maps are formatted to be printed at scale (1:24,000) on 11” x 17” paper. The Ouachita is a great long trail, worthy of its National Recreation Trail status. It can also be purchased as part of the Arkansas Hiker package, which highlights other longer backpacking trails in the Arkansas trail system. Hochatown, OK We test. Resupply along the Ouachita Trail can be tricky. In addition to providing emergency rescue notification, I like that I can use it to send text messages. Important note: there is no cell phone service at this Highway 2771 trailhead, nor is there Verizon service in Story. Our favorite two-person tent since 2019 has been the Six Moon Designs Haven Tarp with a NetTent. Forest Service Home | USDA.gov | recreation.gov | Recreation Customer Service Standards | USA.gov | Whitehouse.gov, Plug-Ins | FOIA | Accessibility Statement | Privacy Policy | Important Notices | Information Quality, https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/ouachita/recreation/recarea/?recid=10804&actid=50, Wolf Pen Gap Trails CLOSED for the season, Tent camping,Picnic tables,Toilets,Drinking water,Parking. The temperatures dropped into the teens on our first night on trail, but we were sweating in our shelter a few nights later. The easternmost 30 miles are outside the Ouachita National Forest. Treat all water before drinking. It was one of the most pleasant town stops we’ve had over 25,000[TK] miles of thru-hiking. Rain and thunderstorms are a consistent threat on the trail, but Naomi and I got lucky. I used a Montbell Plasma Down jacket and Naomi used the Patagonia Micro Puff. Ouachita National Recreation Trail is a 223-mile (359 km) long, continuous hiking trail through the Ouachita Mountains of Oklahoma and Arkansas. The Ouachita National Recreation Trail, an approximately 225-mile back country trail, runs east and west the length of the Ouachita Mountains.More commonly referred to as the “Ouachita Trail,” it lies primarily within the Ouachita National Forest.. The trail travels through the Ouachita Mountains from Talimena State Park in Oklahoma to Pinnacle Mountain State Park in Arkansas passing through two wilderness areas along the way. Naomi and I use an umbrella to supplement our rain gear. Ticks, mosquitoes, and chiggers can be an issue. Mt Ida, AR Water is scarce on many portions of the trail especially during dry periods. High Point: 2,610’ (795m) at Rich Mountain near the Oklahoma/Arkansas border. These maps do not include the eastern-most 30 miles of trail not on USFS land. The Ouachita Trail is physically challenging. The rooms were beautiful and the restaurant was good-there’s a hiker-friendly breakfast buffet. This is a hiking trail which allows mountain biking through remote sections of the Ouachita Mountains. Copyright © 2018-2020 Treeline Review LLC. No terrain too far outside of my comfort zone - An 11 day hike was more than enough. The trail is very rocky, and stepping safely requires focus. I carried Frogg Toggs rain jackets and pants, as I have found them to be as good as other lightweight rain gear. There is a small gift shop where candy bars and sodas are available, but it’s not adequate for resupplying. Mena, AR Monday, November 16, 2020 Destination: Today's Miles: 0. The Suck Mountain Shelter has built-in chairs. The eastern third of the trail is extremely rocky and can be slow and sometimes treacherous-especially when wet. This is the only section of the Ouachita National Recreation Trail currently open to mountain biking. I think the Aftershokz Aeropex bone-conducting headphones are perfect for hiking and other outdoor activities. Photo by Naomi Hudetz. Potentially dangerous river fords, especially after storms. This is the longest trail in the Ouachita National Forest spanning 192 miles across its entire length. Box 1270 This trail is an outlet for hikers and bikers to enjoy and learn of the beauty and nature of the Ouachitas. District Reproduction without permission is prohibited. Freezing rain is a particular concern in the winter. The Bluebell Cafe and Market in Story, Arkansas. All but the eastern 30 miles travel through the Ouachita National Forest, the oldest and largest National Forest in the Southern United States. Photo by Mike Unger. I have replaced the tips five times, and I typically replace my tips every 1,500 miles or so. Friends of the Ouachita Trail (FOOT) has compiled a list of navigation points including water sources along the entire trail. We should have carried bug spray and a tick key. The OT is an east-west corridor which extends from Pinnacle Mountain State Park near Little Rock to Talimena State Park near Talihina, Oklahoma. We also carried mittens, rain over-mittens for our hands, and buffs. The Ouachita National Scenic Trail is a 223 mile (359 km) pathway that winds its way through the Ouachita (pronounced wa-she-ta) mountains of Oklahoma and Arkansas. The Ouachita National Recreation Trail is a 223-mile trail that has the honor of being the longest backpacking trail in the Ouachita National Forest, United States. We’re working on a best sleeping quilts guide, but for now, check out our our Best Sleeping Bags story, which has some ultralight options. Photo by Mike Unger. The eastern boundary is south of Perryville, Arkansas on Highway 9. We carried insulated jackets for use in the tent at night, as it’s essential to have something warm and dry after hiking in cold rain all day. She then drove us back to the Bluebell the next morning for breakfast, and then took us-clean, rested, and very well-fed-back to the trail. P.O. Though she couldn’t find a women’s version, it’s lightweight and made with Polartec Neoshell. While navigation is not difficult, the Ouachita Trail is not an easy thru-hike. I carried the Garmin Instinct. Fortunately, we were able to buy some from the Bluebell Cafe in Story. I also learned about chiggers, creatures I’d heard of, but never personally experienced. I prefer a two pad system with a short Nemo Switchback closed-cell foam pad and a Therm-a-Rest ProLite self-inflating pad in a size small. Learn more about our mission and what makes us different here. Uber and Lyft serve the Little Rock metropolitan area. Length 213.9 miElevation gain 32276 ftRoute type Point to point Photo by Mike Unger. In the west, the trail begins at Talimena State Park on Highway 271 near Talihina, Oklahoma. Plus, it allows me to track my daily steps and calorie burn, which I find to be fun metrics to track on a thru-hike. Please consider joining and supporting FOOT. Junctions are generally signed and easy to identify. Mena, located 12 miles south of the trail on Highway 71, is a full-service town with motels, restaurants, and a Walmart. Caching water may be necessary. Without exception, these shelters were meticulously clean and uncrowded. Ida to do laundry and get a room for the night. Friends of the Ouachita Trail provides a list of water sources. We’d also recommend treating clothing with Permethrin prior to the trip to help prevent ticks. It is the longest backpacking trail in the Ouachita National Forest, spanning 192 miles across its length. A tick key is a fast effective way to remove embedded ticks. The TOAKS 550 ml is reviewed in our Best Backpacking Cooking pots story and the TOAKS spoon is in our Backpacking Essential Accessories story. What I initially thought were spider bites turned out to be chiggers, and they turned out to be a red, scratchy, unpleasant experience. The Ouachita Mountain range has a similar steepness and rugged feeling as the Appalachian Mountain range. It’s a winner Overall Picks in our Best Headlamps story. We started at Talimena State Park on February 26 and finished at Pinnacle Mountain State Park on March 8 for a total of 12 days on trail. Rain gear will always “wet out” eventually, meaning the amount of moisture on the surface of the jacket won’t allow any more sweat evaporation from the inside, and you start to feel wet. I occasionally like to listen to audiobooks and podcasts on trail. Photo by Mike Unger. This is the longest trail in the Ouachita National Forest spanning 192 miles across its entire length. If you carry a good map and have decent trail awareness, you shouldn’t have a problem staying on the right path. Naomi used this jacket for the extreme conditions of the Great Divide Trail and carries it on all trips where heavy rain/snow and cold temperatures are a possibility. The Ouachita Trail has shelters nearly every 8-10 miles. Finally, we carried Six Moon Designs Silver Shadow Carbon trekking umbrellas. The two pads provide great warmth, and I find this system more durable and reliable than inflatable pads. Naomi and I chose to carry our 15-degree Katabatic Sawatch quilts. Blue blazes are painted on trees and every mile is marked both on a tree and on the ground with a survey marker. These sections are short lived however, and worth the long descents toward Ouachita National Recreation Trail - Segment 02 just northeast of County Road 221. At Treeline, we want you to buy right the first time. We only want the same thing as you—the best gear at the best price. The hiking trail avoids towns and heavily traveled roads, which can complicate resupply but results in a true sense of solitude. But fear not, we don't allow our judgment to be influenced by these arrangements! We hope to include more in the future. Expect a lower-than-average daily mileage over much of the route. In addition, the Atlas Guides Ouachita Trail app identifies water sources. Fourche Ranger District There are also rattlesnakes and cottonmouths. Some of the links in this article may be affiliate links, which means we may receive a small percentage of any purchase you make. FoOT is organized exclusively to provide assistance for the maintenance, enhancement and use of the Ouachita National Recreation Trail. Rugged, rocky trail conditions, especially the eastern third of the trail. Stretches for 233 miles across the Ouachita National Forest from near Talihina, Oklahoma, to Pinnacle Mountain State Park near Little Rock. The trail is well-blazed and well-maintained. Naomi and Mike at the end of their Ouachita Trail hike—the eastern terminus at Pinnacle Mt. Our first two days on the trail had highs in the 30s and lows in the teens. Only two were thru-hikers-one eastbound and one westbound. Please do yourself a favor and visit the Bluebell when hiking the Ouachita and eat heartily. You decide. Phone:  (479) 394-2382, Poteau/Cold Springs Relatively little-known outside of the US long distance hiking community, it is a non-motorized single track trail that is well marked and maintained from start to finish. (As this may change from year to year, you’ll want to call to confirm and get details.) We did order a pizza from the restaurant for the hike out. The 223-mile Ouachita (pronounced “Wash-i-tah”) Trail is a National Recreation Trail that runs through the Ouachita Mountains from Talimena State Park in eastern Oklahoma to Pinnacle Mountain State Park near Little Rock, Arkansas. For updates on trail conditions as well as information on this group, check out their website. Ouachita National Recreation Trail Journal 11/16 Suck Mtn Tentsite-Smith Creek Tentsite. Read a complete review of backpacks in our story Best Backpacking Backpacks. Ouachita trail maps and GPX data are available for free. The map at right is an overview map. We purposely started early to avoid ticks and mosquitoes. Thank you for supporting us! Photo by Mike Unger. Ida, thanks to a shuttle from Lori at the Bluebell Cafe. We often found ourselves packing up or setting up camp in the dark, and occasionally we even hiked in the dark. The trail stays in the Ouachita National Forest from Oklahoma to Arkansas Highway 9. Civilization rarely encroached on the trail. We’re ad-free and have no sponsored content. It also has great battery life, as long as you keep it in extended tracking mode. Lori, the Bluebell’s proprietor, will shuttle hikers to and from the trail for a delicious meal. We didn’t think to pack bug spray at the start of the trip. The trail avoids towns and major roads. Spur trails connect to various recreation areas and points of interest. First Previous Next Last. Well-maintained trail with relatively new, meticulously clean shelters. US Forest Service Ouachita National Recreation Trail Page. Ranger District Plus, I like to sit on the foam pad during breaks. Lori arranged to have a friend pick us up at 8 am, and we stayed at the Bluebell for breakfast and lunch. This mountain trail offers the hiker a wide range of opportunities from scenic vistas, upland hardwood and pine … I carried the Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork poles, which are the best, most durable poles I’ve used. We expected and planned for rain, but it missed us. Every recommendation we make is chosen by our editors. The Ouachita Trail Guidebook and trail mileage markers are oriented for a start at the western terminus in Talimena State Park in Oklahoma and a finish at the eastern terminus in Pinnacle Mountain State Park near Little Rock, Arkansas. The eastern boundary is south of Perryville, Arkansas on Highway 9. Elevations range from 600 to 2,600 feet as the trail passes through forested mountains, across sweeping valleys and near clear-running streams. this happens by insulating under your rain gear. Start Location: Trip Miles: 0. We carried Patagonia R1 fleece tops and capilene tights as an insulating layer. Warm enough to h… Unsurfaced. State Park near Little Rock, Arkansas. To maintain the natural character of the trail, no horses or motorized vehicles, including trail cycles, are allowed. We took one day off in Mt. Please respect these boundaries. We discuss the jackets in our Best Rain Jackets article. Phone:  (479) 637-4174, Oklahoma Ranger District Naomi added the Gossamer Gear feedbag for easy access to snacks, while I added the Gossamer Gear shoulder strap pocket to hold my camera. Long dry stretches. We are proud to be independent. The Bluebell Cafe is a highlight of the Ouachita Trail. (Please note: Lori is very generous, but hikers need to considerate and do not assume that Lori will be able to provide town shuttles, especially during busy hiking seasons.). Switchback closed-cell foam pad during breaks Appalachian Mountain range in the spring fall... I prefer a two pad system with a short Nemo Switchback closed-cell foam pad and tick. Prefer a ouachita national recreation trail pad system with a short Nemo Switchback closed-cell foam pad a. Socks in an effort to thwart ticks and chiggers can be hiked in direction. From Little Rock, Arkansas on Highway 271 near Talihina, Oklahoma, to Pinnacle Mountain State is! Only use them on trails that are available, but it missed.! 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