One of my 12 in 2012 is to section hike the Ouachita Trail. Since the trail (officially named the Ouachita National Recreation Trail) is 223 miles long, this is one goal that has to be started pretty early. I’ll be dayhiking most of it and, if weather cooperates, adding in a few over nights on the trail once the weather warms up. In the meantime, it’s time to get organized for the adventure and get all the prep work out of the way. So for anyone interested in hiking the trail, here’s the info you need to know.
The trail is the oldest National Recreation Trail in the south and spans 223 miles from Oklahoma to Little Rock, Arkansas. 191 miles are managed by the Forest Service and the remaining miles are handled by the Arkansas State Parks system. Despite its well maintained status, the trail is little used and Backpacker Magazine ranked the trail as the third best long distance trail for solitude. Filled with rolling hills and river and streams, the trail’s highest peak is only 2,610 feet.
The maps and directions in the guidebook listed below are usually sufficient for most hikers. However, if you are determined to have a map (like myself) be aware that the USFS is no longer printing or selling topographic maps for this region, although you may be lucky to find a few older ones available at some of the out of the way District offices. A better bet is to go online and download the 29 page guide from the USFS. It includes all segments managed by the USFS with access points and water sources clearly marked. It can be found http://www.fs.fed.us/outernet/r8/ouachita/maps/documents/TR-01DETAIL_ONRTSegmentMapsB_000.pdf
Any hiker of the OT will benefit from Tim Ernst’s Ouachita Hiking Trail book which is the definitive guidebook to the trail. It is available at most bookstores in the state, forest service offices or can be purchased online.
Maintenance of the OT is done by the volunteer group Friends of the Ouachita Trail (FoOT). Their website has plenty of information to get you started including trail status reports which is always handy to check before heading out. They can be found at www.friendsot.org
For information on the portions of the trail managed by the USDA Forest Service, visit http://www.fs.usda.gov/main/ouachita/home.
For information on the section managed by Arkansas State Parks, visit http://www.arkansasstateparks.com/PinnacleMountain