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Backpacker Magazine – December 2000

Oklahoma/Arkansas's Ouachita Trail

The little-known Ouachita Trail ranked third among the long trails for solitude.

by: Taryn Jory and Andy Dappen

The fact that many folks have never heard of this 192-mile trail, much less know how to find it, is one reason why the Ouachita (wa-she-ta) Trail ranked third among the long trails for solitude. The fact that it straddles the Arkansas-Oklahoma border (not exactly a backpacking epicenter) is another.

The trail's remote surroundings have a history of harboring outlaws and horse traders on the lam. Says guidebook writer Tim Ernst, "Two years ago, when I hiked the entire trail, I saw a total of four people."

While the heartland of America is usually dismissed as coffee-table flat, rather than coffee-table-book pretty, the Ouachita Mountains, which form the spine of this east-west trail and undulate from 600 to 2,600 feet in elevation, deny the stereotype. The rolling mountains and valleys, smothered with oak, hickory, maple, and pine, are carved by cobbled creeks and capped with the occasional sandstone rooster comb. This is a place that will win you over with its subtle beauty, not with its grandeur.

For best information:
Ouachita National Forest, (501) 321-5202; Ouachita Trail Guide, by Tim Ernst (Cloudland.Net, 870-861-5536; $16.95). "A Trail of True Grit," Backpacker, December 1998.

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Reader Rating: -


Star Star Star Star Star
Mar 04, 2014

I'm in the process of section hiking this trail(videos on my youtube channel here There is going to have to be a lot of cleanup from the recent ice storms especially in section 3 from what I've seen. Trail has tons of good views though and you rarely see anyone else when hiking.

Bill Hunt
Apr 24, 2011

I took my two sons backpacking in the Winding Stair Mtn wilderness area this spring. We did the Cedar Lake trailhead to Horsethief Springs (7 miles each way). It was an awesome hike and the best part of it was the fact that we did not see another person for two days.

Dec 06, 2010

I did the hwy 298 to lake silvia in 1976......the trial has been improved a great deal over the years but is still one one best hikes ever.....

Tom Trigg
Oct 14, 2010

There are numerous trail heads in the OK area. From the State Line W. One on Hwy 259, one on Big Cedar Creek, one at Winding Stairs and one at Talihina State Park (the official starting point). I left out the Pshaubie trail head also. Get Tim Ernst trail guide on the trail

Mark Steele
Apr 13, 2010

Sounds great, where is the best trail head to camp closest to Okc??

adc in kc
Mar 19, 2009

Just did 24 miler with scouts. Had a great hike. Trail in great shape. Plenty of water source. Good grade changes to keep it interesting.

Nov 11, 2008

this is a beautiful area. i am from west okla. and this s e part of the state where the ouachita trail is, is nothing like west okla, it is as different as nite and day, one would never think they were in okla in this area, if they didnt know better.


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