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Ozark Highlands Trail
Through 165 miles of ridgelines, deep forest, meandering rivers, waterfalls, and wilderness, the Ozark Highlands Trail is one of this country’s premier backpacking routes. It stretches across the broad, rocky spine of Ozark National Forest from Lake Ft. Smith State Park to the banks of the Buffalo River. Choose a 3-week thru-hike or traverse a smaller section, like the Hurricane Creek Wilderness or scenic White Rock Mountain. Best times: April for wildflowers, October for color.
Contact: Ozark Highlands Trail Association, (870) 861-5536; http://wilderness.arkansasusa.com/ohta.html.
Buffalo National River
With its headwaters near the highest point in the Ozarks, the Buffalo River flows clear as mountain air for nearly 150 miles, much of it through public land. Float beneath 400-foot bluffs by canoe or hike this Wild and Scenic River’s upper reaches through the uncrowded forests of the Upper Buffalo Wilderness.
Contact: Buffalo National River, (870) 741-5443; http://www.nps.gov/buff.
Ouachita National Recreation Trail
Up and down, up and down. If you never knew Arkansas had mountains, give this 192-mile roller coaster a ride. It begins near Talimena State Park in Oklahoma, rises up over mountains, and dips way down into river valleys before connecting with the trails of Pinnacle Mountain State Park west of Little Rock.
Contact: Ouachita National Forest, (501) 321-5202; http://www.fs.fed.us/oonf.