Birding · Cave · Commonly Backpacked · Fall Colors · Geological Significance · Historical Significance · River/Creek · Spring · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife
4/2021: Trail is closed between AR-23 (Cherry Bend) trailhead and the Morgan Fields (Hare Mountain) trailhead closed due to a landslide. This closes OHT miles 35.4 to 39.1. Check with USFS or the OHTA for updates.
Skip the crowds and enjoy the Ozark wilderness the way it was meant to be! Most notably are the waterfalls and views. Hike in the early fall when the leaves turn colors and your mind will be blown with a kaleidoscope of colors! The Forest Service calls it "one of the most scenic trails in the US," for a reason!
Need to Know
There are no grocery stores and limited cell reception; do not count on any easy resupply options.
There is active wildlife and deer hunting season runs from fall through spring; wear orange!
Sections 1-8 constitute 165 miles through parts of seven counties in northwest Arkansas from Lake Fort Smith State Park across the Ozark National Forest to the Buffalo National River. These segments pass through some of the most remote and scenic portions of the Ozark Mountains like the Hurricane Creek Wilderness Area. It also crosses White Rock Mountain, Hare Mountain, the Marinoni Scenic Area, and many other scenic and historical spots. The Woolum Ford to Tyler Bend portion of the Buffalo River Trail (BRT) is an official extension to the OHT; link it to keep the views going and extend the trail to a full 180 miles!
The OHT has just about everything you would want and then some! Lake views, river and creek crossings, plenty of waterfalls (in season of course), forest canopies, scenic vistas, rocky bluff overlooks, more waterfalls, elevation gain and loss, rock gardens, two natural bridges, even more waterfalls (LOL), history, wildlife, and blessed peace to enjoy it all! And then there are the fall colors… Both the Hurricane Creek and Marinoni Scenic areas are not to be missed… Spirits Creek is no slouch either!
No permits are necessary outside of the campgrounds (Fairfield is free) and there are many established campsites along the way. The several campgrounds dotting the route are either on-trail or within with easy spurs. These include Lake Ft. Smith, White Rock Mountain, Fairfield, Ozone, Haw Creek, Redding, Richland Creek, and Tyler Bend.
Arkansas history abounds with many homestead sites dating back to statehood and before. They dot the trail and mostly comprise of rock chimney ruins, rock fences, and a couple of hand dug wells. Turn of the century barns are on display, a ghost town (not really anything remains though), a few very old cemeteries for communities long gone, the Moore CCC encampment and works, and farms both working and long defunct. Section two traces a turn of the century logging railroad for a few miles as it cuts though rock faces and gorges alike.
Well marked and maintained, this trail is almost entirely singletrack but there are some short jaunts along (mostly unmaintained) forest roads. It winds its way through one wilderness area (trail existed before designation and so is grandfathered), and skirts another one. The last four miles of section eight is a roadwalk approaching Wollum Ford as it avoids private property. However, this roadwalk features neat, picturesque historical barns on one side of this stretch with an elk preserve on the other.
Flora & Fauna
Fall colors on this trail are astounding. Best time is mid to late November. Dogwoods, white oak, black gum, sweet gum, elms, oaks, black jacks, and beeches among many other trees; Wide variety of wildflowers, ferns, and azaleas can be found.
Deer, squirrels, birds (notably eagles, hawks, and owls), black bears, mountain lions, coyotes, and even wolves are present along the entire trail. Elk are also present in certain sections (especially in the elk preserve ;) )
History & Background
Construction of the trail was begun in 1977 by the U.S. Forest Service and OHTA volunteers. The Boston Mountains segment was completed in 1989, and it was dedicated as a National Recreation Trail.
There are plans to extend it farther along the Buffalo River and eventually connect to the Ozark Trail (OT) to eventually form 700+ miles all the way to Springfield Mo.
Shared By: Glenn B