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Ouachita National Recreation Trail

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Dec 15, 2021

Ouachita National Recreation Trail is a 223-mile (359 km) long, continuous hiking trail through the Ouachita Mountains of Oklahoma and Arkansas. It is the longest backpacking trail in the Ouachita National Forest, spanning 192 miles across its length.[1] Approximately 177 miles of the trail is in Arkansas and 46 miles of the trail is in Oklahoma. The trail is used by hikers, backpackers, hunters, and mountain bikers. It is a non-motorized single track trail open only to foot traffic and partially open to mountain bicycles. Segments opened to mountain bikes are from the western terminus of the Ouachita Trail at Talimena State Park to the Big Cedar trailhead on US Highway 259 at approximately Mile Marker (MM) 30.5 in Oklahoma, and from the Talimena Scenic Drive Trailhead at MM 54.1, east to Highway 7 at mile 160.4, north of Jessieville, Arkansas.[2]

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Ouachita National Recreation Trail

The Ouachita Mountains from Flatside Pinnacle
Length 223 mi (359 km)
Location Ouachita Mountains
Designation National Recreation Trail
Trailheads Pinnacle Mountain State Park, Arkansas
Talimena State Park, Oklahoma
Use Hiking
Mountain biking (partial)
Hiking details
Trail difficulty Varies
Season Year-round
Waymark Blue blaze
Hazards Water can be scarce in summer
Maintained by Ouachita National Forest
Website https://www.fs.usda.gov/ouachita/

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The trail’s western end is at Talimena State Park in southeastern Oklahoma, and the eastern end is at Pinnacle Mountain State Park in the small community of Natural Steps, Arkansas in central Arkansas. The first 192 miles (309 km) lie within the Ouachita National Forest; the remaining 31 miles (50 km), maintained by Pinnacle Mountain State Park, traverse lands owned by timber companies and Central Arkansas Water. (Plans for the Arkansas River Trail include an extension connecting the eastern terminus of the Ouachita Trail to downtown Little Rock17 miles (27 km) away.) The trail passes through parts of eight counties in Arkansas and one in Oklahoma. From east to west they are Pulaski, Perry, Saline, Garland, Montgomery, Yell, Scott, and Polk, in Arkansas, and Le Flore County in Oklahoma, where the trail ends. At several locations the trails switches back between two counties. Scott County actually has very little of the trail, with a couple of small corners of the county traversed.

There are two federally designated wilderness areas that the Ouachita Trail passes through: the Flatside Wilderness Area in Perry and Saline Counties in Arkansas and the Upper Kiamichi River Wilderness Area in Le Flore County, Oklahoma.

The Friends of the Ouachita Trail is a volunteer group devoted to maintaining the trail. (https://friendsoftheouachita.org/wp/)

While well-maintained, the trail is lightly used. In a ranking of U.S. long-distance trails on a number of criteria by Backpacker Magazine, the trail ranked third for solitude[3] and fourth for signage.

The high point on the trail is 2,610 ft (800 m) on Rich Mountain, which straddles the Oklahoma-Arkansas state border 46 miles (74 km) from the western end of the trail. The low point is 270 ft (82 m) at the entrance to Pinnacle Mountain State Park on the eastern end of the trail.

Because of the low elevations and southern latitude, the best times to hike the trail are the early spring and late autumn; winter months are often warm enough, also. In July to September, the weather tends to be too hot to hike comfortably, and water access points tend to dry up.

The trail meets the 37.8-mile Womble Trail north of the community of Story, Arkansas. [1]

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