The Tall Peak Trail is a 6.4 mile out-and-back in the Caney Creek Wilderness that begins at the Shady Lake Recreation Area in the southern part of Arkansas’ Ouachitas. The trail begins by following Saline Creek upstream about a mile and crossing it five times before climbing 1200′ over the remaining 2+ miles to the top of Tall Peak.
Details and a map. Tim Ernst has a good description in his book. The trail is blazed yellow and is easy enough to follow even without a map.
Saline Creek offers several nice photo opportunities along the way.Near the top the trail breaks into a very rocky area with few trees and a sunny southerly exposure, switch-backing up the slope a few times before getting back into the trees for a while. Finally, the trail meets the road and the last couple hundred yards are on the road as it spirals up to the peak and the restored historic fire tower. Here are the views due north, east, south, and west respectively from the fire tower: I can’t seem to get rid of the grunge on my camera lens! The best view is to the south, but unfortunately that’s all relatively flat and kinda boring. Still, if you squint just right and use a bit of imagination you can see the Gulf of Mexico.
To get home I headed south to AR 246 – my first time on that highway and the furthest south I’ve been in Arkansas so far. I saw several areas like this:Thankfully it’s not in the national forest – Weyerhaeuser owns some large tracts in that area. Still, I thought the timber companies wised-up and got over that whole clear-cutting thing. Guess not. I saw several areas starting to regrow but they seem to be dense thickets of maple saplings so I don’t know how they’re going to get any more pine trees from that land.
Further on, I stopped at the Brushy Creek Access area to get my first glimpse of the Cossatot River – an official National Wild and Scenic River. It looks placid here but a bit downstream after a rain are class 3-4+ rapids that are very popular with kayakers looking for a thrill. Cossatot is apparently an anglicized version of the French words for “skull crusher”. LOL!
The Cossatot will also be my destination for another backpacking trip this spring if I can get just one more mild weekend.