Ozark Highlands Trail

My trail notes (a work-in-progress):

There are presently two parts of the OHT.  The Boston Mountains segment is a 164-mile point-to-point between Lake Fort Smith in the west and the Woolum Ford of the Buffalo River in the east.  The Sylamore Section is a 31.6 mile point-to-point in the Sylamore area of Arkansas (roughly south of Norfork Lake).  Between these sections are about 43 miles of the Buffalo River Trail (middle and lower river sections) and  a 16-mile bushwhack through the Lower Buffalo River Wilderness.

Important: A large landslide in mid-May 2017 destroyed a section of trail between the FR1201 (Stack Rock) trail head and Dry Creek (mile 151-153).  This area is closed but a detour has been established.

The USFS has published a map of the area showing the trail and detour.

If northbound toward the Buffalo River, when you hit FR1201 across the road from the Stack Rock trail head, turn left (southwest) and walk about 1.5 miles, then turn right on the old road and follow it about 1.5 miles.  You will intersect the trail and continue almost straight ahead about 500′ downhill to Dry Creek.  There are “OHT Detour” blazes on your right.

If southbound from the Buffalo River, climb about 500′ after Dry Creek and watch for the detour sign.  Turn slightly right onto the old road and hike 1.5 miles to FR1201, turn left and go another 1.5 miles to where the trail leaves the road on the right.  There are “OHT Detour” blazes on the left.

 


Useful resources:

  • My 17-page map
  • Ozark Highlands Trail Association
  • Book: Ozark Highlands Trail Guide (uses old mile marker locations)
  • Maps: OHTA commissioned Underwood Geographics to produce some nice maps.  The western map covers Lake Fort Smith to Ozone CG, and the eastern map covers Ozone to the Woolum Ford (with a little bit of the middle section of the Buffalo River Trail).  They’re folding maps on waterproof stock,  1:35000 scale with 50′ contours.  Uses new mile marker locations.  Available in the visitor centers of Lake Dardenelle and Lake Fort Smith State Parks.  Also: Turner Bend Store, Uncle Sam’s, Pack Rat, Byrd’s Adventure Center, and a few other outdoorsy places in NW Ark.  Also: Hagarville Grocery, Oark General Store, Hankins General Store in Pelsor.  Also available directly from OHTA.

Boston Mountains Segment

Important note:  Between April ’16 and August ’17, the Ozark Highlands Trail Association removed old carsonite post mile markers and installed new markers in locations that correspond to the maps now sold by OHTA.  The new markers are 12″ pieces of carsonite attached to a tree horizontally near eye level.  Most markers have moved east by at least a mile.

See below for my maps.  The trail is divided into 8 sections, mostly for descriptive purposes.  Each section is about 19 miles except #4 which is about 30.  There is a major trail head at each end of a section and lesser-used or less-accessible access points in between.

Major and minor trail heads (mileages listed below are using the new markers):

  • Lake Ft Smith (mile 0): 35.694624, -94.11849 – behind the visitor center at the end of a sidewalk that winds down the hill.
  • Dockery’s Gap (mile 9.3): 35.70706, -94.03782
  • White Rock Mountain (mile 17.4): Parking area at 35.68953, -93.95447.  Head ESE to the end of the road and look for signs.  There is a 0.3 mile spur from the top down through the bluff and intersecting the OHT.
  • FR 1509, aka Ragtown Road (mile 24.7): 35.68374, -93.89797
  • Cherry Bend (mile 35.5): Park at 35.743316,-93.811553.  Across the highway is a short spur that leads to the OHT.
  • Morgan Fields, aka Hare Mountain (mile 43.1): near 35.727172, -93.753666.  There is a large clearing on the east side of the road for parking, and a trail head sign.  A short spur goes east-ish to the OHT.
  • Indian Creek: Park at 35.683625,-93.710383.  The gate for this canoe launch area might be closed (a seasonal thing?).  A 0.7-mile spur trail begins across the highway, heads toward the creek, then upstream, then switchbacks up the steep slope before eventually intersecting the OHT at about mile 50.8.
  • Lick Branch (mile 55.1): 35.71000, -93.66157.  The trail runs along the south edge of the parking area.
  • Arbaugh Road (mile 69.9): 35.757654,-93.527946
  • Ozone Campground (mile 84.7):  35.672979,-93.450776.  Trail head parking is across the road and a bit north of the campground entrance.
  • Big Piney Creek, aka Fort Douglas (mile 103.8):  35.677945,-93.238073.  If you’re eastbound, walk along the road and across the bridge.  Turn left at the first road (5881?) and watch for signs to leave the road to the right.  Westbound: go out the back of the parking area.
  • Fairview Campground (mile 123.8): 35.73875, -93.09376.  The trail crosses the north end of the campground.  Potable water available.  Hankins General Store in Pelsor is out of business.
  • Moore CCC area: 35.77269,-92.989215.  There is parking for 2-3 cars on the left just before you get to the gate (private property beyond).  The blue-blazed spur follows the fence west and then turns south through the woods.  It’s about a 15-minute walk to the old CCC area and OHT junction at mile 133.1.
  • Ben Hur (mile 134.6): 35.753704,-92.982303.  The sign on road NC 5050 calls this the “Moore OHT Trailhead”.
  • Richland Creek Campground (mile 143.2): The entrance to the campground is at 35.796435,-92.930315 and there is a parking area there for people not camping.  Walk back out to FR 1205.  Across the road and a bit to the left you should see a marker where the trail comes out of the woods to cross Richland Creek on the bridge.  Go that way if you’re headed south/west.  If you’re headed north/east, then follow the road across the bridge to where it turns sharply left.  At this point the trail leaves the road a bit to the right.  There are some posts for an old trail head sign and watch for blazes.
  • FR1201 (formerly called Stack Rock) (mile 150.7): 35.866655,-92.923691.  Southbound: walk back out to the road and keep going south (to the right) a short distance (< 50 feet?) and you’ll see the trail on your left coming out to the road.  Northbound: go through the gate at the back of the parking lot, down the road a bit and the trail leaves the road to the left.
  • Woolum Ford (mile 164): Parking at 35.971941,-92.886213.  The area where the river was historically forded has gotten relatively deep.  Head upstream to where you see riffles that signal a shallower area.  The trail heads northwest along a road that is not often used because getting to it now requires fording either Richland Creek or the Buffalo.  Water levels can be too deep for a safe crossing after big rains.  If you want to continue east on the BRT, go south on a road through a small hay field along Richland Creek.  A couple hundred yards upstream from the mouth watch on your left for openings in the brush where you can get down to Richland Creek and cross in shallower water.  On the other side head straight across through the grass toward the base of a hill where you should find the white-blazed trail.

Maps

Here are maps in the form of a 17-page PDF.  Each page will be 1:24,000 scale when printed on 11×17 paper.  I get this stuff printed at The UPS Store.  I think many big-box office supply stores can probably do it too.  Every time I update the maps the file will have a different name so if you want to bookmark or share it, link to this page – not the file.

 


Sylamore Section

This section has “mile” markers that start at 0 at the Spring Creek trail head and run east and north to Matney Knob.  Water is not available at very many places so you will likely either have to cache it or plan to carry a lot.  Based on my one trip, I think the most likely places to find water are: Spring Creek (mile 8), Moccasin Spring (mile10.3), Twin Creek (mile 22.5), and Walker Creek (mile 25.5).  Cole Fork near mile 14 had water but there was no flow and lots of pig crap.

Trail heads

  • Spring Creek (mile 0) 36.05301,-92.44501
  • Moccasin Springs (mile 9) 36.02983,-92.35291
  • Cripple Turkey (mile 14.4) 36.05655, -92.31844
  • Brush Creek (mile 18.1) 36.10046,-92.32681
  • Matney Knob (mile 31.6) 36.21423,-92.30819

The trail also crosses AR-341 on the south side of Matney Knob at 36.20480, -92.32127 and near the Lone Rock community at 36.14182, -92.33538.  Both crossings have a paved area where you can pull off the road while caching water.

Maps

Here’s a map in the form of a 4-page PDF, from the GPS data I collected during a Nov ’16 trip.  Each page will be 1:24,000 scale when printed on 11×17 paper.  I get this stuff printed at The UPS Store.  I think many big-box office supply stores can probably do it too.  Every time I update the maps the file will have a different name so if you want to bookmark or share it, link to this page – not the file.

Mar 7 2017 update: Added part of the North Sylamore Creek Trail to map 2.  Added an information box with trail head coordinates to each map.

Dec 6 2016 update: Added some of the more important roads in the area.


Good places to eat after a hike:

Dover: Dewayne’s BBQ & Grill, 9185 Hwy 7 N

Hagarville: Hagarville Grocery

Oark: Oark General Store & Cafe,

Ozark: Zack’s Pizza & Grill, 2913 W Commercial St

Ozone: The Burger Barn

 

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2 Responses to Ozark Highlands Trail

  1. Baylee Hendrickson says:

    I hate your site. I need yearly infomation. More infomation. Less blogging.

    • Michael R says:

      What is “yearly information”? The trail heads are in the same place they were last year. The trail length hasn’t changed, the tread location hasn’t changed (though some will in Jan ’18). It looks about the same year-to-year.

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