Arkansas is one of the most outdoorsy states in America and works tirelessly to promote itself as a point of interest for those who enjoy such outdoor activities as hiking, fishing, and camping. It even calls itself “The Natural State” and features varied topography: misty lakes, prairies, cypress-draped bayous, hardwood forests, and a countless number of unnamed creeks.
For all of this wonderful diversity, however, the most interesting destination for tourists just might be the Ozarks. You can listen to the music and enjoy the fashioning of such Ozark crafts as oak rockers and rag rugs. Hikers can really start to explore the Ozarks by taking the Ozark Highland Trail. It’s often ranked in America’s top 10 trails by experts in hiking. Some of the more interesting places along the route are Potato Knob, Salt Fork, Ozone Camp, Haw Creek Falls, Little Mulberry Creek, and White Rock Mountain.
A well-marked trail
Much of the trail meanders through the President Theodore Roosevelt-created Ozark National Forest, which has been around since 1908. The trail is also well marked. The trail association assured that mileposts are positioned for each mile of trail. The paint blazes are comprised of white for the main trail and blue for all spur and side trails.
Not every single step is attractive. The forest is, after all, a working forest, so hikers could well hear the sounds of chain saws and bulldozers. Another sound they may hear is gunfire. There’s a huge hunting population in Arkansas and it seems that there’s always an animal “in season” from September to June. For the majority of long-distance trails in America, such as Pacific Crest, Continental Divide, or the Appalachian, summer is the season to visit. Along the Ozark Highlands Trail, however, the summer heat and humidity is too dangerous, as are the lightning storms and ticks, no to mention the insane amount of chiggers and blood-thirsty bugs.
When to hike
Winter is a good time to hike. The woods are in a “leaf out” state. “Leaf out” is a term used in Arkansas to mean that good views are had due to the lack of foliage. Temperatures in the day are in the 30s to 50s, which is good weather for hiking, as long as you’re wearing suitable attire. The nights are cold and long, with temperatures no higher than in the teens. October is a great month to trail through the Ozarks. Temperatures during the day are in the 70s and they drop no lower than the 40s at night. The colours on display in the fall are among the best-kept secrets in the state and rival that of New England and Colorado.
An ideal place to begin your Ozarks exploration at the start of the trail is Lake Fort Smith State Park. The park, which is in a valley, provides a great battle of the Ozarks and a sample of the trail that might give you the encouragement to hike all 187 miles to its Buffalo River end.