I could never resist the call of the trail. – Buffalo Bill
Time to check the hiking boots for dry rot, clean the cobwebs out of the backpack, start planning some big hikes. But where to go? Arkansas has some of the best hiking in the country and the trails are not usually very crowded. The evening temps are starting to set up nicely to give us some good fall color (we could use a little rain if anyone has any pull in that area, weekdays only please). I don’t care if it’s just a little day hike or a full out, week-long backpacking trip, you need to get out there. Here are some places to get ideas:
- The Arkansas State Parks have a state-of-the-art trails database, that is to say, it is really easy to find just the right trail near you. The only downside to this searchable listing is that it only includes trails in the state parks. But they are some beauties.
- Some of the best hiking in the state is up around the Buffalo National River. If you like waterfalls it’s a great place to find them. This map will give you a taste of some of the great trails in the Ponca Wilderness.
- The Ozark-St. Francis National Forest also offers some wonderful places to hike. One of my favorite day hikes in the state is in the Pedestal Rocks area. You’ll find lots of good ideas on their hiking and backpacking web page.
- Not all the mountains in Arkansas are part of the Ozarks. The Ouachita Mountains and the Ouachita National Forest offers some of the most scenic and underused hikes in the state. Thanks to a lot of forward-thinking people you can even hike from downtown Little Rock all the way to Oklahoma utilizing the Ouachita National Trail. Find out about all the trails in the Ouachita National Forest at their website.
- The US Army Corps of Engineers manages many of the lakes in Arkansas and some great hiking. Trails on Greer’s Ferry, Beaver Lake, Blue Mountain, Bull Shoals, Gillham Lake, Millwood, Nimrod, and Norfork are managed by the Little Rock District. The Vicksburg District manages Lake Ouachita, DeGray Lake, and Lake Greeson. These links will take you to their hiking and trails web pages.
- There are many other trails in the state managed by local and regional municipalities. Check with your local city or county parks to find more information on them.
The trail systems listed above are all on public lands, some are managed by the state and some are managed by the federal government while others are locally managed. This coming Saturday (September 24th, 2011) is National Public Lands Day. None of these trails would be available to us without the work of these public agencies and land managers. So if you make it out this weekend and come across any of the people who manage these lands or the thousands of volunteers who helped to create these trails. Please take a second to thank them.
I’d be remiss not to mention a couple of places to get more information on our “long” trails. Check out the Friends of the Ouachita Trail (FoOT) and the Ozark Highlands Trail Association. Also, a good resource for full trail descriptions is through the trail books written by Tim Ernst. So no excuses, find a trail.