An Ode to Ouachita National Recreation Trail
What comes to mind when you think about Oklahoma? Football? Farms? The oil industry? Nothing?
Me, too. Which is why I was pleasantly surprised to stumble upon the Ouachita (pr. wosh-i-taw) National Recreation Trail tucked away in the beautiful, tree-studded, rolling hills of the Ouachita Mountains of Oklahoma.
I know what you’re thinking: Oklahoma has beautiful rolling hills? Did the sun rise in the east? Did Trump lose the presidency?
Yes, no and sadly, no.
The Ouachita Mountains are sprinkled throughout southeastern Oklahoma and west central Arkansas, and belong to a greater mountainous region known as the U.S. Interior Highlands. This region is one of the few mountainous regions between the Rocky Mountains and the Appalachian Mountains and it is home to the more popular Ozark Mountains in Arkansas.
So here’s the 4-1-1 on the OT:
- It’s 223 miles of well-maintained trail from Talimena State Park in Oklahoma to Pinnacle Mountain State Park in Arkansas (shout out to Friends of the Ouachita Trail)
- There are 15 shelters along the trail, with 5 more in construction as of 2012
- The best times to hike the trail are early spring and late autumn due to limited water access in the summer months
- The highest point on the trail is 2,610 ft. on Rich Mountain, which straddles the Oklahoma-Arkansas border
- There are abundant streams, rivers, and lakes for which to get water, but be sure to use a filter. Use smart judgment; pack out ample water in case of a particularly dry season.
After spending a weekend hiking and camping along the trail, I would highly recommend camping at Winding Stair Campground, or at least stopping through for a picnic lunch. The views from the look-out were breathtaking.
The OT is perfect for Weekend Warriors, shakedowns, or even a week-long trek. Backpacker ranked the OT third among long trails for solitude. We only came across three people the entire time we were hiking along the OT; we were mostly accompanied by soaring hawks and curious white-tailed deer on our mini-trek.
Where is it?
Talimena State Park, the eastern trailhead, is only a three hour drive from Dallas, Texas and a three hour drive from Oklahoma City, OK.
Pinnacle Mountain State Park, the trailhead in the west, is two hours from Memphis, TN and a 5.5 hour drive from St. Louis, MO.
Thanks for reading and happy trails!
This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!
To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.