Summer is almost out of the door, and the maples are getting ready to turn red. Yet there’s some time to hike around and explore the trails of the Ozark Mountain region of North Arkansas. Hiking is an activity one can’t miss while in Arkansas. The ‘Natural State’ offers about 1500 miles of hiking trails and Ozark mountain region in the north has some of the scenic hiking trails of the state ranging from 1mile to 36.5miles in length and cover all level of difficulties. The trails in this region are split into two areas- the Buffalo National River trails and the Twin Lakes area trails. Buffalo National River stretches over 135miles and encompasses numerous scenic trails alongside namely-
Koen Interpretive Trail
Erbie Trails (approximately 7.5 miles combining of several trails)
Lost Valley Trail (approximately 3miles from easy to moderate hike)
Mill Creek Trail (about 1.3 miles easy to moderate)
Alum Cove Trail (1.1miles)
Indian Rock House Trail at Buffalo Point (about 7 miles moderate to difficult because of the cliffs, caves and bluffs)
Rush Mountain Trail
Ozark Highlands Trail (almost 165 miles)
Buffalo River Trail (about 37 miles ranging from easy sections to most difficult ones)
Ponca to Steel creek (2.3miles)
Ozark campground to Pruitt (2.6 miles approx)
Tyler Bend (about 6 miles)
Morning Star Loop Trail
Although the Ozark Highlands Trail is the longest, you could do a section of the same for a day hike. While the Buffalo River trails are good for day hikes and night hikes or doing a downstream canoeing with an upstream hike. Most of the trails of the Buffalo National River area could be covered within one day depending upon the strength, age, fitness and of course the craving for adventure in the hiker. The trails of Erbie, Lost valley, Alum cove, Ponca etc are easy to hike. Families, seniors and kids can walk these trails with no difficulty and yet enjoy the flora and fauna of the Ozark forest. For the more adventurous hikers, the Indian Rock house trail, Ozark Highland trail and the Buffalo River trails are good as they are longer and require more strength and fitness. Accessible at many forest road and highway crossings, the Ozark Highland trail passes through some remote areas of the Ozark National forest, lush hardwood forests, wide array of wildflowers, unique rock formations along the mountains and picturesque mountain streams. However since the terrain is rugged and mountainous it is advisable to prepare yourself properly for the trek.
Wear shoes that are specially designed for hiking
Carry ample water and similar fluids (sport drinks, electrolytes)- humidity level is pretty high in this state.
Wear clothes that fit you properly. Don’t wear lose clothes that could get stuck in the way or too tight that hamper your movements.
It’s good to keep on snacking light at intervals than to eat a lot at once while on the trek since our bodies react differently to the changing altitude and air pressure and you might feel uneasy.
Always keep first aid and basic medication (antacid, headache, nausea etc) handy.
It’s good to keep a map of the place you are exploring. Trail maps and guides are available at all visitors’ centers located at forest/park entrances.
The weather in this part of the country is pretty unpredictable. It’s advisable to watch the forecasts specially if you have children with you.
The richness of the Ozarks is endless and hiking amidst such rich wilderness is ultimate adventure.
Tim Ernst, ‘Ozark Highlands Trail Guide # 5’
Pam Ernst, ‘Arkansas Day Hikes for kids and families: 89 easy trails in the ‘Natural State”
‘Hiking in the Ozark Mountains and the Buffalo River Hiking Trails’, www.harrisonarkansas.com
‘Hiking Trails’, www.theozarkmountains.com