As much as I love to hike the trails in the Ouachitas and Ozarks, sometimes they get a little rough. Due to a combination of brushy undergrowth, dead fall due to high winds and ice storms, nasty briars, relatively few hikers and minimal trail maintenance budget for the Forest Service, each year there are sections that are virtually reclaimed by the forest and rendered nearly impassable. I don't know how long or how well I can keep this up, but this page is to post recent reports on the condition of the trails. Under the best circumstances, maybe this can be a place to help volunteers identify trails in need of maintenance. Worst case, maybe it will help you decide which trail to avoid for now.
If you want to supply a report, email me at email@example.com, give the name of the trail, the date you were there and as much specific information that you can about the condition (what section of the trail, type of obstuction, no blazes, how passable, etc.). If it was in great condition, that is valuable information, too. I am not planning to spend much time editing or tying to reconcile discrepencies in the reports. They are what they are. Some folks have a higher tolerance for sketchy trails than others (to quote the DismalHiker, "one person’s “not bad” is another person’s “overgrown”, “impassable, “dangerous”, etc.) and some report may be more recent than others. As new reports come out older ones will be dropped. As a further resource, here is a link to FoOT's trail condition page for the Ouachita Trail. If you know any more trail pages like this, please let me know and I'll link to the site.
|Beech Creek||09/23/2014 From Andrew: I was at Beech Creek/Turkey Snout last week and the condition of both trails are poor. The sign-in box was shot up, with shotgun shells littering the ground and someone had made a fire right on the forest service road at the trailhead. The trails are overgrown with briers and vines, with many fallen trees completely blocking the trail. I was unable to locate the start of Turkey Snout near the road entrance (BH-01) because of the undergrowth, and completely lost Beech Creek somewhere past BH-07 and had to turn back. I'd recommend anyone going out there be prepared to bushwhack and watch their step! The overgrowth hides plenty of loose rocks and holes that are perfect for twisting ankles. The creeks were very beautiful however.|
|Beech Creek||02/23/2014 From Steve:
We tried to hike the Blue Bouncer Trail, starting at BH-02. We were immediately met with downed trees and branches forcing lots of off-trail bushwhacking. We continued counterclockwise from BH-14, continuing to experience a lot of downed branches and trees and much off-trail bushwhacking. Much of the problem with this is not so much the downfallen stuff, but the huge amounts of greenbriar and other thorny brambles (especially greenbriar) beside, above, and on the trail. We only were able to hike approx. 1.8 miles before being completely blocked by fallen trees and an impassable greenbriar thicket. Where the trail was passable, it was barely visible with only (fortunately) the white blazes to guide us. Once we realized that the trail was not getting better, we bushwhacked up hill back to FR6025, finishing with a 3.25 mile trip. If not cleaned up, this trail will be essentially gone after another summer. I would NOT recommend it for hiking until it is cleaned up. (In this same area is Turkey Snout Loop, is in much better shape - still has some downfall but very little thorny stuff, and makes a nice nearly 5-mile loop).
8/4/15 From Steve. Some friends and I finally took on the loop this last weekend. We all
It is the wettest year on records there and no easy water as your description indicates.
The year round water source indicated near BD-02 has moved. It is down
the trail head path about 1/3 mile. I would say it's super close to
the "16" grid square. It's a puddle not much more than a 5 gallon
There is a campsite just about at the 2 of BD-02.
We also found the pond about .1-.2 miles from BD-06 back south toward the Ouchita trail.
Based on the map we had anticipated finding it before we turned back south.
One other danger to note. In addition to Bears, snakes, etc. Bees. I got stung by about a dozen on the Ouchita trail about .25 miles before Dead mans gap. It is super overgrown as if no one has been down it in a very long time.
The bees surprised me. Ha!! Although they are pretty much everywhere!
All in all it was an awesome adventure. Your map made it all possible and we knew how to prepare based on that.
Hope this is helpful. Thanks again!!
|Boardstand/Old Military||12/31/14 From Bob : The trail is generally in good shape, but it hasn't been travelled a lot in recent weeks. There are a lot of leaves covering the trail in some sections, so pay close attention. The sections downhill from Deadman Gap going North, also further along (moving counter-clockwise) as the trail approaches FR 6010, seemed to be the worst. There's plenty of water in the creeks, not necessary to cache. The forest is pretty soggy, building and maintaining a fire takes a lot of effort. I completed the trail in two short days and a longer one with no problems, Dec. 27-29, 2014. Watch for "ankle twisters" as the abundant leaves often obscure the rocks and crevices in the path. General word: proceed carefully and with caution. It was an absolutely beautiful and astounding hike.|
|Buckeye-Caney Ck||See Backpacking Arkansas for the most up to date trail information.|
|Butterfield Trail, Devils Den||
10/28/14 From Gabe : I hiked the Butterfield Trail clockwise at Devil's Den State Park this past weekend, 10/24-10/25 and thoroughly enjoyed myself. The beautiful fall colors, while not yet at their peak, were nevertheless progressing in full force. The old and faded blue blazes have been replaced with bright blue diamonds (some with reflective tape) nailed to the trees, making trail navigation easy. The trail conditions were good from the start. A few downed trees scattered throughout required some hike-arounds, but there were no impassable obstructions. The carpet of leaves definitely hides innumerable loose rocks and trail irregularities ripe for twisting an ankle, so look sharp! I stayed at Junction Camp, which was also in good shape. I found some broken glass near my campsite, but the majority of the area was fine. Hard to beat the crystal clear, emerald green waters of Blackburn and Lee Creeks, especially when viewed from the comfort of ample stone furniture! The return from Junction to the Park is more overgrown than the first 10 miles, with brush chest-high in some places. I ran into a water moccasin crossing the trail near Junction, and gave him a wide berth. Where the trail intersects with various horse paths, conditions worsen with some muddy stretches, but these don't last long. I'd be interested in returning during leaf-off, which must be impressive given the inspiring vistas I occasionally happened upon when the trees would clear. All in all a great overnight trip, and Devil's Den itself is always a pleasure to explore.
|Eagle Rock Loop||See Backpacking Arkansas for the most up to date trail information.|
|Greenleaf State Park||10/3/15 from John:My son and I hiked the Greenleaf loop trail this past weekend (2-3 Oct 2015). The weather was beautiful and we had an enjoyable time. The Southern loop up to Mary’s Cove was in good shape although it is slightly over grown. The northern loop was a different story. Past Mary’s Cove, the trail seems to disappear. Much of the trail is nonexistent and there are long stretches that are not properly blazed. Having the map was invaluable; many times we had to rely on it and GPS to find our way.|
|Horsethief Springs||5/30/16 from corogers:a small group of women, including myself, hiked this trail a couple weeks ago, and the trail was in good repair.
|Horsethief Springs||6/5/16 from Zachary:
I did an overnight hike with two other guys starting from Cedar Lake. We started in the afternoon May 28, and returned the morning of May 29th. We hiked clockwise around the loop, and camped near the springs.The second leg was well maintained for the first half, and progressively got worse. We passed another longer section of overgrowth and downed trees. About 1.5 miles from the intersection point we passed a sign, which had fallen over, for the scenic route, and chose the direction that appeared less overgrown (straight ahead). The trail became progressively more overgrown and less visible as we gained elevation until we finally lost the trail and white blazes. At this point we found ourselves off the GPS waypoints by a quarter to half mile northwest and a few hundred feet higher in elevation. It is very possible we accidentally took the scenic route, or were on an old section of the trail. Having lost the blazes, we maintained elevation and bushwhacked in a northerly direction until we intersected a horse trail (yellow blazes). We ended up exiting the horse trail onto Holson Valley road about a quarter mile west of the Horsethief loop trailhead.
The first leg to the springs was well maintained, and the blazes were easy to follow. There was a section with many downed trees, presumably from a fire several years ago, some of which had fallen across the trail. It was easy enough to hop over the logs or navigate around them. The same section had a considerable amount of tall grass, which made the trail hard to see at times, but we never lost it.
|Magazine Mt/Cove Lake||03/24/14 from Barry:This weekend my wife and I attempted Mt. Magazine to Cove Lake. Mt. Magazine has received A LOT of ice storm damage. The Signal Hill trail was in pretty good shape, with a few more trees lift to be removed. The Mt. Magazine-Cove Lake trail was in very rough shape, both of the terminus trailheads said the trail was closed, but the intermediate trail heads were open, so we decided to see what it looked like. The upper part of the trail was covered in small limbs and sticks, annoying but not a big deal. About a mile in you started having to pass fallen oak trees, whose canopies were on the trail. At about two miles in, there were so many fallen trees the trail became very hard to find/follow. It became clear that the trail was only going to get worse, so we turned around. From the road, it appeared the lower you go the more tree damage. It was apparent they are working on getting the trail back in shape, but I would expect it to take a while.|
|North Sylamore Creek||05/17/2016 from Baxter. Hiked the North Sylamore Creek Trail from Cripple Turkey to Allison this weekend in two days. The trail was mostly in great shape, but the Cripple Turkey to Cole Fork was very grown over with some thorns and 3+ foot tall weeds in the middle of the trail for this entire section. It also looks like some scattered fire pits have developed in the parking lot at Cripple Turkey with no fire rings from what we could see. Google Maps can lead you slightly wrong, however, due to a double naming of Barkshed Rd off of highway 341. The more southern end of the road is very rough, and was almost impassable in my 4wd 4runner. The northern road (fr 1108) as you have specified is the one you want to take, unless you want to get stuck.|
|Ouachita Trail||10/17/2016 from Steve:
We hiked from Queen Wilhelmina State Park to Big Brushy Recreation Area. I will break this into two parts one potential map updates and 2 a general trail report.
Shelters: All appear to be relatively new and in really nice condition.
1. The camp site at Eagle Gap there is a shelter. They call it Black Fork Mtn. Shelter. It might actually be where the two trails intersect.
I would also add that if you are looking for a place to camp that is relatively close to Big Brushy there are LOTS of nice spots between about ~91.5 and 92.5. Its hard to appreciate on the map, but its a very pretty area that is easy to find some flat spots.
Trail Report: 10/14-10/16 It has been very wet in the recent days prior to our trip. Including rain on the morning we departed in the area. We started about 11:30a on 10/14 and finished about 3:30p on 10/16 at Big Brushy. There is cell service for both Verizon and ATT for most of this hike especially at the higher elevations.
Queen Wilhelmina State Park to Eagle Gap: As you descend from QWSP it is extremely rocky. Very reminiscent of the area around horse thief springs for walking. When we did it, the mountain was shrouded in fog (which is apparently fairly common) and the rocks were extremely slippery. The Ouchita River had water, but not much. I was surprised given the amount of rain in the area. There was also water just pass the road you cross at Eagle gap.
Eagle Gap to Foran Gap: Pretty hike. The trail is a little grown up so we were extremely wet from all the fog/dew on the grass, but very manageable. There was water right at the base of the mountain as you are going east into Foran Gap. That last ~mile was a very nice hike.
Foran Gap to mile 76.: The trail is really nice up to the shelter at the top. It is clear to me that the trail is well traveled up to the shelter. Once you pass the shelter the adventure begins. The trail is extremely overgrown. Lots of thorny plants chest high. The trail is not marked well, but there really isn’t anywhere else for the trail to be so its easy to know where you should be going. It is extremely slow going for most of this walk. There is a spring at 74.2. It is marked on the trail with big signs so its very easy to see. Its just above the trail. This is the last water you will see until big brushy unless you have stashed some water somewhere.
Mile 76.5 to mile 78: Once you pass the campsite at about 76.5 miles the real adventure begins. To call this a trail is generous. As you cross the crests of hills the trail is nearly impossible to find. The brush is so over grown and there are so few trees it is extremely difficult to tell where the trail goes, especially at the top. Multiple times we were off the trail and only found it because we knew from the maps it crossed the top on the right or the left of the summit. There is no discernible path from other hikers. It often took us 15-20 minutes of walking ten steps to the right, then back to a known point, then 10 steps to the left. There are places where the trail bends and there is only one dot and places with 2 dots and no bend in the trail. If you love to bushwhack this is a great place to go. In fact I think other hikers would appreciate you clearing the trail with your machete. My hiking partner described it as walking through a rose bush only it doesn’t smell like roses.*****
Mile 78-FS road 76: While there are certainly some sections that are overgrown, its not too bad. The campsite at mile ~79.5 is nice, but there is a trail shelter probably 5 minutes further towards mile 80. After an extremely long battle with the brambles from 76-78 we were exhausted and would have welcomed not having to set up our tents. The walk to FS road 76 is nice. We happened upon a timber rattle snake sitting in the middle of the trail about mile 85. It was a good reminder to pay attention no matter how tired you are.
One detail that is difficult to discern from the map. You parallel the FS road from about mile 84.75 to the campsite at mile 87.75. The road is largely inaccessible from the trail, but its nearby. Then the road clearly goes off to the left around the other side of the hill while you take a more direct route to the trail head about 88.4. What is difficult to discern is that you will cross the “radio tower” road about mile 85.5, but not the main service road. This would be a great place to drop water. You then cross the “main” road somewhere between mile 86 and 87. When you do this you will think you are a mile or more further down the trail (or at least we did) so when we came to the 87.5 intersection. We had made a water drop at the trail head so we were very disappointed that our water stop was still ahead. In total you will cross a road 3 times between 85.5 and 88.4 trail head.
FS Road 76 to Big Brushy: It is clear that this section is well maintained. Even in the overgrown areas it was clear someone had blazed the trail recently. This is a really nice hike if your looking for a point to point camp out for a first time camper. There are multiple place you could make a camp between mile 91 and 92 or you can stay at the shelter between 90 and 91 or the official campsite on the map about mile 90.5. While there are some ups and downs its very manageable.
|Whites Creek Trail||5/8/2014 from Sean: I just wanted to let you know that your page here: http://www.ouachitamaps.com/Irish%20Wilderness.html is a bit out of date--almost the entire trail is absolutely infested with poison ivy. It made the trek quite different, unfortunately. Thanks for the info, we had fun out there.
Also--the trail disappears just before IW-6 heading in the counterclockwise direction. We were able to pick it up for another mile or so before it disappeared again for good. We turned back at that point.
Weatherproof Topographic Maps at
OuachitaMaps.com - Hiking Trails of the Ouachitas and Ozarks