Trail Reports

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 Charlie@OuachitaMaps.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.

Trail Name
Report
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).
Billy Creek Trail 10/20/08 From a Hiker: Just got back to Dallas after a beautiful weekend backpackinGlag on the Billy Creek trail. We hiked the loop going around to the east down to Billy Creek campground, from Horse Thief springs. We hiked the 6.5 miles down and the 
4.5 miles up. The weather was superb with temperatures in the upper 70's Saturday the 18th and Sunday October 19th. Overnight temperatures were in the mid 40's both nights, for a nice sleeping experience. The trail was in good shape with a few signs of washes on the vertical rises. The streams were low or not running at all even though there was standing water in some places late Friday. Fall colors were not quite at peak, but I'm sure they will be over the next couple weeks.
Black Fork Trail 9/25/10 From Susan. Hiked the Black Fork Wilderness trail 9/25/10. The trail register at the junction of the Black Fork and Ouachita trails is in very poor condition. Many sections of the trail were overgrown with brambles, and spiderwebs were very bad across the trail (as is usual this time of year) but generally the trail was in good condition.  It was a great day hike.
Boardstand/Old Military 10/14/08 From a Hiker: I did B/OM a few weeks ago and it was in good shape. Some places still were a little over grown and there wasn't much water this time of year but not impassible by any stretch. 
Buckeye-Caney Ck See Backpacking Arkansas for the most up to date trail information.
Butterfield Trail, Devils Den
10/19/08 From a Hiker: We hiked the Butterfield Trail at Devils Den State Park over Fall Break (10-16-08 to 10-17-08).  We hiked counter-clockwise.  First time we had been there.  Some of the trees had began to drop leaves to the point that the trail bed was obscured with leaves in most places.  The trail was a nice easy trail with lots of opportunities for campsites, if you did not need to camp near water.  However, the trail itself is very poorly maintained.  Between the Trailhead and Junction camp there are countless downed trees across the trail.  From Junction Camp back to the trailhead, there were very many downed trees, but not nearly as many as the first section.  On the first section, many were large enough to require a re-route.  While some were obviously recent, many have been there for some time.  In fact, some were either beginning to rot, or foot traffic had significantly worn the surface of the tree.  One very short section appeared to have new blaze markings, but for the remainder of the trail they were very faded.  Many were faded to the point that you had to look for where the bark had been damaged by the paint used for the blaze and then you could see a hint of remaining paint.  Quite a lot of the trail follows old roadbeds.  Some of these are in decent shape, but others are very badly eroded.  Some are eroded to the point that hikers have begun making their own trail along side the road bed.Overall the trial is great for a quick get away without much physical challenge.  Novices, or those who have a hard time with way finding would be better to take this trail in the late spring or very early fall when the trail bed is distinguishable rather than later in the fall or winter when the leaves obscure the trail bed.
Eagle Rock Loop See Backpacking Arkansas for the most up to date trail information.
Horsethief Springs 9/15/14 from Roger: This weekend past, we parked at the spring up at the scenic drive. The east
side of the loop down the mountain was okay. After bottoming out in the valley we headed up the west side of the loop . . . into an area of blow down and forest fire. Trees and tree parts were across the trail . . . excuse me, what we thought was the trail . . .because without the normal tree canopy the under growth and brush grew to heights of 12 feet. And we saw no blazes because they were either burned off the trees still standing, or they were on the ones that fell to the grown. We literally had to pick our way thru that mess. When blazes are non-existent, a slight depression in the ground usually tells you that you ARE on the trail. But with all the growth underfoot we could not even see the ground! Then we got out of all that. Then later on we were in a section much like it, but in place of lots of ground cover it was boulders (on the scenic area trail). The trees were down everywhere (none standing) so it was either step over/crawl under trees and/or scramble over boulders. Unbelieveable. Then later on, another area like the first one . . . then another . . . four in all. Now hear this . . . it was so bad that the ticks wouldn't live there. We found nary a one.
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. 
Ouachita Trail 11/9/10 From Steve: Well I certainly got the solitude and serenity I was looking for last week along the OT. I only saw one group of hikers going the opposite direction, and a single thru hiker also named Charlie that was dropping water bottles along the trail. With rain in the area the night before, I was expecting freely flowing water in the Kiamichi river bed. I did find a clean standing pool at the first campsite and flowing water at the last campsite. How reliable is the Kiamichi for water in this area throughout the year?

I really enjoyed the Kiamichi Hike, except for the bear that came up to my tent one night at the last campsite on the river. He didn't seem to be phased by my loud whistle or the flashing light inside my tent, but when I told him there was no food in my tent he took off like he was more scared than I.  I'm especially glad you convinced me to hang my food because I heard more rustling over there thru the night. When I came out of the tent the next morning I was greeted with another loud snort along the hillside above this campsite, which sure looks like ideal bear habitat to me as did the climb up Wilton Mt. Any reports of big cats along the OT?

I was certainly impressed with the Ouachita Mountains and can't wait till my next hike along the OT.
Ouachita Trail 02/20/09 from a OuachitaHiker: On Tue. Feb. 17th I helped clear from Winton Mnt. to the Kiamici Wilderness trail head.
We didn't find any ice storm damage.  We (Mark Davis) cut out one downed tree and Mark cut another one close to the top of the mountain.  This part of the OT is clear!

On Mon. the 16th while we were doing work on our section of the OT (OK state line to FS RD514 we met a group of backpackers.  One a solo hiker and a group of scouts from Mansfield AR.  The report the trail is clear thru the Kiamici Wilderness to the state line.  Our section mentioned above didn't receive any damage from the ice storm.  We just lopped back briar's and such.  So the trail is clear form Winton Mnt. to FS514.  I strongly suspect that the trail form 514 to the state park is also clear.  I don't know about the trail conditions from the lodge to the scenic drive.  We have a 1.4 mile section from the scenic drive down to the wizard trees.  I found ice storm damage here but have cleared it.

On Wed. the 18th I hiked in with Mark Davis to his section of trail at mile marker 61 to 64. We started at Eagle Gap (58.5).  From Eagle Gap to 58.5 we found two trees down across the trail.  You can go around them.  There is another place that a small tree top is across the trail but we cut some of this out.  Some brush is growing in the trail but I have reported this to FOoT.  Mark and I cleared from 61 to 64.  That was a 11 mile round trip hike in one day with trail gear!  But I enjoyed it.
Ouachita Trail 10/14/08 from a Hiker: The OT west of horse thief springs is also quite overgrown in sections.  No major problem with downed trees.  I note the forest service was recently in that area clearing away the multiple downed trees.
Ouachita Trail 10/15/08 from a Hiker:The OK trails you mention are in an area that has been badly overgrown for over a year.  I have not seen those trails (Boardstand/Old Mil), but the Ouachita Trail west end from Talihena to Winding stair was in terrible shape.  The USFS found some money this summer to clean up  the OT sections, but I doubt they have done much on the other two trails in their district.
Ozark Highlands Trail 4/16/09 From OuachitaMaps: We hiked from Lake Fort Smith to Cherry Bend and the trail was in very good shape.
Ozark Highlands Trail

10/16/09 From Hiker Ben B: Ben hiked the Hurricane Wilderness Section. Referring to the high water by-pass he says "The high trail had a ton of down trees... Lots of detours and climbing".

Ponca Wilderness (several trails)

10/14/08 From a Hiker: Two weekends ago ( Oct. 3-5 )  we backpacked in the Ponca Wilderness area near Ponca Arkansas.  We started from the Centerpoint Trailhead and went to Hemmed-in Hollow and the Falls, Big Bluff via the goat trail, Granny’s Cabin, Sneeds Creek, Rocky Bottom, etc. The trails were in really good shape overall however there were a few very large blow-downs in the way that folks had been going around which is not necessarily a good thing.  Most of the junk in the way we could climb over or go under.  In a couple of weeks we plan to go back to the same area and head to Steel Creek, Kyles Landing, and the Indian Creek area.

Skyline Trail, Beaver Bend 10/14/08 From a Hiker:
My husband and son just returned from a weekend trip to Beaver's Bend, OK.  They planned to backpack the Skyline Trail there, but part of it was closed.  If you look at this link:
http://www.trimbleoutdoors.com/viewtrip.aspx?tripId=43668. The trail was closed from SKY006 to SKY012.  Now they did manage to go on in and help with some trail maintenance, and they found that most of the damage was fairly minor, and mostly between SKY010 and SKY012.  One thing they noticed from the last time my husband had been up there is that they had built a road along the ridge between SKY010 and SKY011.  He mentioned that it appeared they are beginning to develop the area (which is, if you notice, outside the state park).  If that's the case, I imagine it will change the dynamics of the trail considerably.
Talimena Bohannon 03/30/2012 from ABC. I soloed this trail Mar 13 14 and 15 2012.  I went counterclockwise. 
All trail junctions seemed obvious to me, with the exception of the Bohannon Trail up to the Ouachita Trail. I was having fun, missed it, or just disregardedl it, and ended up in the next drainage over (east), Sycamore Cr maybe. Found a great campsite, (coyotes very vocal at my presence).Backtracked the next morning to Camp Hale (BSA). They have a outdoor payphone on the lake side of the trading post.  Was able to check in with family (cel reception spotty).
Didn't know bike damage to trail when confronted with it, just like the non-corridor trails in the Grand Canyon to me.
The climb out on the Bohannon Trail was much nicer than the description on your site, I enjoyed it very greatly. Very steep, don't believe passable by bike or horse. Good campsites a the beginning, down low. Many great views of Bohannon Lake. Plenty of water, maybe even a swimming hole.
The intersection at the top of the trail is well marked.  Not as much flowing water, you're at the top of the hill.
Took the Choctaw Nation Trail (when it intersected with Ouachita Trail) back to my car at the state park. Trail not much used but easy to follow, some intersections with Ouachita Trail unmarked. Saw the only wildlife here, a few turkeys.
Saw 3 horse riders the whole 3 days, no hikers.
The geographic and geologic addenda to your trail narratives is much appreciated, keep it up.
I'd be glad to respond to specific questions your readers might have.  
Upper Buffalo Wilderness 11/0608 From a Hiker: On Sunday, I dayhiked with a hiking pal down Pruitt Hollow to the Buffalo. It is not a suitable route for a backpacker to reach the river. It is great fun for dayhiking, though. In upper Pruitt Hollow we did encounter three college students toting backpacks on their way back to the Kapark area. They had set forth on Saturday bound for the Buffalo before they decided Pruitt was too rugged a conduit to the river. They said they had camped close to where we saw them, so they had not traveled far with backpacks. Sometimes the youth are wise.
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.
White Rock-Shores Lake 10/14/08 From a Hiker:I did west loop ascent, east loop descent. Just a couple of blowdowns on west loop approach to base of white rock where OHT & S.L.W.R.loop coincide, still O.K. to pick up trail on other side of blowdowns. The worst of it is a few (blowdowns) on the 2 mi.stretch of East loop side before the S.L.W.R loop leaves the OHT to return to S.L. trailhead. Both 4-5 mi. lower sections toward the lake trailhead in good shape.
   
   
   

Weatherproof Topographic Maps at OuachitaMaps.com - Hiking Trails of the Ouachitas and Ozarks
Featured Topographic Maps in Oklahoma and Arkansas
Ouachita Trail Loops: Billy Creek Trail - Boardstand Trail - Holson Valley Loop - Horse Thief Springs Trail - Old Military Road Trail - Talimena-Bohannon Loop
Other Ouachita Hikes: Beech Creek Trails - Buckeye Trail - Caney Creek Area - Caney Creek Trail - Eagle Rock Loop
Selected Ozark Hikes: Butterfield Trail (Devils Den) - White Rock-Shores Lake Loop

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Contact: Charlie@OuachitaMaps.com