Background: Woodswitch Trail is an adhoc trail that connects the Eight West Horse Trail complex with the trails of the western Ouachitas. It provides a multi use alternative to the Ouachita Trail that starts near the Arkansas/Oklahoma boarder and ends at the Indian Nations Trail at Billy Creek. Though it uses many designated forest roads, it is only possible by combing unmaintained forest trails and a few key bushwhacks. Though it is not an official route and it is not maintain, it is definitely doable and will stretch your riding and navigation skills..
The trail is the result of an extraordinary effort by Susan Bates in the winter of 2008 to ride from the Eight West complex to Talimena State Park. As local outdoor enthusiasts know, Eight West is 3 miles west of Mena Arkansas and consists of about 40 miles of multi use trail open to horses and mountain bikes. Further west between US 259 and US 271 are the western Ouachitas, rich in trails and forest roads ready for multi use sport. Almost ringing Winding Stair Mountain, the dominant geographical feature in the area, is the Indian Nation Trail. West of Bohannon Lake are a series of equestrian trail that follow old and unmaintained forest roads. On the north side of the mountain are the Cedar Lake equestrian trails. Crossing Winding Stair are the Horse Thief Springs and Billy Creek Trails.
The Maps: The maps shown here are 1:24,000 based on USGS 7.5 minute quads. They can be viewed at scale for free by clicking on the image of the map. Right click on the enlarged image to save it to your computer. The file format is jpg so you can crop them to fit your printing format. The Woodswitch Trail is shown in yellow dots. Forest roads and forest rails are shown in black. Bushwhacks have an underlying color of yellow. Blue circles are ponds not shown on the original topo maps.
The Trail. The Woodswitch Trail begins on FR 514 (Skyline Drive), 2 miles north of AR 8 (OK 63). FR 514 is also Trail #6 of the Eight West complex (pink dots). Coming up from AR 8, you will crest Weehunt Mountain at 1.65 miles, drop into a saddle, crest a small knob at 1.9 miles and find the trailhead on the left in the next saddle (WW-01).
Enter the forest towards the west on a 4 wheeler trail. After about 0.3 miles the trail steepens but it should be tolerable to a competent rider. At 0.5 miles is a small creek bed and a minor trail junction (WW-02). Head due south and follow the trail heading down slope. At 0.65 miles is a another junction (WW-03) where you continue on a southerly course. This is a very pretty area featuring small water falls (providing we aren’t in a draught), pristine water and loads of pretty rock formations with huge boulders. (Note: heading west at either WW-02 or WW-03 will put you on private prperty. It is well marked as no tresspassing).
Continue south and down hill on M99 to WW-04 (1.9 miles). Turn right and head northwest and uphill on M49. The forest road flattens out and goes past a thick stand of pine trees on the right. When you get to the purple gate that crosses the M49, you are at WW-05 (2.4 miles).
WW-05 is the beginning of your first bushwhack. Turn left (west) at the gate and follow the property line (looks like hit has been cleared for a fence) into a little swale, back up and over fairly level land. About 850 feet from WW-05 the ground will start to drop off towards Horsepen Creek. At this point your goal is to work you way down to the creek and cross it. If you are on foot, you can scramble down the bluff and boulder-hop the creek. Riders should be able to angle south and come back around (as depicted on the map). Keep in mind your next waypoint (WW-06, ) is right in line with the fence line you were tracking. However, you wont be able to see it from the creek. When you get to WW-06, you will be on a forest trail that will take you due west to FR 6044 and WW-07 (3.0 miles).
Turn right at WW-07and follow FR 6044 2.9 miles to the “T” at K48 (WW-08, 5.9 miles). FR 6044 is a well established forest road up to Wilcox Branch. West of it, the road narrows and swings to the north west up a slight grade. About 0.3 miles past the branch the trail turns south and begins a steady down hill run to WW-08.
Turn right (west) at WW-08 and follow K48 for 0.6 miles to WW-09 (6.5 miles). WW-09 is a little tricky to find. First you will pass 3 other prominent forest trails that come in from the north on this stretch. About 950 feet past the third (you will pass a pond on the south side of the road about half way there), you will see a berm and ditch on the north side of the road and a gnarled tree with a prominent burl (about six feet high) on the south side. Turn north, go around the berm, through a narrow stand of pine trees to K48B. If you get lost, take K48 to OK 63, turn around and come back 950 feet. The Woodswitch Trail follows K48B northeast up a little rise and then across a creek to WW-10 (6.9 miles). Turn left (southwest) and follow the road as it turns back to the northwest, heads due west skirting a 40 acre private parcel and runs out. You are now at WW-11 (7.4 miles).
Two options here. 1) Turn right (northwest) and go about 430 feet to WW-14 (8.15 miles), where a forest trail takes off to the north (also marked by a big tree on the south side of the road). There are several trails intersecting in this area so maintain a north-northwest heading to WW-15 (8.2 miles) where you should find a cairn. Staying on the same heading, you will be on a forest trail that narrows, arcs to the west and drops to the Kiamichi River bottom at a fairly steady rate. After a short trip across the bottom land you will reach the river and will need to find a good place to cross (WW-16, 8.7 miles).
Option 2 may be easier. At the K47 intersection head south about 700 feet where you will see a road/trail on your left. Turn right and go directly into the forest staying on the north side of the gully. Follow it west until you see a barbed wire fence that surrounds the white area on the map. Go west along the north side of the fence and follow it as it turns south. A little after the turn there is a gap in the fence. At this point make a right angle and locate the old road which will appear in less then 50 feet. Follow this road west to the Kiamichi River for a perfect spot to cross. Bushwhack west about 300 feet from 6031 (WW-17, 8.9 miles).
Once to FR 6031 it is easy going all the way to US 259 and beyond. Turn south on FR 6031 and travel 0.3 miles south to WW-18 (9.4 miles). At the junction of FR 6032 turn right and head north. WW-19 (9.6 miles) marks the junction of a lesser road and where FR 6032 bears due west. Over the next 2.6 miles, the quality of the road varies between a double track forest road and a 4 wheeler trail. After crossing a small creek and coming out of a little hollow, you will reach WW-20 (12.2 miles). While the trail as defined continues west on FR 6032, you can also take an alternate route by going north and circling back to WW-21 (13.4 miles via FR 6032). Another 0.9miles on FR 6032 will bring you to the Pashubbe Trailhead of the Ouachita Trail (WW-22, 14.3 miles).
The next 2.7 miles is on good forest road. Though it is open to cars and truck, it is not heavily traveled. If you are crossing US 259 turn north off FR 6032 about 630 feet before the highway (WW-23, 17 miles). This is K37, a pipeline road. Follow it north 1.3 miles to WW-24 (18.3 miles), crossing over a short segment of the Ouachita Trail (blue blazes). At WW-24, turn right (west) on to FR 6068 and follow it 650 feet to US 259 (WW-25, 18.4 miles). Careful with this crossing. There is a slight bend in the road here are there are plenty of car, pickups and logging truck coming off the mountain.
After you cross to the west side of the highway you should find plenty of right of way as you head south to WW-26 (18.6 miles). WW-26 is the junction of FR 6023. Following it west will ultimately take you to Billy Creek and the Indian Nations Trailheads. Stay tuned and I’ll try and get that section of forest road mapped sometime in the future.
Info: USGS 7.5 minute quadrangle topographic maps: Mountain Fork, Page and Big Cedar (trails not shown).
Directions: Take US Hwy 59 south from Poteau OK to US 259. Go south to OK Hwy 63. Turn east, go 1.6 miles past the State Line into Arkansas. Turn north on Skyline Drive, FR 514. From Mena Arkansas, take AR 8, 12.8 miles west to Skyline Drive. If you end up in Oklahoma on OK 63, you went too far (OK 63 and AR 8 are the same road).
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