Best Hikes in Ouachita National Forest (AR)

Ouachita National Forest Overview

The Ouachita National Forest covers 1.8 million acres in central Arkansas and southeastern Oklahoma, including most of the scenic Ouachita Mountain Range. Ouachita is the French spelling of the Indian word ‘Washita’, which means “good hunting grounds”. Outstanding mountain views coupled with picturesque streams, rivers, and lakes provide a unique and highly valued setting for outdoor recreation. The forest offers high quality nature related-sightseeing, scenic driving, hunting, fishing, and dispersed camping. More on the best hikes in Ouachita National Forest can be found below.

StateArkansas; Oklahoma
Nearest Metro AreaLittle Rock, AR
Area Size1,784,457 acres
EstablishedDecember 18, 1907
Hiking Trails750 miles

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Trailhead Traveler’s Recommended Best Hikes in Ouachita National Forest

(*** = Best Hikes in Ouachita National Forest)

Eagle Rock Loop*** – 26.8 miles loop
Hurricane Knob from Athens-Big Fork Trail, Photo by Fredlyfish4

This trail offers the longest loop trail in Arkansas. A combination of the Little Missouri, the Athens-Big Fork and part of the Viles Branch Horse Trail, this trail travels through the southwestern portion of the Ouachita National Forest. Trail difficulty ranges from easy to most difficult. The trail has numerous river, stream and creek crossings and travels over nine mountains.

Lake Ouachita Vista Trail – 38.5 miles one-way

The Lake Ouachita Vista Trail (LOViT) travels up, down and along mountain slopes through a mixed hardwood and pine forest, opening up at several places to spectacular views of the lake before you. Beautiful displays of wildflowers await hikers and bikers during the spring and summer months. Along the trail, pits left by quartz speculators and the remains of a moonshiner’s still are evidence of the area’s colorful history.

Little Missouri Trail – 16.0 miles one-way
Little Missouri River, Photo by Fredlyfish4

This trail winds along a portion of the Little Missouri River, a designated wild and scenic river. Cascading waterfalls, stately hardwoods, old-growth pine stands, wildlife, and seasonal leaf colors are just a few of the natural delights awaiting hikers. One of the most scenic areas, the Winding Stair area, offers breathtaking views of the forest, river, and large novaculite rock outcrops. This trail is fairly level with a few steep inclines. It crosses the Little Missouri River eight times and Crooked, Brier, Long, and Blaylock creeks once. Hikers should be careful when crossing streams. Rocks in streams can be slick and high water is dangerous after rain storms.

Featured Image: Ouachita National Forest, Photo by Aaron Walden

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3 Responses

  1. Kyle C in Texas

    Howdy. I’m planning a trip out to this forest on December 2021. I hiked the Eagle Rock Loop last winter. Is there a way to create a loop hike on the Ouachita NRT? I’m looking for something between 15- 30 miles that can be done over about 48 hours with 2 nights.

    • Trailhead Traveler

      Howdy Kyle! That is a somewhat difficult question to answer on a 220+ mile trail and will depend on where you’re coming from. I’ll give you a couple options and let you decide which would work better for you!
      1) Begin from the far west ONRT trailhead at Talimena State Park in OK and head east for 8.7 miles before heading north to connect with the Boardstand Trail. This will loop you back west where you can meet up with the Old Military Road Trail and head back to your starting point for a total of roughly 24 miles.
      2) This option is an out and back, not loop, but you could start on the Rich Mountain Trail near Mena, AR heading north for 8.5 miles before connection with the ONRT and then Black Fork Mountain Trail. The complete out and back would be roughly 31 miles.

      I hope you have a great time out on the trail! Safe travels and happy hiking! I’d love to hear back on what you end up doing

      • Kyle C

        Thanks for the tips! I wound up choosing an out-and-back. From Deadman’s Gap TH at mile 8, headed West to the Potato Hills vista, then back. Camping just below Panorama Vista, where I had stashed water. About 8 miles. Then hike the approx. 3 miles back to Deadman’s Gap TH.
        What a beautiful area. I can’t wait to come back. It’s about 7 hours from central Texas though, so it’ll be a bit before I come back that way.