Explore the most popular hiking trails in Ouachita National Forest with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

backpacking
2 days ago

Great, tough hike! I almost scored this trail a 4-star, but it wouldn’t be fair. We had miserable conditions this past weekend, yet we managed to finish it. Day one was drenching rain that never let up. We started at Little Missiouri Falls and walked about 14 miles. The river was swollen, and the crossings were tough. Even the smaller streams were impossible to rock walk over. The last half mile of the first day, the trail was 6-8” underwater. Day 2 was a success in the fact that there was no rain, but we tackled 10 miles of mountains. They were pretty tough, but doable. Brush Heap Mountain was a steep descent from the direction we went!!! Got a fire started that even when the rain started and put it out. That night temperatures dropped into the 40’s. We had about 5-6 miles to walk in cold rain, but we finished the trail. It was beautiful scenery, and a challenging trail. Don’t underestimate the river crossings! Don’t wear hiking boots! Trail runners will dry out much faster! Lessons learned!!!

backpacking
2 days ago

A group of 3 of us completed this trail this past weekend (10/12-10/14).

I knew that Friday’s weather looked decent and there would be rain on Sat & Sun so I called the ranger station to get advice on which trailhead to start at and which direction to travel. I wis told to start at Winding Stairs and travel counterclockwise. That’s what we did.

The first day we hiked a few miles past Little Missouri Falls. That day was not super challenging and the weather mostly cooperated. Light sprinkles that ended by the time we set up camp. Water crossings weren’t too bad. We camped near the river in a nice spot. No fire though due to everything being beyond wet.

Day two we begin with the plan to get past the last peak and find a camp spot. It started raining after about 30 minutes of hiking. I didn’t even bother with rain pants or jacket. The temps were good enough that we were not freezing. It did not take long for my hiking shoes to be completely soaked. At that point, I didn’t even bother removing them when we crossed water. We ended up hiking about 13 miles that day in the rain. It was tolerable and the climbs were not that big of a deal. Camp set up was in the rain and everything was wet. We were a little more than 5 miles from the trailhead by my calcs.

Day three we head out without breakfast. We had been given word that there was a major crossing still ahead of us and we wanted to her there early. We met some guys going the other direction that camped on our side of the river that night. They said when they crossed the day before the water was already thigh high and moving pretty good. This had us very concerned. Our concern was justified when we arrived at the river. It was moving dangerously fast. Two in the group went down river to see if there was a passable route. One even considered swimming across so he could take a rope with him. Somehow I was able to get cell signal when I took my phone off airplane mode. I got on the USGS website and the river was flowing 739cfs @ almost 5 feet. No way we were crossing that without being swept away. It’s a good thing for AllTrails. I was able to pull up the map and determine our only option was to bushwhack our way through the brush to reconnect with the trail further east. This was brutal and really beat us up with yet another climb, thorn filled bushes and slick downhill terrain. We made it through and got back to the truck.

Overall, this is a great trail in close proximity to DFW. I am not in top physical shape and I’m certain I could complete this trail in 2 full days. If you have hiked anything in Colorado or California you will not find this to be a difficult trail. Especially considering it is not done at an elevation that makes you work for each breath. I will definitely be back when there is better weather with a lighter pack and a plan to complete it in two days.

backpacking
2 days ago

Husband and I drove 4.5 hours to hike the trail this weekend , we intended to do the whole loop but the weather was not cooperating . We Started the trail at Winding stair trailhead (hiked clockwise) on Friday 12:30p.m. camped somewhere on the Viles Branch trail , found a nice campsite and enjoyed the evening next to the fire ...that was a pain in the ass to build cause everything was wet . We only made it to West Blaylock , and got a ride back to our vehicle . We plan on going back when the weather is more enjoyable. We met some pleasant people on the trail and hope that everyone that was out there this weekend made it home safe .

backpacking
3 days ago

Beautiful trail and very challenging. This is not a trail for beginners. We started on Friday morning at the Winding Stairs trailhead and headed clockwise. We knew there was rain in the forecast for Sunday, so we wanted to be through the climbs by then. The Vile Branch trail (southern part of EGL) is not a terribly challenging trail, but has a lot of water crossings. Don't underestimate the rocks and boulders in the water, they are slick. Bring water shoes and cross the deeper sections the old fashioned way. We saw hiker after hiker try to rock skip only to wind up with their boots under water and their clothes soaked. It's more technical than it looks, but completely passable so long as the water is below about 3.5 feet. Much higher than that and you are going to be fighting a pretty strong current. Be advised, the blazing on this part of the EGL is not always reliable. Having AllTrails running on my phone saved us from miles of off-trail hiking at several junctions.

The Athens-Big Fork trail (western part) is no joke. You don't want to do it in the rain, so plan your progress accordingly. It's not exaggeration to say there are no switchbacks on this section of trail, and there are 6 peaks to climb and descend. The ascents range from 300 feet to about 800 feet ... straight up a 45 degree incline. You want to plan your pack well too, because you don't want 40 pounds on your back as you make those ascents and descents. There is another ~300 foot ascent/descent in the winding stairs area as you close out the loop from that trailhead. Eagle Rock Vista (first summit on the clockwise path) is definitely worth the climb and definitely worth taking a long break to enjoy. It's a truly impressive view.

The Little Missouri trail is probably the easiest and most scenic part of the loop. It's beautiful and easy to crank out big miles there. Just be aware, at the end of that part of the trail, as you return to the winding stairs trailhead, you have one more climb to finish ... and it's pretty brutal after a long day on the trail.

We did the trail in 3 days, but I could easily see spending 4 days out there if you wanted to really enjoy the trail and break it up more. Coming from DFW, this is definitely the hardest trail within a 10 hour drive. It's definitely one to check off the bucket list.

backpacking
3 days ago

This is very much a fair weather trail. we just got back from a weekend on the trail and it was raining from friday morning to Sunday morning.

The mountainous section is difficult on it's own, but gets exponentially more difficult with water. there are no switchbacks, only straight ascents up the mountains that turn into small streams with rain.

The main thing however is the river. several crossings of the Little Missouri turned from knee-high to belly-high crossings real quick. Any more rain and the river could have become impassable immediately, leaving us stuck waiting on the water to recede. even the easy rock hopping streams became ankle to knee high.

The trail is decently blazed for the most part, but it can be easy to get off the trail. A particular intersection leads to a white blazed trail (same as the rest of the trail) that dead ends in private property.

This trail would be much better in clear weather but the troubles with the trail itself would remain.

All-in-all this is a difficult trail, a good test of your backpacking skill, and would be worth a hike once in clear weather.

backpacking
4 days ago

Hard but very pretty. We did this in two days but it wasn’t a walk in the park. So if your looking to take your time I would recommended 3 days. We hiked clockwise starting at winding stairs which made the first day hard and the second day easy. But was told that counter clockwise and starting at little Missouri would give you the same results. We brought hydration bladders, but there are plenty of streams to use filter bottles if you wish to save weight.

Trekking poles help a lot, and for the dog owners, the rocks on this trail can hurt their pads. So only bring dogs with tougher pads.

Did the trail this past weekend, Saturday afternoon to Monday morning. The trail was well blazed for the most part, had to look out for the orange markers in a couple of spots and ended up backtracking on some spurs. It was a blast anyways though, but the humidity was rough on me and my dog.

backpacking
8 days ago

My wife and I completed this loop last weekend (Oct 5-7). It was really muggy Friday and steamy the next two days as the air cleared out. We went CW, starting at the Athens Big Fork South Trailhead spur just SW of Eagle Rock Vista, knocking out the tough stuff first.

Most notably we saw a mature bear through the western ridges. After hearing prolonged, loud rustling in the trees above, we looked up. We watched as a bear slid 50 feet down a trunk like a fireman on a pole before it ran away from the trail (west). That tree was 30 feet from the trail and 50 feet from us. This took all but 2 seconds. My wife and I stayed still and vigilant for a bit to ensure no other bears were around. It was not aggressive, and I think we startled it/woke it up. The only reason this gets 4 stars is the numerous, numerous water crossings.

I haven’t hiked this trail but wanted to know where I can park my car while hiking the Eagle Rock loop? Also, should I hike clockwise or counter? Do I need a permit? Thanks!

backpacking
10 days ago

Amazing trail! Completed with my 11 year old son. Took our time, only about 2.5 miles left on 10/4, but wanted to enjoy swimming holes the next morning so we stretched it out one more night. (10/1-10/5) We'll be back!

backpacking
10 days ago

Just completed the loop today. Conditions are everything when it comes to success, particularly the river level. Follow the Langley gauge closely. The bugs can be ferocious in spots. Despite insane humidity levels keeping all of our gear and bodies wet for the whole trip, this loop was definitely worth doing. We went clockwise from Little Mo Falls starting about 4:30 PM on Thursday, finishing about 11 AM Sunday. This was a reasonable pace. Don’t underestimate the Athens-Big Fork segment — your pace will likely be much slower there, and it’s tough going. The trail can be hard to follow at several water crossings; someone has helped immensely with orange flagging. Headed clockwise, the trail is blazed incorrectly at the Little Missouri/Viles Branch junction. The blaze directs you straight ahead; you should turn right. Best views were from Eagle Peak and the Winding Stair section of the river. The rest of the trail is a pleasant green tunnel for the most part. Lots of nice campsites in obvious locations.

I absolutely love this trail! I’ve done it twice now, and I’m sure I’ll be back. Great scenery and, challenging.

This was a butt kicker. Definitely take trekking poles as everything is up or down at 20 degrees +. Plenty of places to get water to filter and camp sites. Be prepared to traverse streams and get your feet wet. FYI - Forest Road 38 is also Polk 83. I drove past it several times before I saw this. There is also a Caney Creek Wildlife Mgmt. Area sign.

Good luck!

This is a scenic driving route on nice forest roads. It’s very scenic but not really a hiking route.

on Eagle Rock Loop

27 days ago

This is a great hike! I’m no stranger to the Ouachita trail but have never hiked this area. You simply can’t ask for a better 2-3 day hike. Thank you to the person that added orange markers at all the river crossings. The 8 miles over six peaks is very very challenging, but doable. Great water sources, swimming holes and lots of wildlife!

hiking
1 month ago

Just hiked on the the eagle rock loop trail. We had 4 boys with us, from 14 years old down to 7.
We had no intentions of hiking the whole loop, just wanted to let the boys enjoy the swimming holes and scenery as we went.
The boys loved the water. Very clear and clean. We did the hike clockwise from winding stairs trailhead. Made it as far as Eagle Rock Vista.
With the few turn around see he losing the trail at water crossings, it’s about 9 miles.
Absolutely beautiful country. We did see several water snakes, so watch out. They are actually very dosile, one of the boys actually stepped on one.
There is no need to carry much water until you get to the base of a summit since you can drink plenty along the way.
We turned in early at the campsite around 2:00 the last evening just because it was such a awesome campsite with super clear water and a nice swimming hole. The boys played in the water until they were too cold they couldn’t stand it ... they had a blast.
My only complaint would be the trails are marked poorly or not at all at some of the water crossings, and there is more then 1 way to get to the same place. I believe your suppose to stay on the yellow markers, but sometimes we accidentally got on the white ones. None of this was really a issue, just added some time to our trek. I downloaded the map before hand, so I could easily see when we got off the trail. Even with my phone on airplane mode, GPS still worked with the map.
Can’t wait to go back !

on Eagle Rock Loop

backpacking
1 month ago

Great adventure if you are up for it! Recommend hiking counterclockwise from little Missouri falls. 48-56 hrs in-out

backpacking
1 month ago

Did this trail in 2 nights and 3 days. Had a blast. Terrain varies greatly from low lying riverbank to mountain top campsites.

on Winding Stairs Trail

backpacking
1 month ago

One of the best scenic spots on Eagle Rock Loop!

backpacking
1 month ago

Hiked this loop in April, hands down the best loop in Arkansas. Be prepared for a strenuous 2nd day hiking over all of the ridges. Totally worth it, I definitely recommend. The trail is not marked the best so be mindful of where you are--have a map. If you have a GPS device bring it. There was plenty of water available in April. We did the the hike in a weekend, wish we had more time to do it so that we didn't have to rush. Such a scenic trail! We saw lots of wildlife, including rattlesnakes! Be careful

backpacking
1 month ago

Did this trail as part of the Eagle Rock Loop trail. Hiked from Little Missouri Falls trailhead going clockwise over 3 days/2 nights.

This was a beautiful hike. Lots of water crossings on this section so bring water shoes and watch the river gage height because under certain conditions, it is not passable.

https://waterdata.usgs.gov/usa/nwis/uv?07360200

Highly trafficked trail as well. Ran into lots of families on this section.

backpacking
1 month ago

Completed this trail as part of the Eagle Rock Loop trail. Did in clockwise so I did the Athens-Big Fork trail going south to north.

Both Eagle Rock Vista and Brush Heap have side trails to overlooks which I highly recommend. Gorgeous views. Camped on top of Leader Mountain. There was a nice open spot with a firepit right when you get to the peak.

This was a great, challenging hike. Going south to north, I would say going up Leader Mountain was the most challenging section. Pretty sure it is not the longest incline but it was UP all the way.

Trekking poles are a must here in my opinion!

backpacking
1 month ago

Hiked from Little Missouri Falls trailhead going clockwise over 3 days/2 nights. Covered roughly 11 miles on the first day and found a secluded little spot west of the river, right before the Viles Branch Trail junction. Did around 8 miles on the second day, covering Eagle Rock Vista and Brush Heap Mountain before setting up camp on top of Leader Mountain. Both Eagle Rock and Brush Heap have side trails to overlooks which I highly recommend. Gorgeous views. Started the last day around 9am, covering roughly 10 miles and was back at the Little Missouri Falls trailhead around 3:30pm.

http://www.duprephotography.com/ERL/index.html
Website above is where I got all the information I needed to complete the trail. Very accurate info.

This was a great, challenging hike. My previous experience was one other backpacking trip (Butterfield Hiking Trail) which was only half the distance. I do a lot of day hiking as well (11 miles was my longest before this trip). Going clockwise I would say going up Leader Mountain was the most challenging section. Pretty sure it is not the longest incline but it was UP all the way.

Trekking poles and water shoes are a must here in my opinion!

on Eagle Rock Loop

backpacking
1 month ago

Great trail, some maintenance needed (i.e. better markers). Tough in some spots but fun and views are worth the side trails. We started at Little Missouri Falls and did the loop counter clockwise. Found a few spots where you can end up looping backwards on the trail, no markings for CW or CC.

backpacking
1 month ago

secluded, river crossings, challenging to navigate. good place to backpack alone or with friends or family. my wife and kids loved it. just beautiful. highly recommend if your tired of car camping and loud, busy campsites. this is what you've been looking for. don't hesitate. Just pack up the kids and go. you'll be glad you did!

hiking
1 month ago

Scenic rivers and streams! Neat rock formations and things to explore. Nice length for a half-day trip

love it

on Eagle Rock Loop

backpacking
1 month ago

I’ve done this twice. Took the winding stairs trailhead (nearest Albert Pike) both times moving clockwise. Great camping sites all over the trail for tent and hammock. Although if you’re part of a big party, there may not be enough trees in one campsite if everyone is going hammock. You may have to spread out to areas that haven’t been previously cleared. Plenty of water. Which comes in handy if you sweat a lot, like me. Lots of water crossings. A few of them substantial. Think 60 feet across and up to 25 inches deep. Do yourself a favor and bring water shoes or flip flops. Barefeet on the river bed is a bad idea and nobody makes boots THAT waterproof. Also... trekking poles. They are an enormous help for the ups and downs and maintaining balance in the moving water. Trails can be difficult to pick up at a couple of the bigger water crossings. Both big crossings of the Little Missouri were poorly marked. But get yourself a good map and you’ll be able to quickly figure out where you are and where you’re going.

You’ll read vastly different descriptions here of how difficult this trail is. To some, it’s a piece of cake. To others, it’s a real challenge. It all depends on the individual. Although I think the people who breeze through this are definitely the minority. Ask yourself some basic questions about your weight, fitness level, health, heat tolerance, etc. For instance, the first time I did it, it was difficult. I wasn’t in very good shape. The second time, I was in better shape, but it was even more difficult because it was 25 degrees hotter. There is A LOT of up and down. Some of it quite steep. Which aside from making it strenuous, can also really hurt if you’ve got bad knees and ankles. I wouldn’t discourage anyone from trying this trail. But, if you’re being honest with yourself, and you’re not in the best of shape, spend a month or two prepping your physical fitness and getting your joints healthy. You’ll be glad you did. Some people do this in two days. Others in three. If you’re not certain of your physical abilities to complete it in two days, go ahead and plan on three. It might ruin your plan for a Saturday/Sunday hike. But it’ll be more enjoyable if you’re not having to kill yourself to finish it.

This is a challenge that is totally worth it. I’ll be going back sometime soon.

hiking
1 month ago

First time in this area, went with a buddy of mine whose family has hiked Eagle Rock Loop as a whole, so he was very aware of what area we were going to, what was available (water, campsites for hammocking...) It was absolutely beautiful! Mostly covered trails, so the sun wasn’t an issue, and the water was up enough to swim for a little while before heading back. We took a water bottle each, a filter, and we were set for the entire day! Will definitely be coming back to visit for an overnight hike soon!

Hiked the trail from Blaylock trailhead (106) clockwise with my Goldendoodle. Set up camp at winding stairs trailhead (18 miles) under hot and humid conditions the first day. Trail was overgrown in some spots and got some poison ivy from the knees down due to lack of hikers this time of year. Will remember to consume more electro lights on the next visit because of the heat and excessive sweating. Finished the following day before noon. Additionally, treat your water as I didn't this time and got a bit of giardia after returning home. This hasn't been a problem in the past:)

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