Explore the most popular views 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.

We've hiked this many times over the past few years. It's a great trail. The West side of the loop is in bad shape other than that it's great.

hiking
1 month ago

This was a beautiful, easy trail with an 8 year old. We did it in two hikes, once from the south halfway out and back, and once from the north. There is a beautiful stream halfway in and piped water from a spring. On the south side there is a small dam that they have created a swimming area with.

hiking
3 months ago

The beginning of the trail is steep and sheer. I took 6 kids ages 17-9. They all loved the hike even if spots were tough. There are beautiful views, wildlife, and quartz rocks aplenty on the trail. Unfortunately there are parts of the trail that are very overgrown. The trail needs some maintenance.

camping
3 months ago

Gorgeous area for picnics and swimming. Man-made swimming area. No fish that I saw! Little steps and ladder to get in and out. Beach area. Within Charlton Campgrounds in Ouachita National Forest. $3 fee for use, free to campers. Great campground.

hiking
3 months ago

We did 2.4 miles in to the Forest Service road and back. A little overgrown at the top where many Pines are. Enjoyed the refreshing cool spring water. The path is easy to see but I would’ve rated it as moderate due to the elevation.

Hiked this with my daughter on 6-12-18 and used the West Scenic loop. Several areas where the blackberry’s and brush have overgrown the trail. Also some areas where trees have blocked the path and you have to work your way around. I also think some of the white tree markers were burned off and haven’t been remarked. I hiked this last year around the same time and it was in much better shape. I will do it again next year but definitely take a machete to hack through some of the brush.

hiking
4 months ago

As of this posting all water sources are dry. We started off at the vista and hiked down tot he creek and back. A few white tail deer on the path, but overall a very pretty hike.

backpacking
5 months ago

First time hiking this trail and I always take these reviews into account when making my hiking plan. This is a great trail and surprisingly hard, though it didn't seem like it should be! Don't think I could have done this in one day. The west side of the loop was pretty brushy and I wish I had a machete at one point. This late in the spring lots of growth should be expected when the tree canopy disappears. Seen other reviewers say this and that about trail markings. The blazes are easy to find and I never questioned where the trail was. But there are lots of secondary Equestrian trails and the intersects ARE NOT well marked for hikers. Very confusing. Be prepared to back track a little, not much, to find your trail and TRUST the white blazes. Additionally there are a lot of yellow signs that say TO CAMP and I think they are talking about horse camp. not sure. Also saw some negative comments about horse dung but I saw very little. Honestly the east side of the trail was well traveled by horses and that made the trail smoother. Horses kick the little rocks out of the way over time and helped my feet! A final note, I have never hiked this trail before and planned on using the spring as my fill up point. The main spring pool was disgusting. Lots of duff and scum floating. No way I was getting any water from that. There is a lower pool where the water is flowing and looked moderately better. I was really worried about drinking the water but I filtered it, drank it, no ill effects. The other water source was Cedar Creek and it was flowing with lots of water. Good source. Also several good primitive camp sites on both sides of the creek. All in all a great trail but some sign improvements are needed for hikers.

Well marked trail, though I was coming from the HTS rec area counter clockwise and the scenic trail fork wasn't evident enough for my comfort. Though it might be better marked coming the other direction. As it's the beginning of the season there are a few felled trees and some overgrown areas. There was one particularly (looked fairly newly) tree downed across the trail was that was quite challenging to navigate. I believe it was the west side of snake mountain somewhere. Otherwise a pleasant and surprisingly quick hike. Lots of campsites all around. Some of the trail had fresh horse tracks, (handy when I thought I was losing the blazes) but which also meant horse discharge on trail. This smell doesn't bother me but I can see if others find it off putting. (just watch your step) :)

backpacking
6 months ago

Well marked trail with several campsites along the way.

Got caught in a light rain while hiking this trail. steady climb ay the beginning.

A bit rough on the ascent as this portion of the Ouachita Trail goes up 541 ft. at a pretty steep incline. Great to get the heart pumping. It probably should be noted as hard, outstanding views on the way up, if you go all the way to the two peaks you can get 360 degree views in the winter. There are other easier trails that lead away from Winding Stair National Recreation Area, this one is good to get the heart rate up.

hiking
11 months ago

Marked well, trail is easy, and beautiful during the leaf change.

great trail in the fall. very place. gorgeous campgrounds

hiking
11 months ago

We camped in the Cedar Lake area in late October over a weekend and did this trail on Saturday. Although the park itself was packed, the trail was pretty empty. Beautiful views throughout the trail, varying terrain but not strenuous. About three miles total overall. We crossed several little bridges and passed several spots with access to the lake. A small part of the trail was a nature trail with informational signs about wildlife and plantlife in the area.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Husband and I did this loop with another couple back in November 2016 as an overnight. We started from Hwy 1 and went counter clockwise, which I highly suggest, setting up camp at Cedar Lake. We didn't have any problems with trail markers as others have described, except for one spot on Snake Mountain in the tall grass/briars. Thankfully another couple were coming through in the opposite direction to lead us back to the trail. We hadn't veered very far from it, though. Completely agree with everyone about water. If it hadn't been for the water access at the camp grounds we wouldn't have had enough water for the hike out. It was an unusually warm fall with very little rainfall, so there was no water to be found on the trail. If scenic vistas with horizon views that stretch for miles is what you are looking for, you may be disappointed with this trail, but the pine forests and rock gardens are beautiful by their own right and make this strenuous hike well worth the effort.

backpacking
Thursday, February 23, 2017

My husband and I hiked this trail this past weekend. Trail was a litle difficult at times, but I work at a desk all week so I'm not in shape by any means. We went counter clockwise. It was fun for a weekend hike and had some really pretty views. Would recommend the scenic route for the best views and place to camp. Also to go clockwise so you can camp on the scenic part and wake up with that view.

backpacking
Monday, February 20, 2017

As many others have said, the trail is not marked very well, so bring a map and some luck. When I did the trail in early fall, we encountered no water the entire way though, so pack plenty. As far as scenery, there are more scenic trails a few hours away. However, this trail is good if you are looking for a loop you can do in 1.5 days or a single day if you start early.

backpacking
Saturday, December 03, 2016

I was there the last weekend in October. Started at Cedar Lake, went on western section of Horsethief Spring Trail, connected with Oauchita Trail, back onto eastern section of Horsethief Spring Trail, then back to Cedar Lake. I chose to follow the "scenic route" up Snake Mountain on the western section. Very overgrown and lost the trail for a bit. After finding it, however, it was very scenic! A few other short stretches along the western section where the grass and bushes were overgrown on the trail, but was still able to follow the trail. When people say "bring water" they mean it. The only water source was the Horsethief Spring, which is a trickle. Saw that some people stashed jugs of water near the Horsethief Spring parking lot.

horseback riding
Thursday, August 18, 2016

Rode horses here a while back. very easy to get lost. The terrain is pretty rough and rocky.

hiking
Saturday, July 30, 2016

The trail is not marked well at all. There is trail upon trail and none of them are marked well. We made a big loop out of the trail. It is rocky with big loose rocks. Overall all it was a good fun hike.

hiking
Sunday, March 20, 2016

Feb, 20, 2016 - Our Boy Scout Troop did this hike as preparation for Philmont. Great hike, bring lots of water, lots of rock, so proper shoes are key, creeks were low to cross.

We did the route clockwise, lots of switchbacks to climb up, 2 creek crossings were low, large sections of control burn areas, backside along Snake Mtn has potential to be very hot in summer months with little shade (good place to stash water refresh).

Spring at top of trail did not look drinkable (another good spot to stash water refresh), Need at least a filter.

Weather was overcast, with a little sun mid afternoon. Some mist in late morning. Great day to hike.

Most of the comments by adult leaders were about having the right hiking shoes (sneakers bad due to rocky trail) and water (not enough). Biggest debate was length of trail versus map - seemed longer than marked distance. Alltrails.com app had us at 17 miles. Section of trail along Ouchita Trail seemed longer than marked. We wondered if we missed the turn off.

Trail is shared with horse riders.

hiking
Thursday, March 17, 2016

Me and my family have started at the spring along scenic Highway #1 each time we have done this trail. If you start the eastern loop first the down hill portion is rocky but easy all the way to the Cedar Lake junction. you will pass a couple of make shift camp sites and several logging/county roads. In the spring there is several stream that you will cross ( ankle to mid shin deep), just be prepared for some dry socks. The north side of the trail there was a fire through there a couple of years ago, so shade in the summer time is sparse. Also the underbrush can be thick in the late summer, I had to use a machete in Sept 2014. the western loop is there is a plenty of switch backs and a steep climb if you are going the same way we did. When you meet up with the Ouchita trail, you have 1.2 miles back to the spring, this part can be very rocky at some points so just watch you footing. With out the Cedar Lake trail it is about 9 miles and took around 5 hours of hiking. I would not consider the trail hard but it is defiantly moderate. My family consists of a 12 year old princess, a 17 year old boy, a three legged dog, and of course the late 30's husband and wife.

hiking
Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Here is a link to the map
http://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fsm9_039451.pdf
I've hiked this trail twice with the Boy Scouts. The first time was two years ago on a humid May day with a 30 pound pack. We hiked it counter clockwise and it was a very difficult day. The second time was in Feb with 70 degrees and overcast. We hiked it clockwise and it seemed much easier going that route.

The route is pretty well marked and we didn't have any problems. The springs trail is a white blaze and the link portion of the Oauchita trail across the top of the mountain is blue. The trail signs are well maintained. The only confusion might be close to the cedar creek campsites, the trail head is on a small turn off near the entrance of the equestrian area. The springs was barely running but was nice to see something built by the CCC.

hiking
Thursday, October 15, 2015

Hiked this trail a week ago. We started from the highway (trailhead near the spring) and descended counter clockwise. This trail was a bit dull except for a walking stick for the first 4 miles. Lots of horse traffic on this part= lots of horse poop. We renamed the trail "horse shit spring". After the split leading to cedar lake the trail all but completely disappeared for the next 3 miles. Many downed trees made it extremely difficult to find the trail- I noticed at least one downed tree with a white blaze on it's side. Thick underbrush made this trail difficult, many parts of the trail were so overgrown they were absolutely impossible to discern. We renamed the trail "Trail Thief Spring". We took turns alternating standing by a tree with a blaze and sending the other person out to scout for the next blaze at 20 degree intervals (like spokes on a wheel). Extremely frustrating. Much of the forest was burned, all of the creek crossings were bone dry. The last 2 miles uphill were full of dull repetitive switchbacks that offered no redeeming views or interesting landscape. Upon further reflection while trudging up mind numbing switchbacks we combined the new names of the trail and decided that "Shit trail spring" was an all around accurate description.

hiking
Tuesday, October 13, 2015

This trail had some nice views from a few points, actually. We just went this past weekend -- got to the trail late in the afternoon, camped, and then finished it the next day. To note: most of the water sources were dried up, so if you're going any time soon, bring/cache water. We went up to Cedar Lake to get water, but this is mostly a horse camping ground, so not much to see. This trail has lots of trees down, so it was difficult to navigate at times and I believe the mileage might be a little off because of rerouting.

hiking
Monday, July 20, 2015

I traveled this trail at the beginning of July starting from Horse Thief Springs. If you travel it this way and do not continue onto Cedar Lake, the trail is only about 10 miles.

It was in the middle of a series of days of heavy rain and I just timed it so as to avoid the rain. The trail itself is relatively confusing because of all the offshoot trails, many of which are unmarked. Follow the white blazes and you'll be fine, though in some areas they have faded. After the logging road, the trail was harder to follow as grass was thick and the trail became faint. In this situation, it's best to stay calm and back track and keep trying different routes until you see blazes. Once you reach the junction with the trail leading to Cedar Lake, things get much easier and I had no issues following the trail back to Horse Thief Springs. There are no really good vistas along the route as much of the area is shrouded in trees, so if you are easily bored by a lack of diverse scenery, this trail is not for you. I didn't have problems with ticks even though I was wearing shorts. My legs were however very scratched up by all of the thorny bushes in the area. Pants are recommended.

On the whole, I was unimpressed with what this trail had to offer. It had moments of beauty, but just driving the road to the trailhead with all of its captivating vistas is far prettier than anything you'll see in the 10 miles of this hike.

hiking
Monday, July 06, 2015

Great trail! Took a two night leisure hike, from the campground, up to the top of the mountain and back. There are a few springs along the trail but if it has been dry your water sources may be some what limited. The hike up the mountain was some what strenuous for this overweight hiker. The spring at the top of the trail where it intersects with the Ouchita Trail was not fresh and I would suggest not drinking.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Its a great trail just be sure to have the right shoes.

hiking
Friday, May 01, 2015

We did this hike in late April a day after some heavy rains hit the area. You pay $3 to park by Cedar Lake and you have a little permit form you fill out and hang from your rearview mirror. We did the route clockwise from Cedar Lake and I would suggest the same since it saves 95% of water crossings until your last few miles. Elevation gains were modest with some decent switchbacks as you near the springs. It looks like foot traffic is decent enough to have established a pretty easy to follow path.

The blazing can be confusing at times because although much of trail is combined yellow blaze (equestrian trail) and white blaze (hiking), for long stretches only the yellow will be displayed on trees making you think you missed a junction. If by chance you end up missing a yellow white junction, its not a huge deal because they both end relatively close to each other near Cedar Lake. We had several hikers tell us to never leave the white blaze. I'd caution against that advice. To see the springs you break off the white blaze and do a 1.2 mile stretch on blue blaze which connects you back to white and yellow blaze that will complete the loop.

It looks like recent storms have washed out a few short sections of the trail and we saw a number of recently downed trees. Nothing technically difficult to get around or go over. Be sure to wear pants and deet. Lots of poison ivy and oak out there right now that is growing all over the trail. We each used 45% deet and came home with some ticks.

Trail certainly gets kudos for seclusion. We only saw 2 hikers on a very pretty Saturday. No real good spots for vistas. Wildflowers in abundance. Nice variety of foliage. Abundant variety of birds. A few nice established campsites.

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