Backpackers unite. See the “Natural State” from a completely different viewpoint. Discover the hidden treasures of Arkansas as you travel the trails into the forest, mountainous terrain, and clear streams.
If you are a backpacker, you will enjoy Arkansas and its many designated trails. You can spend an overnight in the wilderness, or up to a month traveling the Arkansas landscape.
If you are an experienced backpacker, you know that the equipment you take, is of great importance.
According to the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, “Arkansas Adventure Guide,” the list of equipment should include a tent, bivouac sack or tarp, a small sponge to keep your tent clean, and extra tie down cord.
A sleeping bag is essential, because the night time temperatures could be rather chilly. A ground sheet is another”must have.”
Remember to wear hiking boots or sturdy walking shoes, even if the hike is a short one. Two pairs of socks are recommended if you wear boots. Wear proper clothing, allowing for a quick temperature change, as sometimes occur in the Fall/Winter months. Even in the warm summer months, long pants and long sleeves allow protection from the sun, insects, and briars. Wear a hat in the summer and winter.
A flashlight with new batteries, extra batteries, a map and compass, waterproof matches and fire starter, water bottle, knife,a nice backpack you can buy in The PNW and insect protection are also items that should be in the backpack. Always have a first aid kit in your supplies.
If you are a beginner and are not sure that backpacking is for you, you can rent a backpack at Devil’s Den State Park in West Fork, Arkansas. All of the necessary equipment to hike the park trails is included in the rental.
There are 22 trails in the Ozark Mountain Region. The Arkansas River Valley has 8 trails. The Ouachita Mountain region has 22 outstandingt trails. The West Gulf Coastal Plains Region has 6, Mississippi Delta has 6, and Crowley’s Ridge has 3. These numbers do not include all of the trails in the State, merely the ones that are most popular with hikers.
Other areas that have marked trails are located in the Buffalo National River Wilderness area, Ouachita National Forest, and the Ozark National Forest. The “Adventure Guide” lists and elaborates on the difficulty of each of these trails.
Devil’s Den Park, where you can rent the back pack, has a popular Butterfield Hiking Trail. It is 15 miles of hiking. The recommended time for this trail is 12 hours or an overnight. It is the perfect beginner’s trail. The trail follows the route of the Butterfield Stage Coach. There are spectacular rock formations along the trail. It is located off State Highway 170, near West Fork, Arkansas. Backpackers must get a permit before starting this hike, so the Ranger keeps up with the hikers. For more information, contact the park directly at 479-761-3325.
The Buffalo River Trail is another popular one in Arkansas. It is listed in the magazine, “Trails Illustrated.” and maps can be found at bookstores throughout Arkansas. It is a 36 1/2 mile trail, which ranges from mountains, abandoned homesites, cemeteries, and even allows for a small float trip. It is an ideal way to see backcountry scenery. It is termed rugged, and is not a beginner’s trail. Access to the trail can be found along U.S. Highway 65, near Harrison, Arkansas. Other entry points are available on the trail. The Park Superintendent can be reached at 870- 741-5443.
The Buckeye Mountain Trail is another popular one. It is located in the Ouachita Mountain Region, near Mena, Arkansas, directly off State Highway 246. It is a half day or overnight trail. It connects with a longer trail, Caney Creek Wilderness. These two combined trails make for a ridgetop trail into the wilderness area. There are streams and mountains located along this trail. For more information contact the Ranger in the area, at 479-394-2382.
Mount Magazine Hiking Trail is located in the Arkansas River Valley. It is located on Highway 309, near Havanna, Arkansas. It has some difficult sections, however, Cove Lake Loop is relatively easy. This is an especially lovely trail in the autumn. You can contact the Park directly at 479-963-3076.
Ozark Highlands Trail is located in the Ozark Mountain area. This trail is located in the Mountain region. This is a 165 mile trail, and ranges from easy to hard sections. The Ozark Forest area joins the Buffalo National River Trail. There are remote areas, mountainous terrain, rock outcroppings, and clear mountain streams. Camping is allowed along the trail. There are walk in points along the trail for easy on and off access. You can contact the Ranger in charge of this trail at 4769-968-2354.
This is just a sampling of the trails that backpackers can hike. For more information, request a copy of the “Arkansas Adventure Guide,” published by the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism.
Reference: Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism