Thru-Hiker's Guide to America

Ouachita Trail Introduction
By E. Schlimmer
trail image
Rock, rocks, and more rocks greet every hiker's feet on the Ouachita Trail. (Photo © E. Schlimmer)
Excerpted from Thru Hiker's Guide to America by E. Schlimmer

The Ouachita National Recreation Trail (OT), located mostly within the 1.6 million-acre Ouachita (pronounced wha-shi-tah) National Forest, is the longest trail in the Oklahoma-Arkansas area, at a stout 225 miles. The OT stretches from Talimena State Park, near Talihina, Oklahoma, to Pinnacle Mountain State Park, near Little Rock, Arkansas. The OT owes its success to the efforts of many, but one man immediately comes to mind: writer and hiker Tim Ernst. Tim describes himself as "a genuine trail nut. Have been for a long time. Not your ordinary peanut variety of nut, but rather more like a cashew or macadamia. Pretty much everything that I do relates in one way or another to trails, to the outdoors or to something similar."

And I believe him. Who else has completed more than 19,000 hours of volunteer trail work? Tim has thru-hiked the OT pushing a measuring wheel and carrying a tape recorder, so a good reason to hike the OT is just to read the ultra-thorough guidebook he produced. Tim has written nine other books about Arkansas hiking, and four of those are books of photography. See, he told you he was a trail nut!

The first person to thru-hike the Ouachita Trail was Jim Rawlins around 1983. Rawlins, a famed outdoors person from North Little Rock, Arkansas, is known as the "Ouachita Trail guru." He also wrote the foreword to the third edition of Tim Ernst's Ouachita Trail Guide and is the author of the original guidebook to the OT.

To be honest, when I imagined Arkansas and Oklahoma, I thought of souped-up pickup trucks and four-wheelers, but there is wild land out there to be explored—at least 225 miles of it. In the past, Backpacker magazine readers have voted the OT fourth best in signage/trail marking and third best in solitude.

Article © McGraw-Hill. All rights reserved.



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