Thru-Hiker's Guide to America

Ouachita Trail Terrain
By E. Schlimmer

The OT really comes alive in spring, when you’ll find yourself hiking through a kaleidoscope of colorful wildflowers. But the most common features on the two-state OT are short, very steep climbs that crest 2,000 feet in elevation eleven times—you are in the Ouachita Mountains after all. Thankfully the trail also has many switchbacks. And rocks. Lots of rocks. Rock slides, dubbed "rock glaciers," are giant scree slopes that appear to have recently moved. Many slopes contain rocks that appear to be stationary, covered with colorful lichens.

The western end of the trail is definitely the roughest; at times you are literally waist deep in rocks. To bring the point home, I flipped open Tim's Ouachita Trail Guide and picked four different pages at random. I found these descriptions:

  • "The trail crosses a dry drain as it runs around the right side of the rocky hill, then begins to drop. It gets a little steep and rocky."
  • "The trail crosses several dry drains as it heads on downhill some. There are some big pines here and there, and another rock outcrop."
  • "And the sheer rocky hillside is pretty nice, too."
  • "In fact, as the trail goes through many rock gardens there really is no trail tread at all—just rocks."


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