Arkansas State Parks offer a variety of backpacking trails ranging in length from four miles at the Hobbs State Park-Conservation Area to the 222-mile Ouachita Trail that can be accessed from both Queen Wilhelmina and Pinnacle Mountain state parks.
The River Trail
follows the length of the canyon of the Cossatot River for 14 miles
from Hwy. 246 to U.S. 278. Parts are rugged and strenuous and are not
for the beginning hiker. The Arkansas backpacking
trail climbs to
several bluff overlooks. Along the way, the trail connects five river
access points, four offering campsites. Some campsites are primitive;
others have composting toilets (Hwy. 246 and Ed Banks), tent pads and
fire rings. Camping is allowed at these designated campsites only.
The 15-mile Butterfield Hiking Trail leads hikers deep into the hills and hollows of the rugged Ozark Mountains. This backpacking trail from the park through the Ozark National Forest is well-maintained.
Backpackers can choose from two primitive camp areas. This is a hilly hike past bluffs and boulders in one of the largest crevice areas in North America. Whether you hike it as a family or by yourself, backpacking on this trail is an enjoyable experience. Hikers are required to obtain a free backcountry permit at the visitor center before venturing onto this trail.
Pigeon Roost Trail is an eight and one-half-mile loop in a figure eight formation giving the hiker options of four mile loops or the entire route. This moderately difficult backpacking trail is excellent for
beginners, scouts and families looking for adventure and scenery without having to
travel a great distance. Campsites are marked with signs and each has a tent pad and fire ring.
The trailhead and its associated parking area are located on Hwy. 12. The backpacking trail passes several sinkholes and some portions follow ridges overlooking Beaver Lake. Some of the primitive campsites on the trail offer views of the lake, especially in winter when leaves are off the trees in the surrounding Ozark oak/hickory/pine forest. Wild turkey, white-tailed deer and other wildlife are commonly seen along the trail.
The western terminus of the Ozark Highlands Trail begins behind the
visitor center at Lake Fort Smith State Park. The park manages the first
three miles in the park with the Ozark Highlands Trail
managing the rest of the trail system. Waterfalls, ridges, and valleys
are all experienced as one hikes the trail. This trail can be completed
all at once taking or by breaking it up into sections. The eastern
terminus is located along the Buffalo National River at the location
known as Woolum, 165 miles from Lake Fort Smith State Park.
The Cove Lake Trail leaves the north end of the park and goes down the mountain nine miles to Cove Lake, a USDA Forest Service Recreation Area. Backpacking is allowed outside the state park on this
Huckleberry Mountain Trail
is a multi-use trail, 34 miles in length, used by horsemen, ORV's, mountain bikers and backpackers. There are three loops that cross creeks and connect Mount Magazine with Huckleberry Mountain. Camping is allowed on the portions of trail within the national forest.
The park visitor center is the eastern terminus of the 222-mile Ouachita Trail. Twice a year, the park offers a three-hour workshop for beginner backpackers, that includes information on backpacking gear, trail
foods, planning and safety. For class graduates there is an optional 10-mile backpacking trip on the Ouachita Trail.
The 222-mile Ouachita Trail stretches through the east-west trending
Ouachita Mountains of western Arkansas. It is the longest backpacking
trail in the Ouachita National Forest spanning from Pinnacle
State Park just west of Little Rock, Arkansas to Talimena State Park
near Talihina, Oklahoma. Near the western edge of Arkansas, the trail
passes through Queen Wilhelmina State Park located high atop Rich
Mountain, the state's second highest mountain. The park features Queen
Wilhelmina Lodge, a hostelry known as Arkansas's Castle in the Clouds. Queen Wilhelmina State Park, with its lodge, campsites and the
panoramic views from its lofty locale, is a perfect rest stop on the
trail, a beginning point or a cache location for geocaching enthusiasts.