Hike Arkansas’ Ouachita Mountains on the Little Missouri Trail

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Ouachita Mountains Winding Stairs

Camp along the winding stairs on night 2.

Sunshine sets the fall foliage around me aglow, each leaf casting a thousand shades of red and yellow against the blue sky on this rare, low-humidity fall morning in Arkansas. I’m about halfway along the 16-mile Little Missouri Trail, which follows its namesake river as it carves a narrow valley out of the hard novaculite of the Ouachita Mountains. I close my eyes to focus on the roar of the water as it cascades over massive boulders and into deep pools. That’s the sound of compromise between a persistent river and a stubborn rock. And this trail alongside both is the reward.

Turn-by-turn

1) Follow the Little Missouri Trail, marked with white blazes, as it begins at its first river crossing. Note how small the river is here.

2) Immediately after crossing the river, veer east at the trail junction with the Athens Big Fork and follow the Little Missouri Trail 4.1 miles to Little Missouri Falls Recreation Area.

3) Continue along the paved path where rock outcroppings rise more than 50 feet above a series of waterfalls. The Little Missouri Trail snakes through these bald, knobby peaks dotted with pine trees. Camp in a nice flat spot at mile 7.5.

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