Ouachita National Forest
Wikipedia Commons/ Aaron Walden

Ouachita National Forest: Visit the Oldest National Forest in the South

The Ouachita National Forest is one of the most beautiful places in the South. 1.8 million acres of lush forest extends from central Arkansas to southeastern Oklahoma. Its name, "Ouachita," comes from the Native American word "Washita," which means "good hunting land." You'll see why when you come to visit. A wide variety of animal life, as well as a wide variety of ecosystems ranging from forests and mountains to rivers and lakes, fills the incredible forest.

President Theodore Roosevelt established the area as the first national forest in the South in 1907. Formerly known as Arkansas National Forest, the name was changed to Ouachita National Forest in 1926 and has since expanded in size. It almost became a national park, but that was ultimately vetoed, in part due to the Hot Springs National Park being nearby. 

Multiple hiking trails are popular for hiking as well as mountain biking in the area. The Lake Ouachita Vista Trail takes you on some of the highest peaks in the South with stunning views of the lush terrain. The Eagle Rock Loop Trail is a 26.8-mile trail that would be perfect for a weekend camping trip. You'll get to go all the way to the summit. The Horsethief Springs Trail is a quick day hike for those looking for rich mountain views at a more relaxing pace.

The Womble Trail is nationally recognized as an incredible trail for mountain biking. The 30-mile trail has some steep drops which make for an overall thrilling ride for the mountain biking enthusiasts out there.


The Caddo, Cossatot, Little Missouri and Saline Rivers have plenty of outdoor activities for anyone wanting to hit the water — kayaking, canoeing, fishing, you name it. Lake Ouachita is also ideal for those looking for calmer waters to take the boat out and unwind.


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The Winding Stair Mountain National Recreation Area is home to the Talimena National Scenic Byway. This 50-mile scenic drive offers some of the most beautiful views of the Ouachita Mountains and wilderness areas in the National Forest. If scenic driving is more your speed, the scenic byway is a must.

The Ouachita National Recreation Trail is the longest in the forest, offering 223 miles of well-maintained trails. There are campsites along the way as well as equestrian trails for horseback riding. The entire trail system includes over two dozen trails to choose from, which extend through both Arkansas and Oklahoma.

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