Ouachita Mountains And What You Need To Know

Mountains are great tourist attractions. Several people throng these sceneries to relax and bond with nature. One of the mountains popular for its beautiful sites and rich history is the Ouachita mountains. Its location is unique as it runs east to west instead of the north to south direction as with the Appalachian Mountain, which formed in a similar way.

Ouachita Mountains

Ouachita Mountains

The 225 miles of Ouachita mountains host various activities like fishing, hiking, and boating throughout the year. All these activities you can do in the various attraction sites in Ouachita’s national forest or lake Ouachita vista trail.

If you’re looking forward to visiting this historic mountain, this article is for you as it will delve deeper into the activities and attractions sites.  

History Of Ouachita Mountains

The place where the Ouachita mountains are was a deep ocean under the Ouachita basin 300 million years ago during the Paleozoic era. It’s believed that the ocean waves and the movement of South America resulted in folds on the ocean’s floor.

The Ouachita mountain range is one of the oldest in America. It’s estimated that the mountains have been here for over 500 million years. The first inhabitants were Native Americans who arrived 10,000 years ago.

Ouachita mountains within the states of Arkansas and Oklahoma

The Spanish explorers were the first Europeans to see the Ouachitas in 1541. They named them after the Wichita Indians who lived  in the area. The French explorers also visited the Ouachitas in the 1600s. They called them the Ozark mountains.

In 1804, the Lewis and Clark expedition traveled through the Ouachitas on their way to the Pacific Ocean. They described the mountains as “a ridge of highlands running parallel with, and not far from, the river.”

The Ouachitas have been a popular tourist destination since the 1800s. People come to enjoy the hiking, fishing, and camping opportunities the mountains provide. The forests in the Ouachitas are also home to black bears, elk, deer, and other wildlife.

The mountain is 225 miles. It runs from central Arkansas to southeastern Oklahoma counties like Atoka, Latimer, McCurtain, etc. The tallest peak of these mountains is Magazine Mountain, which is 2800 feet.

However, there are several other mountain folds, including lakes and an Ouachita national forest. The forest and mountains are habitats for many animals, making the Ouachita mountains a must-visit tourist site.

Attractions in Ouachitas

You will have plenty to choose from when looking for the best attraction sites to visit in Ouachita. Here are some of the most popular attraction sites. 

Lake Ouachita

One of the tourist attractions sites you can go to while around the Ouachita mountains is lake Ouachita. It’s the largest lake in Arkansas, covering about 40,000 acres with clear and clean water.

Lake Ouachita

It’s 40 miles long and has a shoreline of 975 miles which gives you a chance to do several activities. The lake borders the Ouachita national forest and is good for various activities.

You can swim, ski, scuba dive, kayak, or boat ride. You will also get the best opportunity to fish catfish. Largemouth bass or crappie and bream.

There is a park nearby where you can spend some time after a long day in the lake. You can also walk on the trails as you watch the breathtaking views. The peninsula observation deck along the trails should also be your to-go spot to have a wide-area view.

Lake Hamilton

Lake Hamilton is a famous lake for recreational activities. It covers 7,200 acres and is 18 miles long. The lake is in central Arkansas on the southern edge of hot springs. It’s also a residential lake with resorts, restaurants, private homes, and motels around the shoreline.

Lake Hamilton

You can go fishing, boat riding, or any water sports of your choice. But visiting the hot springs park on this lake is more relaxing and a better choice when around here. You should also aim to see the Woodland gardens with various vibrant flowers. The flowers will give you a good time taking photos and smelling the sweet aromas.

Eagle Rock Loop

You will also have memorable moments at the Eagle Rock Loop near Langley in Arkansas. The loop is 42.65km long, and you can take an average of 13 hours and 21 minutes to go through it.

It’s family-friendly as it has several bail-out options for anyone who can’t complete the long stretch. However, it’s a challenging route that requires you to prepare well when hiking, camping, or backpacking.

Eagle Rock Loop near Langley in Arkansas

Eagle Rock Loop near Langley in Arkansas.

The fascinating scenes will keep you going for some time as you’ll come across lush river valleys and the Rocky Mountains. The best thing about going to this loop is the experience of reaching six mountain tops, as that’s where the loop takes you.  

When you’re on the southeast side of this loop, you need to be cautious of the weather as it tends to flood, and the Missouri River can be challenging to cross.

Hot Springs

Hot spring is a city close to  the  Ouachita National Park, and it’s within Ouachita Mountain. The park has steep mountainous terrain, which is good for hiking. Some rocks give the garden a great look.

But what stands out is the hot water that comes from within the rocks that contain various precious minerals. People visit this area to have a hot bath, specifically in the mineral-rich waters. You can also drink the water from the springs to enrich your body with these minerals.

arkansas hot springs

The minerals resulting from water interaction with the rocks are silica, calcium, magnesium, and calcium carbonate.

The fascinating fact about the minerals that make the hots springs a worthy site to visit is the calcium carbonate/limestone, which cools upon reaching the water surface. It then forms a spongy light gray rock. This is common at the hot water cascade on the Arlington lawn.

Lake Ouachita Vista Trail

The Ouachita vista trail is another attraction site you can visit and have lovely moments. The lake Ouachita vista trail is in the National Forest, and it’s along the southern part of the shore. It’s a 36 miles trail that’s not challenging to concur. You can visit it any time and also enjoy staying on the campsites along the way or make your camping area.

The good side about settling for this trail is the access points which allow you to bail out when exhausted. Also, wheelchair-accessible areas allow those on wheels to explore the beauty.

Lake Ouachita Vista Trail.

You can also hike a section of the trail or bike for adventure. The vistas on your way will give you an excellent chance to view around the mountains. You can easily view the creeks, waterfalls, and lakes from here.

But mountain bikers also have a place to enjoy their hobby on the trail. Also, hunting takes place here, which is a nice activity to relieve your history.

The Womble

The Womble is another perfect trail that is more than 37 miles. It stretches from Northfork lake all the way to Ouachita National Recreation Trail. It’s a single-track trail and amongst the best in the Ouachita mountains.

Thanks to the short segment trails, you will have an opportunity to see the breathtaking views along the Ouachita River. But of course, bikers and hikers can enjoy using the track and connect through the Ouachita National Recreational trail for a better experience.

You can easily access the Womble through Ouachita River float camps and park at any of the four trailheads. Deep in the forest, you will come across the float camps where you can relax and have a wonderful experience.

Mountain Harbor Riding Stables

Go to the Mountain Harbor Riding Stables if you want a place to enjoy horse riding on a well-kept trail. The privately-owned stables are outside the National Forest and are an adventurous place to visit.

The owners (john, candy, and their daughter Kayla) will ensure you get the best-guided trail ride with a trained saddled horse. So, you don’t need to have prior horse riding experience as the horses here are friendly.

This place also gives you an opportunity to see different types of horses, making it suitable for the kids. Your kids will also love the carriage rides in the mountains while interacting with nature.

Pinnacle Mountain State Park

Pinnacle Mountain State Park will give you memorable moments as it’s a two-in-one tourist attraction site. There’s the pinnacle mountain strategically placed at the park’s center where you can hike on. Aside from that, the park has beautiful scenery where you can have varying outdoor activities.

Pinnacle Mountain State Park

The Maumelle rivers are for different sporting activities, while the Arkansas arboretum is good for chilling or picnics. The 22 miles trail will keep you sweating but fit all day. If you want to experience a challenging moment while mountain biking, don’t hesitate to come to this 14 miles bike trail.

Crystal Vista Trail

Crystal Vista trail is a perfect destination for anyone who wants to walk along a serene environment surrounded by trees. You can also collect quartz crystals here as this was formerly a crystal mine. This trail is not crowded and has a beautiful little trail full of quartz. It’s part of the Gardemer Mountain which is south of mount Ida and in between two quartz mines.

The trail is 2.57 km which is a good choice if you want a moderate track. The 56 minutes walk will give you enough opportunity to relax your mind after long tiring days in the city. You can hike, run any time you’re free and also get a chance to meet new people. Your dogs can also have some outdoor moments on this trail as they keep you company.  

Ouachita National Forest

Some moments in the woods are a worthwhile experience for any busy body who hardly gets time to relax. This is why you need to visit Ouachita National Forest and have your me-moments and refreshing feel. This national forest is the oldest and largest in the southern United States as it covers 1.7 million acres of land.

It’s home to various wildlife and has scenic passages, campsites, and hiking trails. The rivers, mountains, lakes, and streams offer outstanding views as you enjoy the relaxing nature. You can go driving, hunt for your favorite animal, and fish in the waters while in the forest. Horse riding in the woods is also another relaxing activity to engage in. But you can also watch or participate in the off-highway vehicles.

Don’t purposely miss the winding stair mountain national recreation area in this forest in Leflore County. This area is famous for its excellent outdoor activities like scenic driving and wildlife viewing. If you want to learn more about the environment while in this national forest, go to the Kerr arboretum and nature center. This self-guided center will give you an opportunity to learn so many things about nature and the environment.

Best Activities for Ouachita Mountain Visitors

Even though there are several attractions around the Ouachita mountains, there are some best activities to engage in. They include;


You will love hiking in this area with different terrains and trails that suit each person. Some of the tracks are good for medium hikers, while others are challenging areas that ordinary people can’t manage without bail. So, you need to know and understand your body well before setting out for any hiking activity in these mountains.

Hiking ouachita

One of the best sites to go hiking in is the Lake Ouachita Vista Trail. It’s along the lake, giving you refreshing moments as you walk. It’s not challenging to go through it and has an access point for those in wheelchairs. The Ouachita vista trail is ideal for a family day out, but it’s mostly crowded because of its popularity.

However, if you’d like to go for a challenging hike experience that might take days, go to Eagle Rock Loop. It has many mountainous trails that keep ascending and descending. You will have an opportunity to reach about six mountain peaks through this loop.

The best hiking trail for family members or anyone who wants to have alone time in the woods is the Crystal Vista trail. You can also take some time off hiking and pick quartz along the path as it was a mining site before.


If you love fishing, visiting the Ouachita mountains will be the best thing that can happen to you. Take some time off to the rivers or lakes and catch fresh fish. Ouachita mountains have various fishing spots as its surrounded by many water bodies. So, you need to identify one near you.

You can fish in Lake Ouachita, which is the largest lake with differeOuachita Mountainsnt fish species. You can catch crappie, walleye, and being bass. Each fish lives in specific areas, which depends on its species.

You can also fish in the little Missouri river. However, this river is good for experienced fishing as the waters run quickly, making it unsuitable for beginners. Lake Hamilton is also a perfect area to go fishing at.

But don’t shy away from fishing while in the Ouachita National Forest as it’s got several ponds and lakes. You can go fishing in Shady Lake, Friendship trail, or camp Clearfork. Some of these fishing areas have boats and fishing equipment for hire. But if you’ve got yours, carry and enjoy looking for your catch.

If you eat fish, this is the best opportunity to catch fish directly from the water. You can also turn your hobby into a business as fish sells in these parts.


It reaches a time when you never want to wake up in the comfort of your bed but somewhere in the wild with some singing birds. At times you may also want to be woken up by a wild animal to meet your fantasies. Such can seem weird, but they’re some of the best moments you’ll encounter while camping.

You can have such experiences when you go camping around the Ouachita mountains. These mountains have ideal locations which allow visitors to interact with nature during the day and the wildlife at night.

You can camp in Ouachita National Forest as long as you pay the fees. Camping in a tent, on a hammock or sleeping bag and have a worthy experience. But you can be bold enough and try primitive camping anywhere in the forest as long as you’re not along with the wildlife’s food spots.

Most camping sites in these mountains are along the roadsides, mountain tops trails, and next to streams. You can camp anywhere of your choice. However, the float camps are the best experience if you’re in the Womble and weren’t prepared with enough camping gear. The 93 campsites along Lake Ouachita are also a good choice for you.


Boating is one of the favorite water activities most visitors visiting this area will love doing. This is because the mountains are surrounded by big water bodies, giving incredible memories.

You can go boating in Lake Ouachita, a big water body with clean waters. You can rent canoes, kayaks, or fishing boats at any marinas around the lake and enjoy your day in the waters.

Mountain Biking

If you love mountain biking, the Ouachita mountains will give you a nice opportunity on the trails. You can have a good experience at the Womble, a single-track trail that connects to the National Recreational Area.

Mountain Biking Ouachita

The Pinnacle Mountain State Park is ideal for mountain bikers who are ready for a challenge. It has 14 miles of the bike trail to make you sweat as you enjoy your day. The path along Ouachita Lake is also a good place for mountain biking.

When you go mountain biking, use the existing routes and have a trail map to help you find your way. Hot springs have one of the best trails recognized by the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA).


If you love swimming or staying in the water as you bask in the sun, the Ouachita mountains will give you one of the best experiences. Armed with several beaches along the lakes, you’ll have the opportunity to swim with ease. You can go swimming at the shoreline of Lake Hamilton, which has some of the best lodges and restaurants you can stay in.

Lake Ouachita is also a place to swim on a sunny day. The lake, which has several running activities, will also allow you to interact with locals who come to fish.

A hot water bath in the hot springs will be memorable in your life. The mineral-rich waters will give your body a rejuvenating look which is a good treat after days of endless toil. There are some hotels within Hot Springs city where you can have thermal baths if you want some privacy.

Horseback Riding

Coming out of Ouachita without going horseback riding would be one of the mistakes you can ever make. This area has one of the best-managed horse-riding stables where your whole family will get the desired attention.

The family-managed mountain harbor riding stables will give you qualified guides to help you learn horse riding. You can also ride for fun with their friendly horses. The setup in this environment makes it a good choice for the whole family as you’ll also see the Ouachita national forest, which is a damn beauty.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is unique about the Ouachita mountains?

The unique thing about the Ouachita mountains is that they run from east to west. This is unlike the north to south direction, as with the Appalachian Mountains or the Rocky Mountains.

Where do the Ouachita mountains start and end?

The Ouachita mountains start in Little Rock, Arkansas, and end in Atoka, Oklahoma. These are about 225 miles apart.

When is the best time to visit the Ouachita mountains?

Even though you can visit these mountains, there are seasons when you’ll love being here. Come in summer between June and August or fall (September to November). During this time, the temperatures are favorable, and you can engage in any activity you like without straining.

Are there forest animals in the Ouachita mountains?

Yes. You will come across several forest animals as you adventure in these mountains. The animals live in the forests, and some can be dangerous or get harmed as they run away from humans. Feral hogs, black bear, and snakes are some of the mountain’s habitats.


There are plenty of outdoor activities you can engage in in the Ouachita mountains. The mountains host lakes, rivers, and streams that provide life in the wilderness. You can go swimming, fishing or boating in the water bodies while visiting this area. The Ouachita mountains also have beautiful terrains with trails where you can hike or go mountain biking while refreshing your mind.

There are also good sceneries for those who don’t want to engage in tedious activities but stay outdoors, bonding with nature. You can have a panoramic view of different sceneries through the observation decks. All you need to get all these experiences is to plan your trip earlier and identify the best places that favor you.

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