Hiking at Lake Ouachita State Park

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Whether you’re on the lookout for a casual stroll or a vigorous workout, hiking in Arkansas is a wonderful way to experience the beauty of the Natural State. Arkansas’s climate allows hiking year round and the state’s diverse topography offers a range of scenic territory to explore. Speaking of hiking, state parks across the U.S. are set to celebrate the start of the new year with First Day Hikes on January 1. These hikes offer a chance to begin the New Year connected with nature. According to Joan Ellison of Arkansas State Parks, on New Year’s Day, 33 of Arkansas’s 52 state parks will offer a total of 55 guided hikes. “This is Arkansas’s part of a nationwide initiative by America’s 50 state park systems to showcase these special “close to home” places and invite families to celebrate the New Year with guided outdoor adventures,” said Ellison in an email she sent out about the event.

First-Day-Hike

Among the parks offering these First Day Hikes is Lake Ouachita State Park in Mountain Pine.

You can take a self-guided walk along the half-mile Dogwood Trail or there will guided hikes of various lengths along the 4-mile Caddo Bend Trail too. Meet at the Visitor Center Picnic Area at 9 a.m. ( the hike takes place from 9 to 11:30 a.m.) for the 4 mile option. A 3 mile hike takes place from 9:15 to 11:15 a.m,  a 2 mile option is from 9:30 to 11 a..m. and a 1 mile option is from 9:45 to 10:45 a.m.

A special program that day is the First Day Hike Campfire, which takes place from 9 a.m. to noon at the Visitor Center Picnic Area. Those hiking can enjoy the warmth of the campfire before or after their hike. There will be hot beverages and treats on hand.

Caddo Bend Trail entrance sign. Photo by Z. Clift.

As to details of the trail, nature lovers will enjoy the scenic beauty of the Caddo Bend Trail. This popular four-mile loop trail is on a peninsula in Lake Ouachita State Park near Hot Springs. The trail, which has rolling terrain, begins near the park amphitheater and circles the entire peninsula back to its beginning. Expansive views of Lake Ouachita, quartz crystal outcroppings, large boulder gardens, and an observation deck overlooking the lake are some of the highlights one can see along the route. The trail was damaged by a tornado in 2011 and was completely rebuilt the following year with the help of AmeriCorp teams. Signs along the trail explain some of this history as well as information on what can be seen on the route. The trail is open for self-guided hiking or visitors can check the park’s schedule for guided interpretive hikes.

In other news, 2015 marks the 60th anniversary of the creation of Lake Ouachita State Park in Mountain Pine. Arkansas’s ninth state park, Lake Ouachita, is located on the state’s largest manmade reservoir about 12 miles north of Hot Springs. Known for its clarity, the 48,000-acre lake is a water-sports mecca surrounded by undeveloped shorelines and the Ouachita mountains. Though the park was officially created on paper in 1955, it was not further established or staffed until ten years later. Throughout 2015 the park will host special events to celebrate its 60th anniversary year.

Lake Ouachita State Park is located in Mountain Pine at 5451 Mountain Pine Road. For more details on First Day Hikes at Arkansas State Parks, contact Kelly Farrell at [email protected]