Ozark Highlands Trail

OHT Trail Description: Ozone to Fairview (Maps 9-12)
March 13-16, 2008

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Ozone to Fairview: The Ozone to Fairview section of the OHT is one of my favorites featuring rock gardens, adventurous stream crossings and even a natural arch. But with apologies to through hikers, we did this hike from east to west so this is really as description of the Fairview to Ozone hike.

Explanation of Abbreviations: The OHT is marked with mile markers. Where present they give the "official" distance from Lake Fort Smith (see the trail description between Lake Fort Smith and Cherry Bend to understand why I am using quotes). In this narrative they will be symbolized as MM xx, where xx is a number. The maps have waypoints designated OHT-xx. They are the waypoints referenced on the mileage Excel file and the waypoint table available on the main OHT page of this web site. They will be referred to as WP-xx. The miles of travel referenced in the narrative are the miles from Fairview going west and are shown as Mile xx. Incremental miles will also be used and they should be self evident.

Fairview to Mile Marker 114 (OHT Map 12): The hike begins at the Fairview Recreation Area on AR Hwy 7, situated on the west side of the highway about 1.2 miles north of Pelsor AR (the intersection of AR 123, AR 16 and AR 7). Pelsor is basically a crossroad with a post office and no other services are available. Fairview is a small campground and picnic area with services limited to a vault toilet and potable water.

The OHT is blazed with white markers. The trail back to Ozone takes off to the west from the north west corner of the parking lot. There are white blazes going north, too, but this will take you across Highway 7 and, ultimately, to east end of the trail at Woolum. MM 125 is at Fairview, though I don't recall seeing it. Since we went west, the mile markers will decrease in the narrative.

As with the rest of the OHT, you will be in a typical Ozark forest of hardwoods and pine. The dominant hardwoods are a variety of oaks and hickories. The pine is the shortleaf pine. The rocks in this area are the sandstones and shales of the Atoka, Bloyd and Hale Formations. The Atoka sandstone is found on the highest ridges such as the one where Fairview is located and the Hale Formation is in the deepest creek valleys. These Pennsylvanian age clastic rocks are generally unremarkable.

At 2,170, Fairview is the high point of the trip so the trail starts with a descent. At about Mile 0.5 you come in to an area of pines, at Mile 0.8 there is a forest road and right after MM 124, the pine will slacken off. The 950 foot descent ends at a small tributary of Buck Branch, which can be seen on your right. A little ways after the creek is you pass MM 123 and then intersect Forest Road (FR) 1209 (WP-38, Mile 2.0). Follow FR 1209 about 0.1 miles and just past the second small creek crossing (there are culverts under the road), take a left and follow the trail south as it begins a 350 foot climb.

After coming out of a small hollow, the trail will pass MM 122, round a nose and go through a rock garden (video). It is a scenic spot for a break and there is a stone bench under a huge boulder if you need some protection from the weather. The trail begins a slight downward grade as is heads south up a hollow of another unnamed tributary (video) of Buck Branch. Up on your left you can see the vertical bluffs formed by the middle Bloyd sandstone. Pass MM 121 and at Mile 4.0 there is a creek-side campsite and a creek crossing. The crossing should be a boulder hop.

After a small climb out of the creek, the trail runs due north for about 1.8 miles on a fairly level course. Just before the trail leaves the hollow is MM 119. Once out of the hollow you are officially in the Hurricane Creek Valley. A little further is WP-37 (Mile 6.6), the junction with the Chancel Spur trail. The spur is a half mile and leads to the Chancel trailhead on FR 1209, across Buck Branch.

The next 3.6 miles generally follow Hurricane Creek. The trail fluctuates between being on a bench above and in view of the creek to being on higher benches as much as a quarter mile from the creek. The trail has no significant elevation changes and doesn't stray much more than 100 feet from the 1,000 foot contour.

A few hundred feet past MM 115 is the Hurricane Creek By-pass spur and another hundred feet or so is WP-36 (Mile 10.2), a creek-side campsite (video) and the first Hurricane Creek (video) crossing. It is always wet so plan ahead on how you want to cross. I have tender feet so I either use Gortex socks (sometimes with an insert from my boots or camp shoes) or just get my camp shoes wet. My feet get wet in the socks but they are noticeably warmer. If the water is too high, go back to the spur and by-pass the trip to the north side and the Natural Bridge.

Just across the creek is an old chimney. The trail climbs a little and stays on the side of a ridge for a mile. Just past MM 114, the trail switchbacks down to Greasy Creek (Mile 11.5). There are some rock walls in the valley from when this was a homestead. We camped here on our first night and got hit by a wild thunder storm. We stayed dry under the cooking tarp and in the tent, but the thunder was a millisecond after the lightning and the rain came down in buckets. Normally I wouldn't mention the weather, because yours will be different, but it plays a part in the next day's adventure.

Mile Marker 114 to Haw Falls (OHT Map 11): Leaving the valley, the trail stays low and near the creek for the next 1.8 miles. At Mile 13.2 there is a big campsite. At Mile 13.4, the trail crosses a little creek, climbs past some scenic boulders and intersects the short spur trail to the Natural Bridge (video). The bridge and adjacent bluffs are made of the Prairie Grove sandstone of the Hale Formation. There are overhangs in the bluffs that can offer protection from rain. Tim Ernst mentions this in his trail guide and then cautions about camping there due to bear activity. Ah, the elusive Arkansas black bear.

The trail heads downhill to the second Hurricane Creek crossing (video) (WP-35, Mile 13.9). This one, too, is always wet and due to the rain the night before, very deep. It was obviously going to require a little recon so I tried my luck in my skivvies and camp shoes and with a sturdy pole. The floor of the creek at the crossing is a flat bedding plane of the Prairie Grove sandstone. Turns out there is a fault between the Natural Bridge and the crossing and the creek is flowing across the down thrown block. I got about half way across the second channel when the water got to be chest high and my footing became to tenuous to continue. Back to the north shore to figure out a new plan.

The new plan was pretty simple. The OHT in the north bank was following an old forest road. We followed it easily for about 1.3 miles and then it became intermittent. The old road is there the whole way but sometimes too overgrown or confused by another road trace. After about 2 miles you will come to a no trespassing sign and a fence. Just past it is FR 1002. I am not a lawyer but I believe the law in this case is that as long as you are in the water, you have every right to be there. We stayed outside the fence, worked out way to FR 1002 and crossed at the ford (video). FR 1002 brought us back to the Highway 123 bridge over the Big Piney where we were back on the OHT. What I call the High Water Bailout trail is on the map.

If you can cross at WP-35, you'll pass MM 111 right away and then climb 760 to the west junction of the High Water Bypass Trail (Mile 15.5). The next 1.8 miles follows the benches on the side of a long ridge in a southwest direction. A half mile past MM 108, the trail turns south and begins a steeper descent until it finally comes out on FR 1002. This is where the High Water Bailout intersects the OHT. Turn right, go about 0.2 miles to paved Highway 123, turn right and cross the highway bridge over Big Piney Creek. There is no sidewalk so stay alert for traffic. Just past the bridge on the right (southwest) side of the highway is the Big Piney trailhead parking lot (WP-34, Mile 19.5).

The trip from Big Piney to Ozone ia 19.9 miles. The OHT back that direction is at the back of the parking lot. There are some social trails there too, so watch for the white blazes as the trail heads due west. Head up hill crossing FR 1002 and into the woods. This is 1.2 miles to Haw Creek Falls Recreation Area. The short section but pretty, dominated by a huge rock next to the trail.

At 20.7 miles you will enter the drive in campground. There is a loop road and though it technically doesn't matter which you take to get to the entrance to the west on Highway 123, stay to the north and watch for Haw Creek Falls (video). Just before Highway 123 the campground road crosses Haw Creek on a ford. Though you may be able to cross is boots and stay dry, the water was too high for us and we had to wade. WP-33 (Mile 22.1) is Highway 123.

Haw Falls to FR 1498 (OHT Maps 10): Leaving Haw Falls Recreation Area, go directly across the road and follow the blazes up the Gee Creek valley. For those unfamiliar with the terms, haw is a term used to signal a horse to turn left. Gee means turn right.

The first mile of Gee Creek is a little above the creek bottom on a bench. Right after it comes out of the first small hollow, pass MM 103. It is then into Childer's Hollow, crossing a small creek, and then over a level nose where we made camp (video). A half mile later the trail drops to a level area and crosses Gee Creek (WP-32, Mile 22.8). The next mile and a half is in a broad creek bottom and where markers MM 102 and MM 101 are passed. There is a little cave in the wall on the south side of the trail that looks like it's been used as a den. About 0.1 miles past MM 101 there is a 450 climb to a saddle where you will find FR 1003, the Rosetta Road (WP-31, Mile 25.4).

The next mile is a 450 descent to Cedar Creek. The first encounter with the creek is a small flume (video) through a miniature gorge that ends in a big pool. A little further is a level area with a big campsite (video). Then the trail crosses Cedar Creek (Mile 26.8) and passes the entrance to a small hollow. This whole area looks like a good place to kick back and explore.

Past the hollow, the trail begins to climb and passes MM 98. You'll stay on a level bench for 0.8 miles, begin a gradual climb past MM 97 and then climb another 300 feet. At the top of the rise you will pass MM 96 and then cross FR 1498/1004 (WP-30, Mile 29.1).

FR 1498 to Ozone (OHT Maps 09 ): From FR 1498/1004, the trail stays level for a half mile and begins a gradual decent to MM 95. Then the rate of decent increases as you pass a very scenic grotto (video) with a pour-off and a pool. Another 0.6 miles of downhill and is Lick Branch (WP-29, Mile 31.1). Lick branch is another pretty hollow.

As you start the climb out of the hollow, you'll pass MM 94. The trail levels out after a 300 foot ascent and then comes to MM 93. It bumps around high on the ridge a lttle past MM 92, begins to descend, crosses FR 1421, passes MM 91 and bottoms out at Owens Creek. Then its up a couple hundred feet across the side of another ridge and then back down to FR 1405 and WP-28 (Mile 35.7).

Most of the remaining trip is in the Little Piney Creek Valley. The trail stays very level for about 3 miles as it follows an old road bed (video) along the valley floor. There are two creek crossings that can be either a boulder hop or a shallow wade. The first crossing is at MM 89. The second about 0.2 miles past MM 88. About 0.3 miles past MM 87, the trail begins the climb to Ozone (Mile 38.4).

The final climb is 600 feet over a mile. There is a rock garden to enjoy on the way up and an old foundation near the top. The Ozone Recreation Area is to your right before you cross Highway 21. It has fee camping, a picnic tables. a 60 person shelter and a vault toilets. Cross Highway 21 to get to the trailhead. Right after crossing is a junction (WP-27, 39.4) with spur trail to the trailhead parking lot.

Info: USGS Topos (trail not shown): Sand Gap, Lurton, Fort Douglas, Rosetta and Ozone. Ozark-St Francis National Forest, Russellville, AR (479) 964-7200. http://www.fs.fed.us/oonf/ozark/. For Fairview to FR 1003(head of Gee Creek) contact Big Piney Ranger District, Jasper AR, (870) 446-5122. For Ozone to FR 1003 (head of Cedar Creek) contact Pleasant Hill Ranger District, Clarksville, AR, 479-754-2864.

Logistics: For this trip we used Moore Outdoors, 479-331-3606. It is a long shuttle so it cost $100. They dropped us at Fairview and kept our car at their place until the morning we came put and then dropped it at Ozone. Our car stayed safe and they were very dependable.

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