Monday, July 30, 2007


Hunt's Loop Trail - Ouachita Nat'l Forest

Hot Springs Arkansas has been a frequent vacation destination of my family for the past 15-years. As you might imagine, since we have made the trip so often, we are always looking for new things to do in the area. During our most recent trip to Hot Springs we decided to do a little hiking in the Ouachita National Forest and happened upon Hunt’s Loop Trail, a small segment of the Ouachita National Recreation Trail that spans 192-miles across the Ouachita NF in western Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma.

Hunt’s Loop Trail is located some 20 miles north of Hot Springs on Arkansas Scenic Hwy-7, just north of Jessieville. There are two entrances to the trail; one from the Iron Springs Recreation Area and the other from the Ouachita NRT Trailhead about 2 miles north of Iron Springs Recreation Area.

We elected to begin our hike from the northern most entrance, parking our car at the trailhead and crossing a sturdy wood bridge that spans the Middle Fork Saline River. In late July, there wasn’t much to the river other than a riverbed. The trail parallels the Saline River, heading south for about two miles before turning west at the base of Short Mountain. Short Mtn is only 1400 feet in height, but the trail from the river bottom to the summit is extremely steep and proved to be a challange.

An hour into the hike and we were atop Short Mountain and enjoying a nice view of the valley to the south from Short Mountain Vista. Here we met up with the only other hikers we were to see for the day, a couple that had come just for the view from the vista.

Following the military crest of the mountain west for a little over a mile put us at a junction; the left fork would take us on the Ouachita NRT, while the right fork would lead us back down to the river valley and close the trail loop. Taking the fork to the right, we hiked north down a gentle slope that took us back to the river, before turning east for a short leg to the trailhead and our car.

The 4.5 mile trip took two hours and fifteen minutes, with multiple stops to enjoy the view and inspect some odd geologic rock formations. With the exception of the climb from Iron Springs up Short Mountain, the hike was relatively easy and could be undertaken by anyone in moderate physical condition. I would recommend a liberal dose of bug spray, for the area is covered with chiggers and ticks; thankfully we got by with just a few visits from those biting critters.

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