Arkansas: Discover the Ouachita Mountains

A boy jumps off a boat near Bird Island in Lake Ouachita in Arkansas; Photograph by Tom Bean, Alamy
A boy jumps off a boat near Bird Island in Lake Ouachita in Arkansas; Photograph by Tom Bean, Alamy

Explore the Ouachita Mountains on foot, by mountain bike, or with fishing rod in hand.

What Is It? Located in west-central Arkansas, the Ouachita offer a weekend full of options and a setting for being as active or as relaxed as you wish. The Ouachita Trail boasts 222 miles of sweet single-track perfect for riding or hiking. Or head to Mena for a spin around the challenging Earthquake Ridge Trails. Hike the Scenic Cossatot Trail through the Cossatot Wilderness Area and then spend the afternoon fishing in the Cossatot, designated a national wild and scenic river. Cap the adventure off with a cooling swim in the river or a quiet afternoon reading on the shores of a nearby lake.

Why Do It? What better way to experience the untamed side of Arkansas? You’ll experience amazing vistas, rough mountains, unmatched fishing, picturesque waterways, and top-notch riding. Camping here is fantastic, but if you’d prefer a more luxurious experience, you can stay in one of the local resorts, like the Sugar Creek Lodge, which is nestled right on the Cossatot River.

Make It Happen: To do it yourself, get info on the Ouachita National Forest and local mountain biking. Or go guided or visit the Ouachita Trail Guide to hire a guide or organize a shuttle.

What’s your favorite summer weekend adventure in Arkansas?

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See all the summer weekend adventures.

More: See America’s 100 Best Adventures and Long Weekends Like a Local

Great adventures are all around us—and summer is the ideal time to seek them. To give you some ideas and inspiration, every weekday we will be sharing a different U.S. summer weekend adventure, state-by-state from A to Z. We invite you to share your favorite summer weekend adventures in the comments section below when your favorite state is featured. Report back after the weekend to tell us about the outdoor adventures you had.


  1. Jack Stevens
    July 9, 2014, 4:54 pm

    I went last Fall to the Ouachita Mountains. It’s a beautiful area and the fall foliage is spectacular. I stayed at Meadow Pine Cabins ( The cabin “Doc’s Place” was top of the line! I loved the hot tub and gas fireplace. Also stopped by the Branding Iron-great food!

  2. Chase
    July 9, 2014, 5:06 pm

    Great article!

  3. Adventures in the Ozarks
    Northwest Arkansas
    July 10, 2014, 10:27 am

    Summers spent on the Buffalo River are are the best!