Nestled in the heart of the Ozarks, I’ve spent a lifetime exploring this rugged terrain’s hidden gems and breathtaking landscapes. From my earliest memories of family hikes through the dense woodlands to countless solo adventures along winding trails, the Ozarks have always been my playground.
Now, I’m excited to share the best hikes in the Ozarks, each a testament to the natural wonders that have shaped my life. So, fasten your hiking boots and join me as we journey through this remarkable landscape’s best trails.
Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or a nature enthusiast seeking your next adventure, the Ozarks have something special in store.
1. Ozark Highlands Trail
Try hiking the 270-mile (434 km) Ozark Highlands Trail for an incredible outdoor exploration. The trail spans 270 miles, taking you through some of the Ozarks’ most rugged and scenic parts. From the highest peaks of the Boston Mountains segment to the breathtaking views along the Buffalo River segment, every step of the way will leave you in awe.
As you hike, the sound of flowing creeks and the sight of towering bluffs will provide enough inspiration to keep you trekking on!
One of the best things about the Ozark Highlands Trail is that it is mainly located on public land. However, it’s important to note that the trail is open to seasonal hunting, so it’s recommended to wear visible blaze orange for safety during hunting season.
2. Glory Hole Falls
If you want to experience the beauty of Glory Hole Falls, you can hike along the well-maintained trail and witness the tranquil cascade firsthand. The trail is two miles long (3.2 km) and takes you through the stunning Ozark National Forest. As you make your way along the path, you’ll be surrounded by tall trees and birds chirping in the air.
The pathway follows old jeep roads, ensuring a smooth and enjoyable hiking experience. Along the way, you’ll have the opportunity to see smaller waterfalls and cascades, adding to your experience.
When you finally reach Glory Hole Falls, you’ll be in awe of its distinctive formation, with water flowing through a hole in an overhang cave. Be cautious as you navigate the rocks around the falls, as they can be slippery. If you’re feeling adventurous, loop around the falls to see a smaller waterfall at the base.
3. Sam’s Throne Trail
Sam’s Throne Trail in the Ozark National Forest is a must-visit, offering stunning views of the valley and rock formations along the bluff line. This trail is perfect for hiking enthusiasts and nature lovers alike. With its excellent hiking and spectacular scenery, you’ll feel a sense of liberation as you explore this beautiful landscape.
To access the trail, you can take Highway 7 south out of Jasper if you’re coming from the north. Follow Highway 374 and 123 to reach the trailhead at Sam’s Throne Recreation Area. If you’re coming from the south, you can find the trail about 10 miles north of Lurton on Highway 123.
The hike is around 2.5 miles (4 km) and can be moderately difficult, especially if you climb to the top of Sam’s Throne. Don’t forget to bring your camping gear, as there are primitive campsites available in the area. Spend a night under the stars and wake up ready to embark on another day of exploration.
Don’t Miss These Other Great Midwest Hikes:
4. Pedestal Rocks Loop
Take advantage of the Pedestal Rocks Loop trail. It offers stunning views of – you guessed it – pedestal-shaped rock formations and a moderate challenge for hikers. This 2.4 mile trail (3.8 km) in the Ozark National Forest is perfect for those who want to soak in the beauty of the Arkansas wilderness. The trail starts behind a pit toilet, leading you through a small bridge into a world of wonder.
Discover hidden caves and intricate rock formations that will leave you in awe. But be cautious near the bluff lines as no rails protect you. Embrace the thrill of the challenge as you tackle the net elevation change of about 250 feet. Take in the scenic views, marvel at the rock formations, and witness the majestic natural bridge.
5. Ozark Trail
Get ready to explore the Ozark Trail’s breathtaking landscapes and hidden treasures because it offers an unforgettable hiking experience! This trail, spanning 230 miles (370 km) through the stunning Ozark Mountains, is the perfect destination for those seeking a unique adventure.
With its eight continuous trail sections, including Courtois Creek, Trace Creek, Middle Fork, Karkaghne, Blair Creek, Current River, Between the Rivers, and Eleven Point sections, the Ozark Trail has plenty of options. As you traverse this geographically diverse trail, you’ll encounter dolomite glades, plunge pools, hidden caves, and rocky streams.
And don’t forget about the wildlife! Keep your eyes peeled for cerulean warblers, wild turkeys, and North American river otters. With scenic viewpoints like Stegall Mountain and Greer Spring, you’ll constantly reach for your camera to capture the stunning vistas. And the best part? No permits, parking fees, or registration requirements are needed for the trail sections.
6. Kings River Falls Trail
On this scenic hike, you’ll love a refreshing swim in the crystal-clear waters of Kings River Falls. The Kings River Falls Trail is relatively easy, making it accessible for all skill levels. Whether you’re hiking with friends or family, this trail is a great choice for a day hike.
Once you reach Kings River Falls, you’ll be greeted by the awe-inspiring sight of a 10-foot tall waterfall. The area around the waterfall is a popular swimming spot where you can cool off, relax, and unwind.
If you’re up for more exploration, there are additional waterfalls and scenic spots to discover upstream from Kings River Falls. The trail is well-maintained and easy to navigate, allowing you to immerse yourself in the Ozarks!
7. White Rock Rim Trail
Take a break at one of the four shelters along the White Rock Rim Trail and enjoy the breathtaking vistas of the surrounding Ozark mountains. As you hike along the moderate 2-mile loop (3.2 km) with less than 100 feet of elevation change, you’ll be captivated by all that the Ozarks has to offer. The trail offers stunning views of the mountains with no guardrails to obstruct your view, so please be cautious.
As you venture along the trail, you’ll come across four shelters that provide a fantastic opportunity to rest and take in the scenery. From each shelter, you’ll be treated to panoramic views of the Ozark mountains, allowing you to take it all in before continuing your journey!
Wrapping It Up…
As a native of this region, I can promise you firsthand that the Ozarks offer some of the most awe-inspiring hiking experiences in the United States. From the towering bluffs to the serene waterfalls, the best hikes in the Ozarks are a treasure trove of natural beauty just waiting to be discovered!