My husband and I and friends from Topeka recently spent a great four-day weekend (March 26-29) in the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas.  For those unfamiliar with the area, it is a mountain range that runs east-west straddling the Oklahoma-Arkansas border, south of Ft. Smith.  The reason for our trip was my husband’s participation in the Ouachita Challenge mountain bike race. He has raced the last several years and loves the challenge. This year’s course was 67 miles long with around 6,900 feet of elevation gain throughout the course.  He finished with a time of around 6 hr. 50 min., and placed in the top 10 for the 50+ age group.

On our way down, we stopped at the Devil’s Den State Park and hiked two trails: the Devil’s Den Trail and Yellow Rock Trail.  The Devil’s Den Trail contains some amazing rock structures, twin waterfalls and small caves.  The Yellow Rock Trail climbs steeply at the beginning and allows for some amazing views of the sandstone walls.  The Yellow Rock overlook affords fantastic views of the surrounding Boston Mountains and Lee Creek.

Bluff on the Devil's Den Trail

Our friend Gentry carefully checks out the view from the Yellow Rock Overlook

Yellow Rock Trail

Saturday we traveled to Hot Springs and checked out the National Park, walked by the bath houses and toured the Fordyce Bathhouse, and hiked a couple of trails, one which we followed to the very top of Hot Springs Mountain. What a view of the city!

Steam rises from a hot spring on the north end of Hot Springs NP

Fordyce Bathhouse, which is also the Visitor's Center

Entry way at Fordyce Bathhouse

Stained glass skylight at Fordyce Bathhouse

Our next stop was the Garvan Woodlands Garden, a beautiful botanical garden located on the shores of Lake Hamilton.  The pear and cherry blossoms, daffodils and tulips were a delight for the senses, especially after the long winter we experienced.  The grounds are absolutely beautiful. If you are in the area, I highly recommend a visit to the Garden.

Cascade at Garvan Woodlands Garden, Hot Springs

Tulips at Garvan Woodlands Garden

And more tulips...

In the afternoon, we hiked an easy 3 mile loop of the Lake Ouachita Vista Trail.  The weather was glorious and it was a great day to be hiking in the woods!

View from Ouachita Vista Trail

Sunday was race day and the worst day weather-wise.  It was cloudy, cool (in the 40’s), and a strong northerly wind was blowing.  Most of my day was spent shuttling to and from the aide stations for my husband.

They're off! My husband is in there...somewhere!

On Monday before we left, we hiked a 4 mile section of the Womble Trail and were awarded with awesome views of the Ouachita River.  My favorite section of the trail was where it followed a ridge above the river for about a mile. There were large areas with lots of colorful mosses and lichens growing.

Womble Trail near Ouachita Lake

We finished up the trip with a short hike on the Table Mound Trail at Elk City Lake near Independence.

We had fun with our friends, and saw lots of beautiful scenery while hiking. It was a wild, fun weekend in the Ouachitas.