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A Guide to Hiking the Ozarks

Hiking The Ozarks: Mountain Rivers

Isn't it a joy to hike along a stream or a river, especially in the heat of summer? If you start to get overheated, you can just peel off your shoes and socks to cool down, and there's nothing like a splash of mountain water on your face to perk you up during a long hike.

In the Ozarks, you'll have plenty of opportunity for that. You can hike the Ozark Trail for a couple of miles along Current River or rent a canoe and float down the river or its sister river, the Jacks Fork [source: Missouri State Parks]. Abi Jackson at the Ozark Trail Association says that the stretch near the Current River where you're hiking up on the bluffs above the river is her favorite part of the trail.

In Arkansas, you can hike the Ozarks along the historic Buffalo National River. Buffalo River was an Arkansas state park from the late 30's until 1972, when it became the first river protected by the National Park Service [source: Arkansas Dept. of Parks and Recreation]. The national river is 135 miles (216 kilometers) long, and hikers can trek or float the length of the waterway. Because it's been protected for so long, the Buffalo River has a true wilderness feel.

If you're planning to hike along the river, you can really get the best of both worlds by mixing things up a bit! Instead of hiking a loop or trekking up and back, look for a local outfitter along the river where you're planning to hike. You can often park at the trailhead, take a shuttle to an outfitter, then canoe or float up the river and hike back.

Of course, where there are rivers, you can often find waterfalls. We'll look for some on the next page.