America's Best Hikes
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Ozark Highlands Trail, Arkansas
The hike: The Ozarks are a place of both expansiveness and intimacy, where you can look out onto an oceanlike horizon of ridges, valleys, and summits, then turn your eye to examine a sycamore leaf or an orchid blossom in silence. They're that empty and that beautiful. The No. 1 way to experience these mountains is along the Ozark Highlands Trail, a footpath hikers have blazed through the wilderness of northern Arkansas over the past couple of decades. The trail connects Lake Fort Smith State Park with the Buffalo National River; while ultramarathoner Jenny Foster covered all 165 miles in just over 62 hours in 2009, mere mortals should set aside 10 to 14 days.
Peak experience: Watching the sun seem to melt into a bowl of orange sherbet from the top of White Rock Mountain, a 2,320-foot peak located about 19 miles from the trailhead at Lake Fort Smith State Park.
Need a shortcut?: Skip right to White Rock Mountain, scale the two miles to the top, and camp overnight.
Base camp: Cabin A at White Rock Mountain, which has two bedrooms, a fireplace, a full bathroom, a kitchen, and dreamy views of the surrounding Boston Mountain Range ($70 per night for two people).
When to go: October through early June, to avoid the heat of summer