How to Train
Exploring the Ozarks is great, but if you have the hiking bug, you likely won’t limit yourself to our little corner of the globe. We talked to outdoor enthusiast Dan Nash, the founder and president of both Hiking the Ozarks and worldwide travel and adventure company Satori Adventures and Expeditions, about how you can prepare for landmark out-of-state hiking and climbing adventures while training right here in 417-land.
If you’re looking to hike: A fourteener (a popular group of more than 50 Colorado mountain peaks that exceed 14,000 feet)
Popular fourteeners: Grays Peak, Mt. Bierstadt, Torreys Peak, Longs Peak and Mt. Elbert
Training plan: You can do a lot of your fourteener training in the gym. Nash recommends a good mix of longer slow cardio workouts and strength training, plus an interval workout one day per week. Training four to five days each week is recommended.
Local practice hikes: Very close to home, the Silver Trail in Busiek State Forest is a great place to train thanks to several good hills. The Compton Trail in Arkansas is also a great place to train, as it raises some 1,600 feet from the Buffalo River to the top of the trailhead in just 2.5 miles.
If you’re looking to hike: A thru-hike on a long-distance trail.
Popular long distance trails: Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and Continental Divide Trail
Training plan: There’s truth behind the idea that the best way to train for an activity is to do that very activity. “Long hiking days with a pack are a good way to train for long-distance hiking,” Nash says.
Local practice hikes: If you want your own taste of a thru-hike, load up your pack (but not too heavy!), and head to one of our nearby long-distance hiking trails. The Ozark Trail in our Missouri Ozarks and the Ozark Highlands Trail in Arkansas are both good options with lots of terrain and elevation changes.
If you’re looking to hike: In a Canyon
Popular canyon hikes: Grand Canyon National Park, Bryce National Park, Canyonlands and Death Valley National Park
Training plan: “A good way to train for a canyon hike is a combination of long hiking days plus some strength and interval workout days,” Nash says. “This will help to improve cardio and strength for those climbs out of the canyons.”
Local practice hike: Arkansas’s Hemmed-in Hollow Trail that can be reached from the Compton Trailhead is a nice way to train for a canyon hike, as it provides a similar landscape—lots of steep stepping and rock navigation on both the way down and the way back up.
There are likely dozens and dozens of hikes in the Ozarks you’ve never heard about (and we promise—you’re not just going to stumble upon all of them on Google). Check out these guide and hiking books before planning your next outdoor adventure.
Trails & Treks of Missouri & Northern Arkansas
by Kelly Frey and Steve Baron
The second title from the authors of Trails of Missouri, this book is packed with 79 hikes peppered throughout the entire state of Missouri and the top slice of heavily trekked Arkansas. Each trail outline was written with experience, as every mile featured in the book was hiked by the authors. All descriptions include a map, driving directions, length and perks of the trail.
Buffalo River Hiking Trails
by Tim Ernst
Tim Ernst is the author of several popular area guidebooks, and this one about northwest Arkansas’s oh-so-popular (and oh-so-beautiful) Buffalo River area is one of our favorites. It has complete descriptions of more than 30 hiking trails in the Buffalo River area, including both the hotspots and the hidden gems. Bonus: there are even descriptions on how to get to some scenic spots that don’t have developed trails leading to them.
Best Easy Day Hikes: Missouri Ozarks
by JD Tanner and Emily Ressler
Sure, this book is a part of the Falcon Publishing giant that produces guidebooks from Yosemite to Acadia—but that’s why we think it’s extra cool (and extra legit) that they created a book about hiking in our very own little corner of the world. The book includes descriptions and detailed maps for 20 trails, including scenic ridgetops, quiet valleys and cool hollows.
The Great Bear Scare
No stranger to the outdoors, 417-lander Jenna Clouse has been hiking since she was a young girl. She spent much of her childhood logging countless miles at the Cedar Gap Conservation Area that backs up to her family’s land. It wasn’t until last September, though, that 20-year-old Clouse came across something that she’d never seen while hiking before: a bear. Read on for her first-hand experience, and learn what to do if you’re ever in the same situation with tips from Francis Skalicky, media specialist for the Southwest Region of the Missouri Department of Conservation.
By Jenna Clouse, as told to Savannah Waszczuk
We were out of school for Labor Day, so we decided we would go hiking—I took a couple of my friends to the Cedar Gap area where I’ve always hiked. After we got done and we started making our way back up to the car, Alex and Lena went ahead of me. I was taking pictures and taking my time. I didn’t hear the bear, but I looked over, and he was standing right there. Immediately I froze. Most people have that fight-or-flight response, but I didn’t have either of those. I didn’t want to run because I didn’t want it to chase me; I didn’t want to trigger any predatory responses.
Check out the nine-second video of Clouse's experience below: