The Ozark Trail Customer Service is a hiking, backpacking and, in some areas, cycling and horseback riding trail system in Missouri and Arkansas. It offers trips from just a few miles to a 230-mile “thru hike.” Spend a lazy afternoon at Taum Sauk visiting Mina Sauk Falls; work up a sweat on the Berryman Loop; or, take a week to wander along the Current and Eleven Point Rivers. Whether you choose to explore the Ozark Trail on foot or by bike or horseback, the trails are sure to delight and inspire your senses and reawaken your spirit.
The OT is the result of a decades-long collaboration between governmental agencies, public land managers and private property owners. It was envisioned as a long-distance hiking trail that would traverse the state from suburban St. Louis southwest to Arkansas, avoiding expensive right-of-way acquisition and relying on existing public lands with a minimum of additional acreage to be acquired from private landowners. Ultimately, the OT will be connected with the Ozark Highlands Trail in Arkansas to form a continuous hiking trail from coast to coast.
Today, the OT is maintained by the Ozark Trail Association. It is a nonprofit organization funded through memberships, donations and grants. The OTA’s goal is to ensure the preservation and promotion of the trail for present and future generations. The OTA’s volunteer members work to build and maintain the trail. They are assisted by volunteers who provide food, shelter and water to trail users and by stewards who care for the natural areas along the trail.
Hiking on the OT is a unique opportunity to see a part of America’s landscape that is inaccessible by car and offers a variety of physical challenges. Hikers should be prepared for all seasons, from early spring to winter. Spring and summer weather can be humid and rainy, creating a breeding ground for mosquitoes and ticks; while winter temperatures can drop well below freezing.
A visit to the OT is a wonderful way to get away from it all and reconnect with nature. It is also an excellent workout and a great way to reduce stress. Hikers will find that the OT provides them with a sense of accomplishment as they conquer the trail.
To prepare for a hike on the OT, hikers should make sure that they have a good set of hiking boots that fit and are broken in before tackling the trail. It is also a good idea to bring a first aid kit, plenty of food and water, and a map and compass. If you are planning to camp along the trail, then a camping pack is necessary. If you encounter a stream, it is also important to bring wading shoes as the trail may require crossing the water. Finally, be sure to tell someone where you are going and when you expect to be back. By taking the time to be prepared, you can enjoy your trip on the OT and have a safe experience.