Ozark Highlands Trail: Ozone Campground on Hwy 21 to Big Piney / Ft. Douglas Trailhead

Good drinking water sources, scenic waterfalls, and inviting campsites, plus a tour of an old CCC camp.

Hiking Moderate

Distance
30 km
Ascent
774 m
Descent
1.1 km
Duration
7-8 hrs
Low Point
224 m
High Point
559 m
Gradient
Ozark Highlands Trail: Ozone Campground on Hwy 21 to Big Piney / Ft. Douglas Trailhead Map

If you are hiking in on the OHT from the west, as the trail tops out there is a short spur trail to the right that will take you to the Ozone Trailhead parking, while the OHT continues straight.

Description

I recommend hiking to the parking then crossing Hwy 21 and turning right to check out the Ozone Campground. There is no water here, but there's a bathroom and eight campsites. But the reason I recommend visiting the campground is that this was the site of a 1930s CCC camp. Foundations of the camp are visible, and there is an interpretive area telling the history of the facility. This is a pretty interesting story. The CCC is quite a story itself: it was created to provide jobs and teach workers a skill during the depression. When you are ready to resume your hike, there is a spur trail at the back of the campground that will route you to the OHT.

Back on the trail, you know the routine: more climbing and descending. Some of the hills are pretty steep and long, but every time you drop down into a hollow, there is a scenic stream with great campsites to welcome you. Keep your eyes open for old rock fences. At one time there were a lot of families who made these hills their home. Some of the old abandoned roadbeds the trail follows were actually roads used to reach those homesites.

Just past mile 92, the trail crosses Lick Creek. Once across the creek, if you follow the creek bank upstream 300 yards, you will reach a cool “slot rock” that pours down into a year-round pool of water.

Over the years, water has cut a slot through the polished rock bluff that is wide enough that you can ride a Thermarest down it. Even during the summer there is usually enough water to skinny dip in and cool off.

After your break, the OHT routes you up another long climb. Don’t get your hopes up when you see the top because that is just a false summit. This is one of those climbs that just keeps on giving.

Around mile 96, as the trail drops down the hillside, you can see down into a small canyon to the left. Once you reach the bottom, if you have time, this is a nice place to shed your pack and explore the canyon. During the wet season, there is a waterfall at the end of the canyon.

Following this, the trail crosses Cedar Creek, and as it follows the stream, you reach a rocky area where the stream cascades into a pool of water. There is also a small bluff overlooking the pool, but the water isn’t deep enough to jump off. The east side of the trail here has a large flat area that makes for a great place to pitch your tent. If it’s too early to camp, however, you can continue on, because about mile 100 there are plenty of good campsites along Gee Creek.

At about mile 102, the trail crosses Hwy 123 to enter Haw Creek Falls Campground. The trail follows the dirt road through the camp and exits the backside. There are bathrooms and water at the campground, along with a small bluff waterfall. If the water is too deep to cross the low water bridge into the campground, you can turn left and follow Hwy 123 to reach the next trailhead.

After leaving the campground, the OHT climbs a hillside for a while, with views of a creek down below, and then drops down to the Fort Douglas Trailhead.

Difficulty

Moderate

Hiking along trails with some uneven terrain and small hills. Small rocks and roots may be present.

Medium Exposure

2 out of 4

The trail contains some obstacles such as outcroppings and rock which could cause injury.

Remoteness

3 out of 4

Little chance of being seen or helped in case of an accident.

Best time to visit

January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December

Features

  • Wildlife
  • Historical
  • Picturesque
  • Dog friendly
  • Wild flowers
  • Water features
  • Family friendly
  • Forestry or heavy vegetation

Guidebooks in this area