17 routes · Hiking · Trail Running
Ozark Highlands Trail: Cherry Bend Trailhead to Lick Branch Trailhead
This section routes runners across the tallest point on the OHT and also through a designated scenic area.
Trail Running Moderate
- 31 km
- 810 m
- 1.1 km
- 5-6 hrs
- Low Point
- 257 m
- High Point
- 711 m
Shortly into this section, runners cross Highway 23, also known as the Pig Trail. Once across, it is a pleasant stroll through the Ozark Forest.
After about four miles the trail crosses Fly Gap Road. The origin of the name traces back to the early 1900s when people distilled moonshine in the area and great swarms of flies were attracted during the fermentation process. Once you cross this gravel road, the trail begins it climb up to Hare Mountain, the tallest point on the entire OHT.
Hare Mountain is an interesting place to explore. After finishing the climb the trail follows a tall bluff line, offering gorgeous panoramic views down into the Mulberry River valley and the distant mountains beyond. There is also an old rock fence to the left that was constructed when a family once attempted to farm this rugged hilltop.
If you take the spur trail off to the left, you will find a large fire ring and picnic table where each October the Ozark Highlands Trail Association gathers for an annual campout and social gathering. The outing attracts around 50 members and is a great opportunity to share stories with likeminded lovers of the great outdoors.
If you continue past the fire ring, you can follow a social trail that will lead back to the old homesite of Henry and Kittie Andrews and their two young children. The Andrews were issued this 160-acre land patent under the Homestead Act of 1862. In 1935 the land was acquired by the U.S. government due to unpaid taxes. A chimney and well are all that remain of the family’s dwelling.
It is a steep run down the mountainside after leaving the old homesite area. The trail soon passes a short spur trail to the location where another family once resided, which is now the Morgan Field Trailhead parking.
If there has been any rainfall recently, there will be several opportunities to view waterfalls as you continue down the mountain. At the bottom of the hollow, you reach Herrods Creek, which is a reliable water source and makes for a great campsite.
After Herrods Creek, there are more opportunities for waterfall viewing as you climb up and over a couple more hills. Atop the second knoll, the trail passes the Indian Creek Spur Trail, which drops down to the Indian Creek Trailhead parking lot. At the bottom of this spur trail, just prior to crossing Highway 215, if you pay close attention you will see a memorial installed alongside the trail to Dawna Robinson, who served as a maintenance coordinator for the OHT for seven years.
Continuing past the spur trail, the OHT drops down into the Marinoni Scenic Area. This beautiful canyon was named after Paul A. Marinoni, an early influence on a young Tim Ernst. Ernst was responsible for finishing construction of the OHT after the Forest Service ran out of funds, so he was in a position to name the area after his friend.
This is a truly outstanding run as you drop down to travel alongside Briar Branch and the towering bluff walls that closely border the trail. There will be several tributaries flowing down creases eroded into the hillsides. These streams often include cascades and small waterfalls.
When rounding a corner bluff, you pass a mounted engraved wood slab commemorating Marinoni. Just past this, after crossing the nearby stream, peer up the rocky hillside to the right of the trail. Many have been unable to locate it, but there is a small arch window at the top of the ridge. It is small, but well worth dropping your pack for a scramble up the hillside to explore.
The trail continues further up the canyon to cross a 4-wheeler trail before gradually descending the hillside to reach the end of this section. Along the way, the trail meanders through a forest of beech trees that interestingly, even in the dead of winter, continue to hang onto their leaves.