Lake Ouachita (pronounced wash-ah-taw) is the largest lake in Arkansas and has over 900 miles of remote shoreline. There are no houses on the lake, and the surrounding areas are truly spectacular. The Caddo Bend Trail reportedly offers some of the most picturesque views of the lake, so we knew we were in for a real treat.
When we pulled into the trailhead and started getting ready to hike, we realized immediately we had forgotten the cooler, which meant we had forgotten the snacks. Rule #1 when hiking with a toddler is to have ample snacks, so I was concerned. However, we always have a few snacks stashed in the truck for times exactly like this, so we pulled together a fig bar and applesauce pouch for Little Bird and some almonds for Will and me and hoped for the best.
As we started down the trail, we stopped to read the map and sign. In our prior research, we learned that the trail is a 4-mile loop of moderate difficulty. In addition to this information, the sign also recommended expecting the hike to take around 3 hours. Will and I looked at each other and scoffed. 3 hours!? We can definitely do 4 miles in about 2 hours.
It took us just over 2.5 hours. The sign was definitely there for a reason.
The trail was incredibly well marked and took us around the perimeter of a peninsula, so we spent much of that time hiking along the lake with some incredible views. That part was 100% accurate.
We started out in mostly cloudy skies with all of us wearing jackets, but it quickly warmed up as the clouds cleared and warmed up nicely. Although there were several small stream crossings and lots of rocky terrain, this hike ranks high on the list of favorite hikes we have done.
One of the more interesting features of the hike was walking through the path of an EF2 tornado that went across the entire peninsula in 2011. One moment we were walking through healthy, lush forested areas, and the next, we were in the middle of a clear path of destruction with the early signs of rebirth emerging. At one point along the trail, we could see across an arm of the lake where the tornado had come from, as there was a clear path on a far hillside as well.
If you have never been to Arkansas, it is called the Natural State for a reason. It is truly beautiful. The geology of the area is so unique, and we saw so many quartz crystals all along the trail. The landscape is also completely unexpected with rolling hills and so many pine trees. We were also lucky enough to be here to see the first signs of spring peeking out with wildflowers and trees starting to blossom all along our way.
Overall, the hike was incredible, though we were all ready to get back to the truck by the time we passed the 3.5-mile marker. It is sometimes hard going into a trail with very little knowledge of it or the surrounding area, as you really cannot know what to expect. And even though we were not as prepared as we typically are, we had a great time.
Arkansas truly surprised us with its beauty and opportunities to explore the outdoors, and I know this will not be our last visit. If you are visiting Lake Ouachita, definitely check out the Caddo Bend Trail, but we highly recommend you bring snacks and plan for a 3-hour tour.
Are you heading to Hot Springs, Arkansas, be sure to check out these related posts: Taking a Bath at Quapaw Baths, Finding the Terrain Cure in Hot Springs National Park, and Looking for Treasure in Arkansas.