Hidden Gems for Epic Hammock Camping in the Ozarks

Happy Hammock Day!

Saturday, July 22 is a day dedicated to our all-time favorite way to suspend ourselves in nature. Our friends at Kammok have taken initiative to create the biggest hammock campout in American history on July 21, 2017, the eve of National Hammock Day. Join the initiative here & enter to win 1 of 15 super epic hammock-related prizes (including our Hammock Bear tee)!

Keep reading for secluded Ozark hammock camping spots and info...

Arkansas is not short on beautiful places to hang a hammock, but on trafficked weekends, sometimes the popular destinations can feel anything but a remote retreat into nature. People everywhere, kids crying, dogs barking, music blaring—not the most desirable vibes for those of us seeking to unplug and get away from our noisy lives for a moment.

An overlooked secret for quiet hammock camping lies with the U.S. Forest Service. “Dispersed camping” is allowed everywhere on National Forest lands. This means that the forest is yours for the taking—you can hang your hammock anywhere, for free.

Arkansas’ Ozark National Forest is rich with land for dispersed camping. Here are three hidden gems for a true hammock get-away from the world:

Ozark Highlands Trail - Lake Fort Smith State Park trailhead

 35.695396, -94.1209852

The Ozark Highlands Trail is a 200 mile trail that runs across Arkansas, and is hands down one of the best trails for hammock camping in the state. You can access the OHT from many trailheads, but the closest to NWA is at Lake Fort Smith.

Upper Buffalo Wilderness - Boxley

35.8580794, -93.4594489

If you’ve ever hiked to Hawksbill Crag, you’ve been in the Upper Buffalo Wilderness. Because the trail to Hawksbill is in a National Forest, you can hammock camp on the trail! Hike a little way and camp for the night, then hit the crag first thing in the morning for the famous views of the valley at dawn, with fog in the valley.

Ozone Recreation Area - Clarksville

35.671389, -93.450278

Ozone is an old CCC stomping ground, and thus is one of the most developed areas in the state that allows dispersed camping. They have one water source available in the campground, as well as vault toilets.

Before you throw your hammock in your pack and jump in the car—there are some rules for dispersed camping on Forest Service lands:

  • Dispersed camping usually means no services. You’ll need to pack in water and pack out trash. Practice Leave No Trace, and try to leave the forest looking better than you found it.
  • Camp 200 feet away from water sources. When you camp too near streams, lakes, and other water sources, you disturb the local wildlife, risk pollution from your wastewater, and can cause vegetation loss and soil erosion in riparian areas.
  • Make campfires in established fire rings, when possible. You can make a fire, but try to make it in a spot where someone made a fire before. Only collect wood from the ground to build your fire. Make sure you put the fire out completely before abandoning your site. Don’t cause a forest fire!
  • Bury your ish. Take a shovel. Walk 100-200 feet from any water source. Dig a hole six inches deep. Squat. Fill it in when you’re done.


Words by Emalie Cockrell | Photo by Rush Urschel

Emalie Cockrell is a writer and English Literature graduate student at the University of Arkansas. On an ordinary day, you might find her reading or hitting the trails for a run, ride, or hike. Between mountains and the ocean, she'll pick mountains every time. You can keep up with her escapades on Instagram at @semi.wild.

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