Horse Trails - Access at Points 12, 15, 25, 32
Hikers & Mountain Bikers
Allowed on Horse Trails Too
For current trail information
Contact the U.S. Forest Service:
If you have never ridden in the Sylamore
it's a good idea to first call the Sylamore Ranger Station for the latest publications and
regulations. Also ask as if there are any trail closures.
General Information For
Sylamore Horse Trails A, B, C, D
The Sylamore Horse Trails originally totaled 89 miles in
length. Currently about 10 miles are closed but we give alternatives below. Trails run on
a mixture of maintained dirt roads, old logging roads not maintained, and actual horse
paths. Trails run down to scenic creeks in the hollow bottoms, up to high ridges with
panoramic views, and through dense stands of pine and hardwoods.
Where You Can & Can't Ride
- You do not have to stick to the established horse trails. Nor do you have to park your
horse trailer at established trailheads. You can ride almost anywhere except in
established campgrounds - unless the horse trail goes through a campground as it does at
Barkshed. You can park your trailer anywhere except in the established campgrounds. You
can't park on roads closed to motor vehicles. Unless there is a "road closed"
sign, or a gate across the road preventing vehicle access, or if the gate is open, you can
drive on it. Keep in mind many of these old roads get very narrow before long. They are
not maintained so there may be trees down across the road and other obstacles. This is why
it is wise to first walk the roads before going down them with a trailer in tow.
Riding Old Roads - The
Sylamore National Forest has many hundreds of old logging roads. Most are dead-end trails
at this point, but for a horse or mule, they are easy walking. It is legal to ride your
horse anywhere within the National Forest except in the established recreation areas
(Blanchard Springs Caverns Recreation Complex, Gunner Pool Recreation, and
Barkshed). There are literally hundreds of old logging roads in the Sylamore National
Forest.There is no better way to explore them than by horse or mule. You'll ride into
areas few people venture into.
Topo Maps - The best maps
are the USDA GS versions modified for Forest Service use. These are not the usual green
topo maps, they are the brown version showing all the old roads. The two most useful are
the Norfork SE Quadrangle and the Calico Rock Quadrangle, both in the 7.5 minute series.
Closed Trail Sections
1. The section of Horse Trail C starting on the east
side of Hwy 5 and ending on Optimus River Road. Closed to use of any kind due to dangers
from the Sylamore Shooting Ranges. There are detours, which we give in the Horse Trail C
details. This section is shown on 2Cooleys horse trail maps with a line of question marks
like this: ? ? ? ? ? ?
2. Ice Storm Damages - The trail connections from Barkshed
Road to road 91024A and Cook road, and then from the north end of Cook Road to County Road
74 (McCowan Road). We give detour details in Horse Trail D. Please Note!
These two sections have not been maintained
and are not suitable for anything - horses, foot, or bike traffic. They have grown in. We
show these sections on our maps because for years these sections where open. A heavy ice
storm in 2009 dropped a great many trees and limbs across all roads and trails in the
National Forest. It has been a long, hard, expensive process for the Forest Service and
volunteers to clear all roads and trails. These sections may, or may not, be open again in
the future - if there is enough demand from the general public, and then only if the money
is available in the Forest Service annual budget. These sections are shown on 2Cooleys
horse trail maps with a line of question marks like this: ? ? ? ? ? ?
Leatherwood Wilderness Horse Trails -
Parking for Leatherwoods trails are at Point 32 Johnson road, Push
Fire Tower on the 2Cooleys map. These trails run through areas where no motor vehicles
of any kind are allowed. In fact no mechanized vehicle of any kind, such as mountain
bikes, are allowed. Only foot and horse traffic is allowed. This is a rugged and remote
wilderness. The trails are suited only for horses and mules. There are no maps for these
trails. We have not hiked them, have not seen them, and therefore have no knowledge of
them other than that they exist. The trails are not marked, not maintained, not easy to
see, and usually are ridden only by locals who know where they run. However, the trailhead
for Leatherwood horse trails is at Point 32 on the 2Cooleys map at the Johnson Road horse
trailer parking area at the old fire tower site. Please note that if you venture into the
Leatherwood, and if you have any type of emergency, you are at high risk of not being
found. There are no roads. Hiking out will not be easy. Cell phones do not work in the
Leatherwood. DO NOT RIDE ALONE IN THE LEATHERWOOD WILDERNESS
Trailheads - Parking
& Access To Horse Trails
Main Sylamore Horse Trail Trailhead
- Look for road 1112 on the west side of the Forest Roads Loop on the 2Cooleys map. Look
for the red HT (Horse Trailhead) on the map. This is the main trailhead for all of the
horse trails. It is large enough for several horse trailers. This used to be an impressive
trailhead complete with wheelchair ramps for horse mounting. It's eight-tens of a mile
down from the intersection of 1102 & 1112, and it's 2.4 miles up 1112 from Barkshed
Recreation Area. The advantage of this trailhead is that it puts you in the middle of all
the horse trails. The road in from either Point 26 or Point 27 on the 2Cooleys map gets
narrow and steep in places, but just slow down and you'll be fine.
Trailhead Water - Across the
road and up the hill a very short distance look for a road going off into the woods. In a
short distance you'll see the water hole.
Johnson Road Horse Trailer Parking
- ( Point 32 on the 2Cooleys map.) This parking area is used mostly by those who ride
their horses in the Leatherwood Wilderness Area. We know very little about the trails in
the Leatherwood so have not included information about them here. You can park here to
access Horse Trail D, but accessing Trail D from here means riding along the highway. See
details in Horse Trail D.
Other Trailheads - You can
park your trailer in any number of spots along the old logging roads. Regardless of where
you camp, regulations require that you remove all hay and manure. The concern here is the
propagation of unwanted weed seeds that may be in hay and manure, and out of just plain
courtesy to other riders. Many horse riders park in old logging roads along Barkshed Road
and other spots inside the forest.
Horse Trail A -
Hidden Spring Loop
Round Trip To & From The Main Trailhead is 10
Trail Description - The
highlights of this trail are found on road 1140. This old road is not open to vehicle
traffic. This is not a dirt surface. It's mostly sod and forest floor. The trail slowly
1,050 feet, then drops down to about 650 feet in a hollow through which flows West
Livingston Creek. This is the head water area for the creek you see at Point 16 on the
2Cooleys map. There are 5 or 6 more old roads to explore branching off 1140. And some of
these roads also have branches so you can kill a lot of time in here. The road follows a
ridge at runs above two deep hollows. On maps you'll see Hurricane Hollow on the west
side, and on the east side is Big Spring Hollow. There are good places to camp along 1140,
and there are plenty of grazing spots. The Hidden Spring is about 3 miles down 1140 from
1119. The topo map for this area is the Calico Rock Quadrangle.
Riding Directions - From the
trailhead on 1112 ride east toward the Forest Roads Loop for 0.8 of a mile. At the
intersection of roads 1112 and 1102 you can either right or left. In this example we will
go clockwise. Thus, turn left and ride 1.1 miles where you'll see the intersection of 1102
and 1101. You'll also see a sign for Whitaker Road (aka 1102D). This is a dead-end road.
Keep going on 1102 and in 0.3 mile you come to the intersection of 1102 and 1119. Turn
right onto 1119 and ride for another mile. On your right you will see the signs for both
Horse Trail A and Horse Trail B. This is FSR 1140 (aka Branscum Road and CR-105). 1140
takes you through the center of the Experimental Forest. The road is 4 miles down to the
southern section of the Forest Roads Loop where it comes out on 1113.
Watering Hole: At 2.7
miles down 1140 from 1119 is a spring that looks like a creek. Water is normally here all
year. The spring is 1.3 miles up from 1113 and 1140.
At the intersection of 1140 and 1113 you can
go left or right and still be on the horse trail loops. (You will also see FSR 1113E,
which is a dead end). If you turn left (east) you are now on Horse Trail B. If you turn
right you are still on Horse Trail A heading back to the main trailhead. This is the
direction we'll take here.
From the intersection of 1140 and 1113 ride
right (west) for about 1 mile and you come to the intersection of 1102 and 1113. Ride
right (north), go another 0.6 of a mile and you'll be back at your point of beginning at
1112. It's 0.8 of a mile back down to the trailhead. Total length is right at 10 miles.
Horse Trail B -
The Sandy Flat Loop
Round Trip To & From The Main Trailhead is 14
Trail Description - The
highlights of this trail, in addition to road 1140 described in Horse Trail A above, is
Sandy Flat road, which is 3.7 miles long. Sandy Flat winds, climbs and descends more
times over a short run than most other roads in the Sylamore. It takes you into a deep
hollow, then back up on a ridge. There are several other old roads to explore.
Riding Directions - From the
main trailhead on 1112 ride up to the intersection of 1119 and 1140 as described in Horse
Trail A above. You can ride down road 1140 as described in Horse Trail A or continue on
1119. That is the way we'll go here.
From the intersection of 1140 and 1119
continue down 1119 (east). The road begins to curve slowly to the south. You come to
the intersection of 1119 and 1139 in 2.8 miles. Horse Trail B continues down 1139. Horse
Trail C - The 35 mile long White River Loop - begins here at the intersection of 1119 and
For Horse Trail B continue down 1139, which
is Sandy Flat Road. Road 1139 intersects with road 1113 in 3.7 miles. About 2.6 miles down
1139, in a hollow with a sharp turn in the road, you come to road 1139A on the uphill side
of the road. 1139A is a dead-end road that leads to a spring in about 0.2 of a mile. This
is Big Spring. You should be able to water here. Road 1139A used to run up to Branscum
Spring in about 2.2 miles.
Continue on from road 1139A another 1.1 miles
and you come to the intersection of 1139 and 1113. Turn right (west) and ride down 1113
(aka Green Road and Green Mountain Road) for about 0.7 of a mile and you come to the
abandoned Sylamore Experimental Station. Then, in about another 0.7 of a mile, you come to
road 1140 that is part of Horse Trail A. Both Horse Trail A and Horse Trail B use road
1140. You can ride up 1140 from here if you have not already. If you have ridden 1140 you
can then ride back to the main trailhead. If you have not ridden 1140 see the directions
for it in Horse Trail A above. Here we assume you are heading back to the main trailhead.
Road 1140 may not be well marked. But right
across the road from it is road 1113A which is well marked. From the intersection of 1140
and 1113 at road 1113A, ride right (west) for about 1 mile and you come to the
intersection of 1102 and 1113. Ride right (north), go another 0.6 of a mile and you'll be
back at your point of beginning at 1112. It's 0.8 of a mile back down to the trailhead.
Total length is right at 10 miles
Horse Trail C -
The White River Loop
Round Trip To & From The Main Trailhead is 36
Note! This trail is officially
closed. If the trail is closed, why do we cover it here? Do people ride it
anyway? Yes, they do but with some changes. There is nothing wrong with the trail. The
reason it is closed is because it runs behind the Sylamore Shooting Ranges for a very
short distance. The Forest Service concern was a possible stray bullet hitting someone.
However, it is easy enough to avoid the shooting range part and ride the sections of the
trail that offer no threat.
Horse Trail C Description - From the main
trailhead on road 1112 it's 35 miles down to the White River and back. However, we think
the best part of this trail is down at the far end at the White River bottom lands. You
can also ride down 1119 to Hwy 5, cross the highway, then ride the trail for a short
distance along the creek there, then come back. Once you get to the intersection of 1139
and 1119 again, ride the opposite direction on Trail B that you came down back to the
trailhead. If you want to ride the White River loop we explain that below.
Upper Horse Trail C starts at the
intersection of roads 1119 and 1139, and runs down 1119 for 3.6 miles to Hwy 5 at Point 15
on the 2Cooleys map. Road 1119 runs along a ridge top for most of the way, then heads
downhill running through hardwood forest. Cross Hwy 5, then ride south along the highway
for about 150 yards. On your left look for a small drive apron on an old road heading off
into the woods. Ride for another 150 yards on the old road and you come to East Livingston
Creek. This is a good place to water as the creek almost always runs year around. You'll
see where the trail crosses the creek via an old road. This road shows on some maps as
1147, and you may also see Tar Water Springs on your map at this same point. Tar Water is
just a seep that comes to the surface and runs into the creek.
In one mile from Hwy 5 you are nearing the Sylamore Shooting
Range. Turn around and head back the way you came. Keep in mind that the trail goes right
behind the target burms people shoot at. It is possible that a stray bullet might fly past
the burm into the trail. This is why this section of the trail is officially closed.
Shooting Range Detour - Bypass the shooting
range by driving to Point 13 on the 2Cooleys map. About one mile down Optimus River Road
you'll see a small church and a driveway to Optimus Cemetery. This is where Horse Trail C
comes out from down at the Shooting Range. Drive down about another 1.8
miles to the point where the pavement ends and you are on National Forest land. Very close
to where the pavement ends there is a dirt road on the right in the pine trees. This is
where Horse Trail C loop exits back onto CR-70 (aka Optimus River Road, Hyden Bend Road).
Drive a short distance further, and look for an old driveway on your right. There is an
abandoned house at the end of the drive. Not far in front of the old house is the pond
formed by the spring shown on the Horse Trail C map. In the pine stands are several old
roads which you can ride. The soil is sandy so it's easy on your horse. You can find the
horse trail by either riding up to the first road after the pavement, or ride the road in
front of the pond and you'll see the trail there.
White River Loop - 4.3 Miles Long: The
beautiful part of this loop is along the river bottoms. The National Forest borders
private property along the river. The trail follows an old road along the river bottom for
about 1.5 miles. This stretch is fields on one side, forest on the other.
You can ride either direction on the loop. Either way, you'll
come to where Optimus River Road forms a "T". If coming downhill, turn right. If
going uphill, turn left to get back to the point of beginning. The road here is gravel.
From the "T" it is 0.8 of a mile to the river. Just before the river is a road
on your right if heading downhill. This is road 91089D. There is a gate here, which may,
or may not, be open. However, you can ride or walk this road whether not the gate is open.
This is the road that runs about 1.5 miles along field and wood. It eventually turns and
heads uphill and you'll go past the spring pond, then come out at the first road where the
Horse Trail D - McCowan
Round Trip To & From The Main Trailhead is 29
Description - Horse Trail C
runs mostly on driveable dirt roads. The entire northern leg, which is nearly 15 miles
long, is all on dirt roads. The southern leg, which is about 10.4 miles long, also runs
along Barkshed Road, but also leaves the road to explore the scenic creek bottoms. The
only problem with Horse Trail D is the north-south connections are closed and you have to
ride down the highway if you want to ride the loop.
Johnson Road Horse Trailer Parking At
Point 32 - You can park your horse trailer here. However, accessing the trail now
requires riding beside Hwy 341 to access either the southern or northern trail legs. From
Johnson road it's 2.1 miles by highway roadside to Barkshed Road for the southern leg, and
4.3 miles beside the highway to McGowan Road where the northern leg starts. You can
ride in the grass in almost all spots beside the highway, but there are a couple of short
spots you'll need to put your animal on pavement.
By-Passing Johnson Road &
Connecting The North-South Legs - If you don't park at Johnson Road you can cut
down the distance you need to ride beside the highway as follows. We're assuming here you
have ridden up Barkshed Road from the trailhead. If you rode the opposite direction, just
reverse the order given here:
Ride to where Barkshed Road (aka 1108) meets
highway 341 at Point 31 on the 2Cooleys map. Then turn right (north) and ride one-tenth of
a mile. The first old dirt road you come to is road 91024A. Turn onto it, ride for about
two miles and you come to Cook road, which is a turn uphill to your left. Turing right
(downhill) leads you to a dead end. Go up Cook for about a mile to where Cook comes to Hwy
341. Turn right and ride beside the highway for 2 miles and you come to CR-74 at Point 35
on the 2Cooleys map. From here you are back on dirt roads all the way back to the main
Shorter Route To Johnson Road
- If you road up Barkshed road from the trailhead, and you want to come out at Johnson
road to meet someone with your trailer, it's actually shorter to follow road 91024A to
Cook road, then turn left where Cook meets the highway. From here it's 1.3 miles to
Johnson road. However, time-wise it may be faster to follow the highway. Road 91024A is
mostly down hill into a creek bottom, then Cook road is mostly uphill out to the highway.
Barkshed Road to 91024A is one-tenth of
91024A to Cook road is almost 2 miles
Cook to Hwy 341 is 0.9 of a mile
Cook to CR-74 is 1.9 miles
Cook to Johnson is 1.3 miles
Johnson to Barkshed is 2.1 miles
Johnson to CR-74 is 3.4 miles
Northern Leg Description -
This section of the trail is all on dirt road. It's 14.4 miles from Point 35 on the
2Cooleys map back to the trailhead. You'll enjoy a mix of thick hardwood forest and wide
open Ozark hill views. There is no water along this leg of the trail. The northern leg of
the trail follows CR-74 (Point 35 on the 2Cooleys map), aka McCowan Ridge Road, for 5.8
miles to the intersection of CR-74 and CR-75, and then follows CR-75 (FSR 1101) for 6.7
miles where it runs into the intersection with 1102 at the Forest Roads loop. Follow 1102
for 1.1 miles to 1112, then go 0.8 of a mile down 1112 to the trailhead. Or take any of
the roads on the Forest Roads Loop to extend your ride.
Southern Leg Description -
This is a mix of dirt roads and horse paths running through some very pretty creek
bottoms. From the main trailhead ride down (not up) road 1112. You'll come to Barkshed
Forest Camp and Recreation Area in 2.4 miles. Just past the restroom house and the signs
leave the road and ride straight ahead about 20 yards. You come to a dirt burm and a bar
gate in front of the old bridge. The trail is on the other side. If your animal can hop
over, or jump, the bar gate and get on the bridge, you're good to go. If not, ride down to
the cement bridge, and where the bridge begins, turn right onto the gravel bar. Cross the
creek next to, and almost under the bridge on the downstream side. You'll need to thrash
your way through a few feet of brush, but you'll see a short trail going up the bank to
the trail. You'll see a sign for the North Sylamore Creek Hiking Trail and an old road
bed. Go up the old road bed and you are now on Barkshed Road, or at least what is left of
it at this point. Barkshed Road runs about 8 miles until it intersects with Hwy 341 at
Point 31 on the 2Cooleys map. From the old bridge up to the driveable part of Barkshed
Road is 1 mile up the old road. The horse trail weaves along the road and down into the
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