Hi there. im from oregon and have never been to the ozarks. Im looking for a 150-250 miler i can do in december or MAAAAYBE november. january 2nd or so would be about when id need to be home by at latest. which involves a flight to oregon. My question is, is this hike pretty doable around that time for an experienced hiker. the cold doesnt bother me. mainly what im concerned with is snow (do the lower elevations in that area get snow regularly?), and are the water fordings something to worry about when paired with 50 or below weather? like am i likely to often ford through waste high water or are we talking knee or less usually? remember, im being december specific. ill buy the guidebook before i go of course. thank you!
Loc: Washington State, King County
I know nothing about the Ozark Highlands Trail. For your time frame and distance, you might consider doing a part of the Florida Trail. I would think that some of the CDT in New Mexico might be fine in that time frame; it was early November when I finished my hike in NM and conditions were fine, albeit of course the amount of daylight available for hiking was reduced, an issue you likely face regardless. You could likely carve off a SoCal chunk of the PCT too, south of Kennedy Meadows (perhaps Tehachapi/Mojave) on the north end, and north of Mount Baden-Powell and Fuller Ridge (i.e., so well north of Idylwild) to the south.
All things being equal, my preference for winter hiking would be to find places that don't offer a whole lot of snow! But the Ozark trail might be fine, I just don't know. Whiteblaze has a "other trails" forum where you might get more feedback if you don't find it here: https://www.whiteblaze.net/forum/forumdisplay.php/105-Other-Trails
I've hiked all of the Ozark Highlands Trail, including some of it in the winter, and it's definitely doable. It just depends on the weather. It could be 0 degrees or it could be 70 degrees. It doesn't usually snow a lot, but it can snow, and ice storms are possible.
The creek crossings that I can remember are mostly knee deep or less, unless it has rained a lot very recently. I've only seen some of them once, so I can't say for sure what is normal, but I crossed most of them in March which usually has higher water than December. Hurricane Creek could be higher than knee deep, but it has an alternate route to avoid the crossings. I would not want to do the western crossing of Hurricane Creek in cold weather, because it's really wide and my feet go numb fast. The crossing in Lake Fort Smith State Park could also be questionable, since it is also really wide and has a faster and deeper channel on the west side. Richland Creek or the Buffalo River at the eastern end could also be a problem, but you could start there and have a canoe outfitter take you across the Buffalo in a boat to avoid that.
ok so i may just want to take some microspikes or something in case of any persistent ice and of course cold/wet weather gear and ill probably be fine. im gonna try to get someone capable to do the hike with me which would make crossings a bit less sketchy. although at the moment nobody wants to commit. i guess worst case is a long ass detour or i go home early after seeing more of tulsa or OKC than i meant to (not bad in my book). thanks for the advice
i like the idea of the cdt new mexico too! my granparents live in deming near columbus so water caches would be handled. i dont mind the short days as i generally hike pretty fast even uphill. i just stop for as long as i want at cool places then make up for it. 8-4 works for me! thanks for the advice
Loc: Nacogdoches, TX, USA
I'm not familiar with the Ozark Highlands Trail specifically. However, having done almost all of my hiking in the south (Texas and southern Arkansas), I'll mirror what Slowfoot said about the weather being unpredictable. The good thing about it being alternately cold and hot is that the snow, if there ever is any, doesn't have a chance to stick around and build up like it does in more northerly states. If you're used to snow and ice, I wouldn't think you'd have a problem at all. I actually prefer to do my backpacking in winter and early spring, because I don't like being out in the heat (and I don't like the mosquitoes). Somehow, it seems like it still ends up being 80 in December when I get out.