The Ozark Trail Customer Service is a nationally recognized hiking and backpacking trail that features breathtaking views of rivers, forests, and mountains. With rocky streams, dolomite glades, Rhyolite shut-ins, fens, and hidden caves, the OT flaunts some of the most geographically unique hiking in the country. It may not be as well-known as other national trails such as the Appalachian Trail, but the OT is just as beautiful and well-worth the effort.
The OT is not managed by a single governmental entity and was established through the efforts of land managers, private landowners, and environmental groups. Seven governmental agencies and one private landowner, with substantial holdings in the area, banded together to form the Ozark Trail Council and agreed to manage trail segments over their holdings. The OT Council met bi-annually and was responsible for the concept, design, and implementation of the Trail.
Unlike the Appalachian Trail, there was no act of Congress to establish the OT, but it was determined that a long-distance hiking trail could be routed over existing public lands with only a small amount of right-of-way needed from private landowners. The OT Council worked with each local and county park and recreation department, the Missouri Conservation Commission, the National Forest Service, and other governmental entities to determine the trail’s general route. The OT Council also consulted with the public and environmental groups to obtain land for trail segment acquisitions.
In the early 1900s, the OT was marked by tall obelisks that served as precursors to the mile-marker signs we are all familiar with today. These obelisks were located on the side of road crossings, at intersections where different trail routes came together, and at other important landmarks. The obelisks were emblazoned with the trail logo which was designed by Charles W. Fear, secretary of the OT Association, and was printed on the front cover of the magazine, “The Southwestern Automobilist.”
A hiker on the OT will often encounter wildlife such as deer and turkey along the Trail. It is important to respect their habitat and keep a safe distance from them at all times. In addition, hikers should be aware of the presence of poison ivy and other harmful plants and make sure to use proper precautions to avoid exposure.
Hiking the OT is an exciting and rewarding experience, but it’s important to prepare properly before you set out. Be sure to bring plenty of water and food, wear comfortable shoes, and pack extra supplies in case of inclement weather. Also, be sure to download the OT map for free on HiiKER before your trip so you can navigate safely in areas with no or limited network connectivity.