We hit the trail shortly after 9 AM. It was warm and muggy for a late October day. We knew the heat would certainly slow us down if an anticipated cold front didn't pass through as forecasted. Regardless, water wouldn't be an issue. There are many designated water sources throughout this section of the Ozark Trail (OT). As it turned out, the front passed through about 8/9 miles into our run and the temperature dropped dramatically. We were prepared to purify water, but it wasn't necessary.
The North Fork section of the Ozark Trail is classic OT–rocky, rugged and unrelenting. In the fall, loose rocks and gullies are hidden by a blanket of leaves. Sure footing is one of the biggest challenges you may face when running the OT during the fall. This section is no exception. During our 27 miles on the trail, we saw two people–one hiker and one camper. If you're looking for solitude, you may find it on this section of the OT.
We dropped a car at the eastern trailhead (Pomona Trailhead) and started at the western trailhead. The western trailhead, Collins Ridge Trailhead, is located at the southern most point of the OT. When starting from this trailhead, you won't find OT markers until about 5 1/2 miles into your journey. The OT shares trail with Devil's Backbone Wilderness area. They have their own trail markers. The Trail Run Project app was a useful tool to keep us on course until we hit the OT markers. From there, the OT is well marked. However, we did wander off course once. We missed seeing an OT marker that was on a fallen tree. There was a rock cairn there, but we blew right by it because we were so fixated on OT markers. By the time we got back on the trail, we went a half mile or so out of our way.
It was a day full of ridges, hollows, shortleaf pines and mixed oak hardwoods. Enjoy the OT. We did.
Expect overgrowth in specific areas along the trail. Included in that overgrowth, briars. It's also possible high water could be an issue on certain sections of this trail during certain times of the year.
We fully expect someone to put down a better time. Our goal was to establish a benchmark on a complete section of the OT. Between wandering off the trail once and helping an individual deal with a stray dog, we lost approximately 20 minutes. If you're preparing to go after this section and you have questions, don't hesitate to reach out to us.