Backpack the Horsethief Springs Trail

Horse Thief Springs Trail - Search Nearby - Added by Kevin Abernethy

Take this 12.7 mile loop to travel the same route horse thieves used in the 1800's. Witness great views of the Ouachita National Forest throughout the trail.

Park your car in the east parking lot at Cedar Lake and you will find the trailhead on the southeast side of the lot. You will immediately head south on the Horse Thief Springs Trail. There are several cutoffs and side trails along this route, but follow the white blazes on the trees and you will be fine. At 1.6 miles you will cross Holson Valley Road. At 2.1 miles you will reach the east/west junction; I recommend heading west where you will soon reach a saddle and start a one mile hike along a ridge. At around 4 miles the trail will drop and you arrive at a clearing with a forest road. You will follow this road for about 1/4 of a mile to Coldville Divide, again there are several horse trails so just look for the white blazes to stay on the path. Along this route there will be signs for the Scenic Route, this trail is still part of the Horse Thief Springs trail and I highly recommend it for beautiful views of the rolling hills.

It's a strenuous 600 feet gain over the next mile and you will eventually reach a T-intersection where you will hop on the official Ouachita Trail and head east. You follow this trail for a little over a mile until you reach Horse Thief Spring. If you choose to fill up your water at the spring you need to treat the water. There are a couple of campsites around the spring, but I recommend heading down the east side of the trail for about a mile and a half to camp. The trail soon crosses cedar creek where you can relax for a snack and fill up on water if you need to. The trail soon meets back at the east/west junction, head north at this junction and take the remaining 2.1 miles back to the trailhead at Cedar Lake.

When you leave the area head Northwest to the city of McAlester and stop by the Choc Brewery to numb those hamstrings with some local beer and great food.


12.7 Miles RT

Elevation Gain

1100 ft Gain




Camping, Photography, Backpacking, Hiking


Nearby Lodging

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!


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