Uh oh...

It appears that you're using a severely outdated version of Safari on Windows. Many features won't work correctly, and functionality can't be guaranteed. Please try viewing this website in Edge, Mozilla, Chrome, or another modern browser. Sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused!

Read More about this safari issue.
South Mena
Get directions
South Travel 3

Wolf Pen Gap, a Shady Spot in the Ouachitas


The local talk of the town in Mena is a new mountain bike trail system. But since the 1980s, the Wolf Pen Gap ATV trail system through the forest and hardwood pines has been a significant draw to the area for locals and tourists.

In 1991, the U.S. Forestry system opened the converted logging paths as the first trail system for all-terrain vehicles in the Ouachita Mountains. Since then, more than 42 miles of trails in various skill levels carve wide swaths through the Ouachita National Forest as an interconnected trail system. As a result, Mena is now a prime all-terrain vehicle riding destination in Arkansas and the perfect place for families to unplug and recharge in nature. The all-terrain vehicle riding community is estimated to bring $58 million annually to Arkansas tourism.

Photo used with permission from Arkansas Parks and Tourism.

Many visitors to the Wolf Pen Gap ATV Trails are families from Texas, Louisiana and Missouri, seeking a place to connect with nature and make family memories. In addition to vistas and overlooks, one feature that draws visitors is the two-footed oak tree. No one knows how it developed, but it is two fully rooted trees that have grown together and form one big tree that you can drive your all-terrain vehicle through.

Recreational and camping areas of the Ouachita National Forest do not allow all-terrain vehicle vehicles. Still, ATVs can be used on county roads and the gravel and unsurfaced roads in the trail system. In addition, four trailheads offer access to the converted logging trails, and many of the all-terrain vehicle trails are also suitable for mountain bikes and strenuous hiking.

Photo used with permission from Arkansas Parks and Tourism.

Features accessed from the Wolf Pen Gap trail system

  • Gap Creek – a spring-fed creek that is an upland tributary to the Caddo River.
  • Bard Camp Creek – secluded swimming hole, easily accessed by foot
  • 2-footed tree oak – picture-perfect moment under two trees that have grown together sideways to form one tree overhead
  • Abandoned mine shaft – carved into the side of a mountain and hidden deep in the woods
  • Little Missouri Falls – a beautiful, secluded waterfall, easily accessed from a short walking trail off the main road
  • Cossatot Falls – The “skull crusher” heart of Cossatot River State Park swimming hole and kayak park
  • Tall Peak Trail – moderately challenging hike from Shady Lake with a panoramic view of the Ouachita Mountain Valley

Photo used with permission from Arkansas Parks and Tourism.

Like Wolfpen ATV Campground, cabins and campsites cater to the all-terrain vehicle riders and rent exclusively to these visitors, offering ride-in and-out amenities and wash and storage stations. However, Jimmy Cunningham, former Mena mayor and campground owner, says this area’s unique feature is the access to trails. In most places, you must trailer your vehicles to the trailhead. “Here, you can walk out of your cabin, get on your vehicle and take off!”

Wolf Pen Gap and the Ouachita National Forest camping areas are not the only things you can do in Mena. As a Main Street Arkansas Partner community, leaders are developing an infrastructure of play and support for tourists.

After a full summer schedule, several in-person events have returned to the fall, offering many reasons to visit Polk county.

With much of the trail system buried in the Ouachita National Forest, I suggest printing a map before leaving for your trip or checking in with Arkansas Visitor Centers or the Ranger Station for printed maps. The cellphone service is limited in most areas, so it’s a great place to travel and unplug!

Resources for navigating the trail system:

Meet the

Learn more about .

A little about .

Keisha (Pittman) McKinney lives in Northwest Arkansas with her chicken man and break-dancing son. Keisha is passionate about connecting people and building community, seeking solutions to the everyday big and small things, and encouraging others through the mundane, hard, and typical that life often brings. She put her communications background to work as a former Non-profit Executive Director, college recruiter and fundraiser, small business trainer, and Digital Media Director at a large church in Northwest Arkansas. Now, she is using those experiences through McKinney Media Solutions and her blog @bigpittstop, which includes daily adventures, cooking escapades, #bigsisterchats, the social justice cases on her heart, and all that she is learning as a #boymom! Keisha loves to feed birds, read the stack on her nightstand, do dollar store crafts, cook recipes from her Pinterest boards, and chase everyday adventures on her Arkansas bucket list.

Read more stories by Keisha Pittman McKinney


Visit Keisha Pittman McKinney’s Website

Like this story? Read more from Keisha Pittman McKinney


Join the Conversation

Leave a Comment

3 responses to “Wolf Pen Gap, a Shady Spot in the Ouachitas”

  1. […] Bigfoot Community, spending weekends looking for signs of the woolly monster is no different from chasing ATV trails or the rice paddies; it’s a fun pastime full of mystery, science and big […]

  2. […] to the Ouachitas, is a busy and fun place throughout the year. The growing popularity of the Wolf Pen Gap corridor, the attention of the first brewery in a dry county, a historical railroad and train depot, a […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Submit a photo

We select one featured photo per week, but we show many more in our gallery. Be sure to fill out all the fields in order to have yours selected.

  • Accepted file types: jpg, png, Max. file size: 5 MB.

Regions Topics

What are you looking for?

Explore Arkansas

Central Arkansas

Little Rock, Conway, Searcy, Benton, Heber Springs

Northwest Arkansas

Fayetteville, Bentonville, Springdale, Fort Smith

South Arkansas

Hot Springs, Pine Bluff, Texarkana, Arkadelphia

Explore by Topic