Switchbacks Trailer and Course Preview Videos

Here is also a video of the course preview to the shelter at mile 8.7 - 

And here is a video for the 50k course preview - 

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Welcome to the Ouachita Switchbacks 50K/25K.  Join our Facebook group for the latest information and to connect with new friends.  Join us on Facebook for updates and chat 

Hoping to be a Choctaw PACE race again this year.  Update soon.

Run The Toughest Marathon in Arkansas (Athens-Big Fork Marathon) and the Toughest Ultra in Oklahoma (Ouachita Switchbacks 50K) in January and receive the Arklahoma Tough Award.

If inclement weather occurs that makes travel dangerous in the immediate areas around Big Cedar, the race will be postponed until the following Saturday.  No refunds can be issued. 

The race is set for January 13th, 2024.  

The race will begin and end from the Pashubee Trailhead located near Big Cedar, Oklahoma.

10 Mile race is also included this year.  The course will start and finish with the others but will turnaround at the rock glacier.

AWARDS - Hoodies for all starters.  All finishers get a custom beer mug and bumper sticker.  50K finishers also get a custom trucker hat.  My mom makes handcrafted awards each year for top three overall and master in each race for male and female.  Added this year is also a Grandmaster division for male and female for those over 50.  Also this year, best blood award and DFL award.  Also special award for those who complete the hardest double in Arklahoma - Athens Big Fork Marathon and the Switchbacks 50K in January - Two of the Toughest Races in the Region - 

We are very much looking forward to another running of the Ouachita Switchbacks.  Unfortunately we had an unusual winter storm that forced us to cancel the 50K though we were able to host the 25K.  Really hoping for better weather this year but we will do all we can to ensure that both races are held this year.

Contact - If you have questions, please contact Race Director Tommy Brennan through ultra sign up.  


Registration is open! - https://ultrasignup.com/register.aspx?did=107309

Contact Information

Tom Brennan, Race Director
 Please message me through the Ultra Sign Up page.  Thank you.

Please feel free to contact me if you have questions!

Race Day Information

There are no bathroom facilities and there is no electricity at the race start and finish location so plan accordingly.  There will be porta potties.

Both races (50K and 25K) will begin at 8:00 am.  There is an early start option for 50K at 7:00 for those who think they may take more than eight hours.

The sunrises at 7:39 am and sets at 5:39 pm.  50K runners should be back at the at the Big Cedar TH by 4 pm.  This will give you just over 90 minutes to finish the last 3.7 miles before dark.  If you start early, this would give you nearly 10 1/2 hours to finish the course before dark.  After 4:00 pm, we will close the Big Cedar/Hwy 259 aid station and give a ride back to anyone left on the course.
If you decide to drop, let an aid station captain or race director know.

The first and at the Hwy 259 Trailhead will be fully stocked (10 mile runners will hit this aid station again at mile 6.3, 25k runners will hit this aid station again at 13.7, and 50k runners will hit this aid station at 27). 

 The aid station on top of Winding Stair Mtn at Mile 8.8 will have limited aid.  Gatorade, Water, some basic food.  Though most years we are able to hike up a camp stove and provide hot food as well.   

For the 50k, there will be another full aid station at the Horsethief Springs Picnic Area at mile 13.4 that you will hit a second time at mile 17.  There will also be unmanned aid set out at mile 10 and 20 for the 50k racers.

There will be a nice warm fire at the finish with vegetable soup, chili, and hot dogs.  Cornbread and tons of other food and beverages and a big party at the finish that may go on into the night!


The race is located in the Ouachita National Forest near Big Cedar, Oklahoma.  Big Cedar is an intersection where highways 259 and 63 meet but there is not really a town there.  Talihina, OK is located 25 miles to the west and Mena, AR is located 35 miles to the east and Heavener, OK is located 25 miles to the north.  Poteau is 40 miles to the north.  All of these towns have hotels and resturaunts.

If coming North from Poteau, you will see this sign about eight miles from Pashubee.  Follow 259 here toward Broken Bow.  We've had some people go straight here.  It can be a little confusing.

Some of us will be camping at the race start.  There are primitive sites available there.  No electricity, no water, though we will have port-a-potties again this year to spoil you. 

The race itself is located two miles north of Big Cedar on Hwy 259 and then 4 miles East on a forest road.  There is a big sign on Hwy 59 that says - Pashubee Trailhead.   Though the nearest convenient store would be either Talihina, Muse, or Heavener.

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Course Description and Directions to Start

This is a very tough and arduous course.  Of course we do not wish to scare any one away and want as many people to participate as possible but also want runners and hikers to know what to expect.

The course is very technical single track with substantial elevation gain.  The 25K has 2982 feet of elevation gain. Here is a link to a Garmin of the 50K course. https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/2383002470
For the 25K, you will turn around at the top of the mountain around mile 8.7.  (yes, it's longer than 25 kilometers but there is no charge).

The entire course follows the Ouachita Trail which is clearly marked by blue blazes.  A few critical junctions will be marked with flour and/or ribbon but otherwise the course should be really easy to follow.  If you do not see blue blazes and thus are not on the Ouachita Trail, you have gone off course.  But there are no trail intersections of any significance and so as long as you stay on the trail and follow the blue blazes.  You should be good to go.

The race begins at Pushubee Trailhead.  To get to Pashubee Trailhead, travel north of Big Cedar, Oklahoma on Hwy 259 for approximately 1 - 2 miles.  You will see a sign that says Pashubee Trailhead and will proceed East for approximately 4 miles on a forest road and that road will take you to the Trailhead.  Signs will be posted to direct you from Hwy 259. 

Coming from the North, you will go approximately 4 miles South of junction 259 and hwy 1 (Talimena Scenic Drive) until you come to the sign that directs you to the Pashubee Trailhead which is approximately 4 miles East on a Forest Road.

The course starts at Pashubee Trailhead and heads west.  The course follows the Ouachita Trail the entire route which is marked by blue blazes.  Runners will go 3.7 miles on the trail over and down one significant climb back to hwy 259 and another trailhead and parking area.  Runners will cross the highway to the first aid station.

Immediately after the aid station, runners will cross a creek which if there has been rain, there may be ankle deep water.

Water crossing is ankle to shin deep.

After the water crossing, runners proceed on a steady climb.  You are beginning to climb the Winding Stair Mountain.  At mile 5 is a cool rock glacier which is very scenic.

Rock glacier as seen from the trail.  You will
cross right over the top of the glacier.

At around mile 6 is the Red Cedar Spring.  You could even refill water here if you need to though it is not an aid station.  Just past the spring is a 4 wheel drive/jeep trail.  Do not follow this, stay on the single track trail.  Remember - follow the blue blazes.

Continue climbing past a hiker campground at a steady climb and around mile 7, the trail begins to descend to a small saddle.  At this saddle is where the real climbing begins.  This section of the Ouachita Trail has 33 switchbacks (hence the name of the race) to the top of Winding Stair Mountain!  The views will be incredible and unlike anything you would ever expect in Oklahoma.

Maybe the most spectacular view on the course, just prior
to the 25K turnaround.

Aid Station at mile 8.8 (turnaround on top of Winding Stair Mtn)

The climb ends at an old fire tower at the top of the mountain which is mile 8.8.  In 2013, a new hiker shelter was built here and the aid station will be at the shelter.  It is really nice.  There will be a limited aid station here because we will have to hike in supplies but it should be plenty to fit your needs.  All runners will turnaround here and descend the mountain and follow the course back to where they started.

Aid will come again at the Hwy 259 Trailhead which is mile 14 on the course. 

25K runners will then finish there out and back run back at the Pashubee Trailhead which will actually give then a total distance of 17.7 miles.


Follow the same course as the 25K but at the mountain top aid station, you will continue going after checking in at the aid station.  The 50K has 4763 feet of elevation gain.  Again, here is a link to the GPS -


The next 1.4 miles is very smooth on an old roadbed with a lot of descent as you come off the mountain.  This will probably be your fastest mile of the entire course.  Here you cross the Talimena Scenic Drive and continue West (do not take the Mountain top trail).  From here you have just under 4 miles to the Horsethief Springs Picnic Area Aid Station.  There are three intersecting trails on this section.  The Mountain Top Trail, Billy Creek Trail and then the Horsethief Springs Trail.  All of these trails are blazed with white or yellow blazes.  OT is blue blazes.  ONLY FOLLOW THE BLUE BLAZES.  We will have additional ribbons marking these intersections so hopefully you will not be tempted to take them.

While there is not near as much elevation change on this section, it is very technical.

Not an uncommon sight of how technical the trail
can be.

Horsethief Springs will have a full service aid station.  Be sure to check in.  You will hit this aid station twice.

Road at Horsethief Springs off of the Talimena Drive

The Horsethief Springs

View from Horsethief Springs - That's World's Highest Hill in Poteau
approximately 35 miles looking north.

You will then go West for approximately 1.5 miles to the turnaround.  We will have self-service aid there and a book.  You will need to tear a page out from the book and bring it back to the Horsethief Springs aid station.  Of course from there, you simply return the way that you came.

You'll see this and other signs on the trail.  When you see this sign
you are only 10 miles from the finish of the 50K and it's mostly downhill.