Hiking at Buffalo National River
Hiking in the Buffalo River Region
Whether it is a short jaunt to stretch your legs after many hours in the car, or a week-long backpacking trip, Buffalo National River offers many options for those that like to take in nature one step at a time. Dr. Neil Compton, the patriarch of the Ozark Society who led the charge to have the river established as a national treasure, explained that:
Any reasonable man cannot look upon these marvels in their pristine state without feeling an innermost sense of awe and humility. To realize that we are part of this grand combination of natural forces and basic particles woven into the loom of time comforts the soul and restores our often jaded spirits. [The Battle for the Buffalo River, 1992]
With that perspective in mind, take stock of the wonderful opportunity to experience the majesty of this place. Enjoy the scenic views that fuel our spirits, but also remember those that walked these hills before us as hunter-gatherers, explorers, trappers and settlers.
The park encompasses over 95,000 acres that surround the free-flowing Buffalo, much of which is linked together by a growing network of trails to accommodate hiking and equestrian-based recreational activities. The namesake, Buffalo River Trail (BRT), begins near Whitely Cemetery in Boxley Valley, and winds along the bluffs, gravel bars and banks that cradle the river in its ever-changing embrace; approximately 40 linear miles, down to the picnic area near the Pruitt access. The Old River Trail (ORT) starts below Boxley, at the low water crossing, intertwines with the BRT, and includes numerous river crossings to excite the more adventurous hiker. These trail systems also offer numerous side hikes to locations that showcase the natural and human history that have shaped the region. Be mindful of the ever present hazards and of your responsibilities within the park. Remember to practice the Leave No Trace principles, and to pack out everything you pack in.
Thanks to the ongoing dedication of volunteers such as Ken Smith, the American Hiking Association, Sierra Club, Scouting Troops, Royal Rangers and other various individuals and groups, the BRT is extending downriver to link the Upper, Middle and Lower districts, which all have established day-use hiking trail systems.
The links on the right will provide hiking information brochures and trail maps. There are also several books and guides available at the park Visitor Center and information stations that will provide you with specific information.
Did You Know?
Did you know that over 400 Rocky Mountain elk live in and around Buffalo National River? In the early 1980s elk were relocated to the Buffalo River region to replace an eastern elk subspecies that was extirpated in the 1800s.