Upper District Hiking

Hikers stand at the mouth of the Natural Bridge at Lost Valley
Hikers stand at the mouth of the Natural Bridge at Lost Valley.

Photo: T. Fondriest/NPS

Lost Valley Trail

  • Distance (roundtrip): 2.4 miles
  • Duration (roundtrip): 2 hours
  • Elevation Change: 500 feet
  • Trailhead Coordinates: Lat: 36.0101739 Long: -93.3745693

Lost Valley Trail is located in the heart of the Ozark Mountains, near the Boxley Valley Historic District on Hwy. 43 and is one of the most popular trails within Buffalo National River. Lost Valley Trail is an easy to moderate hike with occasional benches on the first portion of trail for resting and watching wildlife. Lost Valley Trail leaves the parking area and gently winds up the box canyon, passing beneath groves of American beech trees. The trail leads you to an emerald-blue pool of water with an 8-ft waterfall flowing out of a small opening in the bluff, known as the Natural Bridge. The trail continues up stone steps, winding along the Clark Creek drainage giving way to a massive 200-ft bluff shelter, known as Cob Cave. The gem of the hike is Eden Falls. The picturesque Eden Falls cascades 53 feet over towering cliffs offering visitors a firsthand view of what the Ozark Mountains have to offer. Visitors can either loop back around to the main trail or continue on a spur trail to the peak of Eden Falls. The trail leading to the peak of Eden falls is rugged and steep; visitors should use extreme caution when taking this route. The trail winds up the bluff line to a 200-ft cave, and then gives way to a 25-ft waterfall inside. A flashlight and some agility will be needed to view the waterfall in the cave. The trail ends here at the mouth of the cave.

 
Lost Valley Trail Map

Directions:

Take Hwy. 43 south out of Harrison and travel approximately 28 miles. The turn off to the trailhead is on the right side of Hwy. 43, approximately 2 miles south of Ponca. Follow the signs and the dirt road will dead end at the trailhead.
 
BigBluff
Twisted Ashe's juniper trees reach into view from Big Bluff.

NPS Photo

Big Bluff/Centerpoint Trail

  • Distance (roundtrip): 6+ miles
  • Duration (roundtrip): 4 - 5 hours to full day
  • Elevation Change: 1,300 feet
  • Trailhead Coordinates: Lat: 36.0640160 Long: -93.3602305
The Centerpoint Trail begins in the heart of the Ponca Wilderness, gradually winding down an old wagon road descending nearly 1,300 ft to the Buffalo River. During the descent, the trail offers outstanding panoramic views of the Buffalo River and the rugged Ozark Mountains that surround it. The Centerpoint Trail is considered to be a strenuous hike. The trail is steep in areas, especially on the hike out; visitors will need to plan to take the entire day to hike this trail due to the rough wilderness terrain. The trail intersects with many of the other trail systems in the Ponca Wilderness creating multiple spur trails for the more adventurous hiker. The spur trails connect the Centerpoint trail with the Chimney Rock Trail, Sneeds Creek Trail, Big Bluff Trail, Compton Loop Trail, and Hemmed-in Hollow Trail. The "Goat Trail" to Big Bluff is narrow and dangerous; visitors should proceed with extreme caution when hiking this section of trail. The Centerpoint Trail also offers a less strenuous hike to the popular Hemmed-in Hollow Falls. Visitors will still need to allow an entire day to complete the hike to Hemmed-in Hollow Falls via the Centerpoint Trail. Note: Backcountry camping is permitted along the Centerpoint Trail and within the Ponca Wilderness, but not on Big Bluff.
 
Centerpoint Hiking Trail Map

Directions:

Take Hwy. 43 out of Harrison and travel approximately 22.5 miles to the Centerpoint Trailhead parking area located on the left side of Hwy. 43. The trailhead is approximately 3 miles north of Ponca.
 
HemmedInHollowSpring
A redbud tree blossoms beneath Hemmed-In Hollow Falls in the early springtime.

Photo: Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism

Hemmed-In Hollow Falls

  • Distance (roundtrip): 5 miles from Compton Trailhead
  • Duration (roundtrip): 4 - 5 hours to full day
  • Elevation Change: 1,400 feet
  • Trailhead Coordinates: Lat: 36.0810215 Long: 93.3031781
The Hemmed–in Hollow Trail begins in the heart of the Ponca Wilderness at the Compton Trailhead and winds down the mountain side descending nearly 1,400 ft. to the sandstone bluffs along the Buffalo River. The trail opens up along the way, giving visitors outstanding scenic views of the Buffalo River and the Ozark Mountains that surround it. The gem of the hike is Hemmed-in Hollow Falls. The picturesque Hemmed-in Hollow falls cascade nearly 210 feet over the rugged Ozark bluffs, making it the highest waterfall between the Rockies and the Appalachians. This waterfall only flows after a considerable amount of rain, so please be mindful of recent precipitation before you attempt this difficult hike. The Hemmed-in Hollow Trail is an extremely steep and strenuous trail that will humble even the most experienced hiker. Visitors will need to plan to take the entire day to hike this trail, due to the rough wilderness terrain. The Hemmed-in Hollow Trail intersects with many of the other trail systems in the Ponca Wilderness, creating multiple spur trails for the more adventurous hiker. The spur trails connect the Hemmed-in Hollow Trail with the Sneeds Creek Trail, Centerpoint Trail, Bench Trail, and Old River Trail. For this reason, it's essential to have a detailed topographic map of this area in order to avoid confusion at trail intersections in the Ponca Wilderness. The Hemmed-in Hollow Trail can also be accessed via the Centerpoint Trailhead located on Hwy. 43. This option is not quite as strenuous as Compton Trailhead, but visitors will still need to plan an entire day for this hike, due to the rough wilderness terrain.
 
Hemmed in Hollow Hiking Trail Map

Directions:

Take Hwy. 43 out of Harrison and travel approximately 18.5 miles to Compton Community. Turn left on the dirt road across from the Compton Post Office and travel 1 mile. Follow the signs to the trailhead parking area. Two trails begin at the Compton Trailhead: Hemmed-In Hollow Trail (marked by white, rectangular blazes) and the Sneeds Creek Trail (marked by yellow, rectangular blazes). Please be careful to take your intended trail.
 
ThunderCanyon
Cecil Cove is full of hidden canyons and waterfalls. Pictured here is Thunder Canyon Falls.

Photo: Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism

Cecil Cove Loop

  • Distance (roundtrip): 7 miles
  • Duration (roundtrip): 5 - 6 hours
  • Elevation Change: 700 feet
  • Trailhead Coordinates: Lat: 36.0836063 Long: -93.2335493
The Cecil Cove Trail begins near the historic Erbie Church, and begins a gentle descent down an old wagon road. The trail winds through the wooded valley following Cecil Creek creating a nice moderate hike for visitors. The trail crosses the Cecil Creek 5 times along this first section of trail, so the creek may not be passable during rainy season due to high water. The trail continues at a nice moderate pace for the first 2.0 miles. The Cecil Cove Trail then begins a steep ascent up the mountain, climbing more than 500 ft. The trail passes old home sites, historic cemeteries, and provides beautiful scenic views during leaf off. The upper section of the trail is known to be fairly muddy throughout much of the year, especially during rainy season. The trail travels approximately 3.0 miles and intersects with the Old Compton-Erbie Road (The road is extremely rough; vehicle use is not recommended). The last section of the trail follows the Old Compton-Erbie Road down the mountain approximately 2.0 miles, ending at the trailhead where you began.
 
Cecil Cove Hiking Trail Map

Directions:

Take Hwy. 7 south out of Harrison and travel 17 miles. Turn right onto the Erbie road (signs posted) and travel 7 miles down the dirt road to the trail head. The dirt road is fairly rough; 4 wheel drive recommended. The low water crossing past the Erbie Campground may not be passable due to high water. To avoid the river crossing, take the Erbie Cutoff Road off of Hwy. 206 to the Cecil Cove Trailhead. This route involves creek crossings that can also be treacherous and impassable during high water.
 
MillCreekShaddox
The Shaddox Homestead, located along the Mill Creek Trail, is a relic of the Buffalo River Valley's past.

NPS Photo

Mill Creek Trail

  • Distance (roundtrip): 2.2 miles
  • Duration (roundtrip): 1.5 - 2 hours
  • Elevation Change: Negligible
  • Trailhead Coordinates: Lat: 36.0640160 Long: -93.3602305
The Mill Creek Trail begins at the Pruitt launch and winds along the banks of the creek creating a nice easy hike for all visitors. The trail leaves the parking area and passes through an old field that has been reverted back to a hardwood forest. These fields were once planted with corn, potatoes, and pumpkins. The farmer used the garden for his family and also would take the corn by mule drawn wagons to the gristmill that once stood upstream of where you stand. The trail continues along the creek until it emerges on the county gravel road. Turn right and cross the low water bridge then turn right again on the continuation of the trail. Continue on your hike till you reach a 1930s cabin that has a 1870s history. Once reached you will be standing on what was once the Shaddox homestead. Continuing on, the trail passes in front of the cabin. The trail will lead to a fork in the trail: take the left fork till you reach the cemetery spur. Turn left on the spur and follow it the short distance to the Shaddox Cemetery. There you will see headstones that date back to the 1860s. If you explore the cemetery please do so with respect. Sion and his wife Rebecca are buried here along with his parents and other family members. Be sure and lock the gate behind you as you leave the cemetery. Return to the main trail by way of the cemetery spur trail. Take the left fork to continue the hike. Stay on the trail until you pass by the cabin once again and you reach the county gravel road. Turn left onto the gravel road and after walking across the low water bridge turn left onto the main trail which will take you back to the trailhead and the 21st century.
 
Mill Creek Hiking Trail Map

Directions:

Take Hwy. 7 south out of Harrison and travel approximately 15 miles to the Pruitt Access parking area located on the left side of Hwy. 7.
 
SCOverlookBRT
The BRT follows high ridgelines to offer sweeping views of the Buffalo River.

NPS Photo

Buffalo River Trail (BRT)

  • Distance (one-way): 37 miles
  • Duration: Varies by section
  • Elevation Change: 1,000 feet
  • Trailhead Coordinates: Lat.: 34.94532, Long.: -93.39881267
The Buffalo River Trail (BRT) begins near Whiteley Cemetery in Boxley Valley and winds along the bluffs, gravel bars, and banks that cradle the river. The BRT passes scenic overlooks, old home sites, and wild areas, giving visitors a firsthand look at what best characterizes the Buffalo River.

The BRT is a moderate to strenuous hike. Hiking is most strenuous between Boxley Valley and Erbie, where long, steep bluff lines lead to spectacular views of the river and all the beauty that surrounds it. Downstream of Erbie, the trail gradually gives way to a gentler terrain that is more forgiving to hikers. Trailheads to the BRT are located at the south end of Boxley Valley, Ponca Low Water Bridge, Steel Creek, Kyle's Landing, Erbie, Ozark, and Pruitt.
 

Directions:

From Harrison, drive approximately 30 miles south on Hwy. 43 through the town of Ponca. At the intersection of Hwy. 21, turn left and continue south through Boxley Valley for 2.5 miles. Trailhead is on the right side of Hwy. 21.

Trail Maps:

Boxley to Ponca (11.3 miles)
Ponca to Steel Creek (2.2 miles)
Steel Creek to Kyle's Landing (8 miles)
Kyle's Landing to Erbie (6.7 miles)
Erbie to Ozark (5.9 miles)
Ozark to Pruitt (2.5 miles)

 
HOH waterfall
World War I draft dodgers hid out beneath the bluff shelter at Hideout Hollow.

Photo: Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism

Hideout Hollow Trail

  • Distance (roundtrip): 2 miles
  • Duration (roundtrip): 1 - 2 hours
  • Elevation Change: 400 feet
  • Trailhead Coordinates: Lat: 36.0729461 Long: -93. 2650285
The Hideout Hollow Trail begins at the Schermerhorn Trailhead in the Compton area. The trail was once in habited by a group of draft dodgers called The Slacker Gang during World War I. The Slacker Gang was made up of 9 young men from the Cecil Cove area that refused to join the army and decided to go into hiding in the dense wilderness area to avoid the draft. The 9 young men remained in hiding for months before surrendering to the draft in 1918. The trail was named in reference to this act once the National Park was established in 1972.

The trail is a considered an easy hike with a moderate 400 ft. in elevation gain for the entire length of trail. The trail is situated along the rugged cliffs that cradle Cecil Creek Valley. The trail offers panoramic views of the Cecil Cove valley and surrounding mountains when standing atop the 75 ft. tall cliffs. The gem of the trail is a 50 ft. tall waterfall surround by a picturesque box canyon that is covered in colorful dog wood trees and azalea during spring months. During wet season, multiple small cascading falls are visible, before reaching the larger waterfall. The trail follows the park boundary closely on two sides; visitors should be aware of their surroundings and respect private property owners that join the park.
 
Hideout Hollow Hiking Trail Map

Directions:

Take Hwy. 43 out of Harrison and travel approximately 18.5 miles to Compton Community. Turn left on the dirt road across from the Compton Post Office and travel 3 miles. Follow the signs to the trailhead parking area.
 
SouthPondCedarGlade
The South Pond's fishing dock will have any angler eager to wet a line.

NPS Photo

Cedar Glade Ponds Loop

  • Distance (roundtrip): .3 mile
  • Duration (roundtrip): 15 - 30 minutes
  • Elevation Change: Negligible
  • Trailhead Coordinates: Lat.: 36.055368, Long.: -93.177904
The Ponds Loop at Cedar Glade Picnic Area is a short, easy stroll through a forest of pine and cedar that leads to two ponds with fishing docks.

Directions:

From Harrison, take Hwy. 7 south for approximately 16 miles to the signs for Erbie Area. Turn right onto the Erbie Road and drive 2 miles to the Cedar Glade Picnic Area. Park here, and the trailhead is directly across the road (signs posted).
 
BeaverJimVillinesHomestead
The log home built by Beaver Jim and Sarah Villines overlooks the Buffalo River near the Ponca Access to this day.

NPS Photo

Beaver Jim Villines Homestead Trail

  • Distance (roundtrip): .5 miles
  • Duration (roundtrip): 30 minutes
  • Elevation Change: Negligible
  • Trailhead Coordinates: Lat.: 36.021367, Long.: -93.354521

This short, interpretive loop begins at the Ponca Access of the Buffalo River near the intersection of Hwy. 43 and 74. Walk across the low-water bridge (when passable) and follow signs up the hill. This easy trail passes the old homestead and farm buildings of "Beaver" Jim Villines, an early fur trapper and trader in Boxley Valley.

Directions:

From Harrison, take Hwy. 43 south for 26 miles to the Ponca Access of the Buffalo River on the left side of the highway. Park at the river access and walk across the low-water bridge (when passable). Follow signs to the Villines Homestead.
 

Last updated: December 11, 2017

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Mailing Address:

402 N. Walnut Street
Suite 136

Harrison, AR 72601

Phone:

(870) 439-2502

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