Thing to Do

Hike to Hemmed-in Hollow

A hiker at the bottom of Hemmed-In Hollow Falls
A redbud tree blossoms beneath Hemmed-In Hollow Falls in the early springtime.

Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism

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 this hike is Hemmed-in Hollow Falls. The picturesque Hemmed-in Hollow falls cascades 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.

WARNING: The hike to Hemmed-in Hollow is one of the most frequent Search & Rescue (SAR) locations at Buffalo National River. Steep and strenuous trail conditions, coupled with a hiker's lack of preparation, can lead to dehydration, overexertion/exhaustion, and heat related illness.
The average hiker takes 4 to 6 hours to complete this out-and-back hike. The hike from the waterfall back to your vehicle requires approximately 1,400 feet in elevation gain over 2.5 miles. Conserve your energy, water, snacks, and time for this portion of the hike.
This is a steep, rugged, and highly strenuous trail leading into the remote Ponca Wilderness area. More search and rescue operations take place on this trail than any other location at Buffalo National River. Day hikers should be prepared with at least 2 liters of water, plenty of salty snacks, appropriate footwear/clothing, and a detailed trail map. If you begin this hike in the afternoon, take a light source just in case you must hike out after dark.

The Hemmed-in Hollow Trail intersects several other trails in the Ponca Wilderness, so it's important to carry a detailed map and pay close attention to trail blazes at intersections. The Hemmed-in Hollow Trail has white, rectangular trail blazes that read "HIH."
This hike is not recommended for children under the age of 12.
Pets are not allowed on trails in the Ponca Wilderness. Service animals are permitted.
Entrance fees may apply, see Fees & Passes information.
The Compton Trailhead is one of the most popular access points for the Ponca Wilderness area at Buffalo National River. Note: There is no restroom available.

From Harrison, take Hwy. 43 south and travel approximately 18.5 miles to the community of Compton. 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.
Year Round
Time of Day
Any Time
Accessibility Information
This is a steep and highly strenuous hike that traverses uneven and rocky terrain. Service animals are permitted.

Buffalo National River

A detailed map of the Hemmed-in Hollow Trail
A detailed topographic map of the Hemmed-in Hollow Trail and surrounding trails in the Ponca Wilderness.

Map by Terra Fondriest

Last updated: April 16, 2022