Arkansas in the Fall: Lost Valley Trail, Buffalo National River

My original post about hiking Lost Valley Trail in the Buffalo National River area continues to be our most popular post about hikes in Arkansas.

On our first trip to Lost Valley, we went in the middle of summer. A copperhead greeted us on the trail. On our return trip this fall, we spotted a tarantula!

Tarantulas in arkansas

“Texas brown tarantulas, the only species found in the state, live in dry, upland areas like the Arkansas River Valley and the Ozark and Ouachita Mountains” according to Kristen Bartlow, watchable wildlife coordinator with Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (article from Arkansas Democrat Gazette)

But don’t let spiders or snakes keep you away.

Natural Bridge

There is a lot to love about this hike including caves, bluffs, and waterfalls.

The trail is 2.4 miles round trip with countless rocks and trees to explore.

On the day of our hike the water was low, so the rocks were less slippery (and the waterfalls were less spectacular).

Eden Falls Cave was closed due to COVID-19 precautions.

But overall, this hike remains one of the best hikes we’ve gone on in Arkansas!

elk in arkansas

Another highlight of this autumn trip was spotting elk near Ponca, right down the road from the Lost Valley trail head.

“Fall is especially a great time to elk watch as the bulls go into mating season form, bugling and battling for herd domination right before your eyes!” according to buffaloriver.com.

ozark cafe

To top off our adventure, we ordered a round of cinnamon rolls to-go from the popular Ozark Cafe in nearby Jasper, Arkansas. This was a delicious decision.

Hiking Arkansas: Elise Falls in the Smith Creek Nature Preserve

Smith Creek Nature Preserve
Signage at trail head

I’m writing this post on an afternoon ‘break’ from my little ones. They are happily playing in their playroom with each other.

How many weeks have we been practicing social-distancing now? I’m starting to lose track. We barely leave our house these days (I’m sure you can relate). When we do, we try to find quiet areas in nature to explore. It’s restorative.

Today, I’m happy to share a recent hike we enjoyed near the Buffalo National River.

smith creek nature preserve

Smith Creek is a tributary of the Buffalo National River. This land is protected by the Nature Conservancy. There are several destinations to explore in the preserve which is located near Boxley, Arkansas. We decided to hike from the main gate to Elise Falls which is .75 miles each way.

The trail begins going downhill. Keep in mind that you have to go back up this hill on the way back, which is a lot harder.

We enjoyed spotting a variety of colorful wildflowers.

Signage points towards Elise Falls. Head left at the junction.

Sections of the trail are narrow and fairly steep, but it was well maintained and easy enough for our preschoolers to hike (mostly) on their own.

Our girls found a nice boulder to rest on to enjoy a snack and water break.

Soon we crossed down into the creek bed. It’s easy to lose the trail at this point. We spotted a waterfall spilling into the pool on our left and headed towards it by crossing over the creek.

Your feet may get wet at this point. Once across the creek, we hiked uphill following the cascades.

This section of the trail looked to be more challenging for our little ones, so my husband went ahead to scope it out.

He arrived at Elise Falls and took a few pictures before heading back.

Elise Falls
Elise Falls

We decided that he would stay back with our youngest who is 3-years-old while I took our 5-year-old up to see the waterfall.

We held hands and took careful steps over mossy rocks and tree roots. The waterfall wasn’t far. This felt like an adventure for our daughter. She loved it!

We headed back along the same trail towards our car. We passed (from a safe social distance) a few other people and pups along the trail, but it wasn’t very busy.

If you are looking for a family-family adventure this spring. We think Elise Falls is a great waterfall hike.

We made it!

Additional resources

I was first intrigued by this hike from a report I read from arkohiker.org. I also found a recent post on lostintheozarks.com and we read some reviews on AllTrails.com. I appreciate the hiking community here in Arkansas. It’s nice to know what we are getting ourselves into when hiking with kids.

more hikes in buffalo national river area

Twin Falls

Lost Valley

What is your favorite spring hike in Northwest Arkansas?