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: Lost Valley Trail, Buffalo National River

Last weekend we drove to Lost Valley in Buffalo National River which is located a couple miles from Ponca, Arkansas. We selected this hike for our family because it is relatively short in length at 2.4 miles, and features several caves and waterfalls.

Lost Valley, Buffalo National River near Ponca Arkansas. 2.4 miles, features caves and waterfalls, 500 ft elevation gain
*hike statistics found on national park service (nps) website

Our 4-year-old walked most of the trail with a lot of hand holding from my husband while I carried my 2-year-old in an Ergo baby on my back. In the summer heat, this was a great workout!

family hiking arkansas

The thing that scares me most about hiking in Missouri and Arkansas is the possibility of running into a snake. Less than a hundred yards from the parking lot, I spotted a copperhead taking its time to cross the trail. Copperheads are venomous, so we patiently waited for the snake to cross.

It doesn’t seem likely, but if you happen to get bitten by a snake, I think the closest hospital would be North Arkansas Regional Medical Center in Harrison, Arkansas which is 30-40 minutes away.

But don’t worry… the hike gets better!

copperhead snake arkansas. venomous snakes in arkansas. poisonous snakes arkansas

We crossed a little creek bed which led to a wide and well-maintained trail, with occasional benches available for a quick rest.

creek bed lost valley trail

The trail becomes more narrow and steep as you head towards Natural Bridge and Eden Falls.

well maintained trail lost valley trail

Natural bridge

We passed through a little water to get to Natural Bridge. A fellow hiker warned us that the rocks were slippery.

natural bridge lost valley trail buffalo national river

There was a waterfall running through the rocks. Several older kids climbed through the falls, but we decided to avoid slipping and walked back around to the trail.

lost valley trail buffalo national river, waterfall, natural bridge

The trail featured several other unique rock formations, towering bluffs, and caves.

lost valley trail buffalo national river
lost valley trail buffalo national river, bluffs
lost valley trail buffalo national river, caves. cob cave

We continued on towards Eden Falls. The gorgeous 50+ foot waterfall was the highlight of the hike.

Eden Falls

lost valley trail buffalo national river. eden falls waterfall, eden falls cave
lost valley trail buffalo national river. eden falls
lost valley trail buffalo national river. eden falls closer

Eden Falls cave

We debated whether or not we should continue the hike up to see Eden Falls Cave. Our 4-year-old listened well, held on to her Dad’s hand, and thought it was a fun adventure climbing up the steep and narrow pathway to the top. While we were glad to see the last cave, I wouldn’t take our girls on this section again until they are older. It was a bit too precarious for my comfort.

However, if you don’t have young ones with you, and don’t mind tight spaces, there is another waterfall inside the cave that we hear is worth checking out!

lost valley trail buffalo national river trail up to eden falls cave
lost valley trail buffalo national river trail up to eden falls cave
lost valley trail buffalo national river. eden falls cave

This hike was beautiful and felt like an adventure. We are looking forward to returning to the Buffalo National River to explore more of the outdoor activities this area has to offer.

lost valley trail buffalo national river. family hiking

Good to Know Before you go:

  • No dogs/pets allowed on the trail
  • No bikes on trail
  • We had poor cell phone service in this area, but trail was well marked and easy to find
  • There is a restroom facility and small picnic pavilion near trail head
  • This was a popular trail, but there was plenty of parking available on our visit
  • Remember water, bug spray, and sunscreen