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?

Arkansas Hike: Triple Falls (Twin Falls) near Buffalo National River

The leaves are beginning to change and the morning air is crisp and cool. We set out last weekend to drive through the scenic towns of Ponca and Jasper which sit along the Buffalo National River in Arkansas. This drive features towering bluffs, river views, fall foliage, and even a chance to spot elk which live in the Boxley Valley near Ponca.

triple Falls (twin falls)

The highlight of our day trip was a hike to Twin Falls, also known as Triple Falls. To get there, take highway 74 and turn on to Camp Orr road by Kyle’s Landing. The gravel/dirt road is well maintained, but very steep. Don’t attempt to drive down this road without a 4-wheel-drive vehicle. We stopped several times to rest our brakes so they wouldn’t burn up.

how to get to twin falls near ponca and jasper, buffalo river area hike.
Steep gravel road leading to Triple Falls (Twin Falls) hike

There is a small parking lot and signage to point you in the direction of the falls. The hike is only .3 miles each way. I still can’t believe that we walked such a short distance to find such a gorgeous spot.

twin falls near ponca and jasper, buffalo river area hike. waterfall hike.
Twin Falls signage

Perhaps the most confusing part of this hike is that it’s referred to as Triple Falls Trail on hiking sites such as AllTrails, however the official name is Twin Falls.

twin falls near ponca and jasper, buffalo river area hike. waterfall hike.
The trail leads along a pretty creek. Our girls (ages 2 and 4) were able to walk on their own.
twin falls near ponca and jasper, buffalo river area hike. waterfall hike. short and family friendly hike in arkansas.
We held their hands to cross over slippery rocks near the falls. I’ve learned (the hard way) that I’d rather get our feet a little wet than falling on rocks.
twin falls near ponca and jasper, buffalo river area hike. waterfall hike. short and family friendly hike in arkansas.
Our girls loved playing in the flat area near the falls. They could spend hours throwing rocks into creek beds.
twin falls near ponca and jasper, buffalo river area hike. waterfall hike. short and family friendly hike in arkansas.
Taking in the beautiful falls
twin falls (also known as triple falls) near ponca and jasper, buffalo river area hike. waterfall hike. short and family friendly hike in arkansas.
Our daughter enjoys taking her own pictures on short hikes like this one
twin falls near ponca and jasper, buffalo river area hike. waterfall hike. short and family friendly hike in arkansas.
A kind fellow-hiker offered to take our family’s picture. She captured one of the rare occasions that we were all looking in the same general direction.
twin falls (also known as triple falls) near ponca and jasper, buffalo river area hike. waterfall hike. short and family friendly hike in arkansas.
When there is enough rain, you will see three waterfalls (rather than the two which the falls are named for).
twin falls (also known as triple falls) near ponca and jasper, buffalo river area hike. waterfall hike. short and family friendly hike in arkansas.

When we turned back towards our car to continue our drive, our girls asked if we could stay longer. That’s a big win! If you are looking for a fun family-friendly adventure near Ponca and Jasper, I highly recommend checking out Twin Falls.

For a slightly longer adventure, check out the Lost Valley hike which is located nearby.