The upper river area basically encompasses that part west of AR-7. This includes land managed by both National Park Service (Buffalo National River) and US Forest Service. I have grouped information as follows:
- Buffalo River Trail
- Upper Buffalo Wilderness
- Ponca Wilderness – areas around Ponca, Compton, Steel Creek, and Kyle’s Landing.
- Erbie Area
- Other – including Old River Trail and Lost Valley
Ken Smith’s Buffalo River Handbook is the definitive source of information for the river, trails, and surrounding area. Learning about the area history as he has documented it can make a hike much more interesting. His The Buffalo River Country is also well worth reading.
Another useful resource is Tim Ernst’s Buffalo River Hiking Trails.
My maps are in a 7-page PDF and show the locations of trail heads, and other points of interest, along with Wilderness, National Park, and National Forest boundaries. They will be 1:24,000 scale when printed on 11×17″ paper. I get this stuff printed at The UPS Store. I think many big-box office supply stores can probably do it too. Every time I update the maps the file will have a different name so if you want to bookmark or share it, link to this page – not the file.
Much of the trail data currently comes from NPS and hasn’t been verified but looks plausible. I will update the maps as I collect my own data.
Feb 26, 2023: Published v1.
Trail and Trail Head Information
Buffalo River Trail
This was the first part of the BRT completed and it runs about 37 miles between the Boxley and Pruitt trail heads. There is 43-mile segment down-river between the Richland Valley and AR-14 (at Dillard’s Ferry) with about 30 miles in between. The Park Service has expressed interest in having a trail to fill the gap. A rough proposed route has been developed but further progress awaits an update to the BNR Comprehensive Management Plan (expected in 2024?).
The BRT runs across map pages 3-7.
- Boxley: West side of AR-43 at 35.9454,-93.3989.
- Ponca low water bridge: East of AR-43 at 36.0209,-93.3553. Toilets.
- Steel Creek: North of AR-74 at 36.0396,-93.3461. Campground, toilets, potable water.
- Kyle’s Landing: North of AR-74 at 36.0550,-93.2818. Campground, toilets, potable water.
- Erbie Campground: 36.0706,-93.2130. Campground, toilets.
- Ozark: 36.0635, -93.1607. Campground, toilets, potable water.
- Pruitt: West side of AR-7 at 36.0609,-93.1392. Toilets.
All of this trail is on the south/east side of the Buffalo River. It does not cross the river nor are there any major creek crossings.
- Boxley to Ponca low water bridge: 11.0 miles.
- Ponca low water bridge to Steel Creek: 1.6 miles.
- Steel Creek to Kyle’s Landing: 8.2 miles.
- Kyle’s Landing to Erbie Campground: 7.2 miles.
- Erbie Campground to Ozark: 5.9 miles.
- Ozark to Pruitt: 2.6 miles
Upper Buffalo Wilderness
As best I can tell, the Upper Buffalo River Wilderness is 13,294 acres, split between a 2,475 acre (about 19%) parcel within the Buffalo National River on the north, and 10,819 acres (about 81%) in the Ozark-St Francis National Forest to the south.
There is only one official trail but there are many social trails developed along old roads and near popular destinations.
The USFS portion of the UBW is on map pages 1 & 2, while the BNR portion is on map page 3.
- Hawksbill Crag: east side of Cave Mountain Rd at 35.8984,-93.4579
- Kapark (upper): Just off FS1410 in the general area of 35.8652,-93.4636
- Kapark (lower): 35.8614,-93.4585. May sometimes require high clearance or 4WD.
- Boen Gulf: 35.8628,-93.3850
- Dahl Memorial: 35.8163,-93.4501
- Hawksbill Crag (Whitaker Point): 3 mile round-trip from the Hawksbill Crag trail head.
This 11,300 acre area is very heavily used and doesn’t feel very wildernessy. It contains popular attractions like Hemmed-In-Hollow Falls, the Goat Trail out to Big Bluff, the Indian Creek drainage, Granny Henderson’s Cabin, and much, much more!
This area is covered on map pages 5 & 6.
- Bench: south side of Compton-Erbie Rd at 36.0708,-93.2587
- Centerpoint: east side of AR-43 at 36.0639,-93.3604
- Compton: west of Compton-Erbie Rd at 36.0812,-93.3034
- Kyle’s Landing: Turn north from AR-74 at 36.0308,-93.2528. Go about 2.5 miles to campground area at about 36.0550,-93.2818.
- Steele Creek: Turn north from AR-74 at 36.0300,-93.3418. Go about 1.3 miles to campground area at 36.0396,-93.3461.
- Bench: about 4 miles
- Bench / ORT Connector: 1.0 miles
- Centerpoint: 3.4 miles
- Chimney Rock: 3.6 miles
- Compton: 0.5 miles
- Goat: 0.4 miles
- Hemmed-In-Hollow: 2.5 miles
- Hemmed-In-Hollow / ORT Connector: 0.85 miles
- Horseshoe Bend: 1.4 miles
- Indian Creek: 4.4 miles
- Slatey Place: 1.2 miles
- Sneed’s Creek: 4.1 miles
The most visible remnant of the community that was Erbie is a church but like so much of the Buffalo River area you can find a lot of history if you look closely. This area is covered on map pages 6 & 7.
- Cecil Cove: north side of Compton-Erbie Rd at 36.0836,-93.2335.
- Schermerhorn: north side of Compton-Erbie Rd at 36.0731,-93.2650.
- Cecil Creek: 2.2 miles, begins at Cecil Cove trail head.
- Cecil Cove Bench: 3.0 miles, runs from end of Cecil Creek Trail to Compton-Erbie Rd at 37.0757,-92.2499. Note that there was a landslide in 2021? and the ground in that area somewhere south of the Jones Homestead is reported to still be pretty unstable so be alert if you’re planning to hike through there.
- Farmer: 1 mile, from Compton-Erbie Rd at about 36.0764,-93.2487 to Old River Trail.
- Goat Bluff: 0.4 miles from intersection with Farmer Trail to Goat Bluff. 0.26 miles from Goat Bluff to intersection with Old River Trail.
- Goat Bluff Spur: 0.55 miles from Compton-Erbie Rd near the Cecil Cove trail head to Goat Bluff.
- Hideout Hollow: 2.0 mile round-trip from Schermerhorn trail head.
- Mill Creek: A short loop trail east of AR-7 at the Pruitt bridge.
- Old River Trail: Runs along the river from Ponca to Pruitt. Was originally a road used by residents along the river. Crosses the river many times so watch the gauges!
- Lost Valley: A short but very sweet hike.
- Smith Creek Preserve: A 1300 acre tract adjacent to the BNR and owned by The Nature Conservancy. Several miles of hiking trail. Get a map or read my trip log.