In northwest Arkansas near Ponca, the 37 mile Buffalo National River Trail runs partially through Ponca Wilderness Area from the hamlet of Pruitt to Boxley Valley. The route follows the river and forested ridgelines. Make the side trip across the river to Hemmed-In-Hollow, a narrow canyon with a 175-foot waterfall.
The Buffalo River Trail is a relatively new trail. In fact, much of it is still under construction. When completed, this trail will extend almost the entire length of the Buffalo River. It will also provide a link between Arkansas's Ozark Highlands Trail and Missouri’s Ozark Trail, forming a system of trails well over one thousand miles in length. There are currently two completed sections which run from Boxley to Pruitt (36.5 miles) and from Woolum to U.S. 65 (15 miles). Construction crews are regularly working on new sections, but the going is slow. Check with the address listed if you have questions on any particular section. This trail offers some of the best scenery in the state. It is also one of the state’s most rugged trails due to the topography of the Buffalo River Valley. It winds through the valley, skirting the river in some locations and perched high atop limestone palisades in others. The trail passes historic home sites, farmsteads and cemeteries. It offers opportunities for day hikes, overnight hikes, or a loop journey by combining a downstream river float with an upstream hike. There are also a number of opportunities to explore spur trails or bushwhack into scenic areas such as the north section of the Ponca Wilderness area. Major access points for the western section of the Buffalo River Trail are Boxley, Ponca low-water bridge, Steel Creek, Kyles Landing, Erbie, Ozark Campground and Pruitt. Although the Buffalo River is a world-class float stream, the Buffalo River Trail offers an opportunity to view backcountry that cannot be seen any other way.
To reach the trailhead from Little Rock, take US40 75 miles to SR 7. Drive north another 75 miles to Pruitt.
Eastern trailhead: The trail currently ends at the Pruitt Visitor Information Station on Hwy. 7.
Western trailhead: The trail currently starts at the old Whitely Homestead, approximately 1.1 miles south of the Buffalo River crossing on Hwy. 21. From the trailhead, cross the highway, follow the gravel road through the gate and cross Smith Creek. Just past the creek, turn left off the road and go around the edge of a large field until you pick up the trail which begins to wind up the hill. Eastern trailhead: The trail currently ends at the Pruitt Visitor Information Station on Hwy. 7.
To arrange for a shuttle ($25-$30), call Buffalo Outdoor Center at 800-221-5514.
Overall, Buffalo National River Trail is the 1st most popular hiking trail of all 18 hikes in Arkansas.