Hemmed-in-Hollow falls is one of Arkansas’s greatest natural attractions. It’s located in the Ponca Wilderness Area of the Upper District of the Buffalo National River in the northern part of the state.
The fall has a 209-foot drop, which the National Parks Service lists as the tallest waterfall between the Rockies and the Appalachians.
Some effort is required to reach this waterfall but when in full glorious flow, it is indeed worth the effort.
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How to get there (directions to Hemmed-in-Hollow)
There are two ways to get to Hemmed-in-Hollow falls. The first is a trail that branches off the Buffalo River, a short and exceedingly pleasant hike that requires a kayak or canoe. The second is to park at one of the trailheads of area hiking trails.
Keep reading to find out exactly how to get to Hemmed-in-Hollow falls!
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Via the Buffalo River
The Buffalo River, with its towering bluffs is in itself a sight to behold. We opted to take the river method for getting to the waterfall.
You may be interested in: How to float the Buffalo River
The Buffalo National River Hemmed-in-Hollow trail is located at the Horseshoe Bend area of the river, on the left about 1-mile past Jim Bluff (you’ll see a stone at the base of the bluff that says “Jim Bluff.”)
Because I did not actually see the sign the trailhead came up unexpectedly. As we came around what I recall to be a fairy sharp bend to the left, we encountered several kayaks parked along the left bank of the river and knew that it was time to head to shore.
There is a sign at the getting out spot on the river marking the Hemmed-in-Hollow trail head but not a very big one. If you miss it by a little bit there’s no need to panic, just get your boat ashore as soon as you can and walk a little ways back to the trail. From the river the waterfall is about 1/2 mile down a moderate but absolutely dreamy trail!
When we finally made it the falls this is what we saw. (this was after a hard rain.) The footage at the end is from underneath the falls. (Apologies for the less than spectacular footage.)
Via the trail head
WARNING: Before you get too far into your planning, please heed this warning from the National Park Service regarding this trail that is considered “extremely strenuous.” “WARNING: The hike to Hemmed-in Hollow falls is one of the most frequent Search & Rescue (SAR) locations at Buffalo National River. Steep and strenuous trail conditions, coupled with a hiker’s lack of preparation, can lead to dehydration, overexertion/exhaustion, and heat related illness.”
Compton Trailhead to Hemmed-in-Hollow
|Directions to the trailhead:
|“Take Hwy 43 North from Ponca to Compton (about 9 miles), where you’ll see a gravel road on the right, marked by a wooden sign that says “Wilderness Access.” This road is across from a small, vacant store. Turn here and about a block later you’ll take a hard right. Drive for about a mile down a long straight-away until you see another wooden sign marking the right-hand turn to the Hemmed-In Hollow trailhead. At the trailhead there are two trails: one for Hemmed-In Hollow (on the left) and one for Sneeds Creek (on the right), which is popular with trail riders.” –Buffalo Outdoor Center (BOC)
|Compton trailhead location:
|Hemmed in Hollow Rd, Compton, AR 72624
|This is the most common trail to access the waterfall. It’s a 5-mile out and back strenuous hike from the trail head parking lot. The hike in is mostly downhill so it follows that the way out is almost straight up. The 1,400 feet elevation gain over 2.5 miles can be quite challenging even for fit hikers.
|these trails are longer but somewhat less strenuous:
Sneeds Creek Trail (shares a trailhead with Hemmed-in Hollow trail)
Centerpoint Trail (Centerpoint trailhead GPS location: 36.06472648100318, -93.36021012327292)
Kids and Dogs
This trail is not suited for pets or younger children, NPS recommends 12-years-old and up. The river route can be treacherous, and remember the longer trail is mostly an uphill climb on the way back out.
How much time should you allot for this hike?
From the trail head allot 4-6 hours for this trail maybe more depending on your fitness level. This will give you time to stop for plenty of breaks (especially on the way out) and time to linger and enjoy. I’d set aside about the same amount of time for a leisurely day on the river that includes the Hemmed-in-Hollow waterfall trail.
what to bring on your hike:
Bring plenty of water, and if you are hiking the longer/more strenuous trail hiking poles might help with balance and save your knees a bit of stress on mostly downhill trek on the way in AND DON’T FORGET TO BRING A COPY OF THE MAP.
When is the best time to do the Hemmed-in-Hollow hike?
The trail head is open year-round, although you certainly would not want to attempted this in snowy or icy weather. After a rain conditions can be slippery so exercise caution.
Are there restrooms on the trail?
There are no restrooms either on the trail or at the trailhead.
Hemmed-in-Hollow Falls map
Here are several maps of the falls and surrounding area to help get your bearings.
The National Park service has provided a detailed map to accessing the falls from the Compton Trailhead. The map includes several spur trails. Print and pack this map. Pay close attention at intersections. The Hemmed-in-Hollow Trail has white, rectangular trail blazes that read “HIH.”
This map shows the other area trails that you can used to reach Hemmed-in-Hollow. You’ll find an interactive map of these trails on the Hiking Project website.
You may be interested in: My favorite trail, Lost Valley Trail, is just about 10 miles down the road! You don’t want to miss this one!
Which trail should I choose?
Trying to decide between the longer hiking trail or the river trail?
I would choose the river route. You get to spend the day on the beautiful buffalo and the trail from the river is much easier. Plus, you get the babbling brook runoff from the waterfall to the river along the way.
I found the trail leading from the river to the waterfall to be just as divine as the waterfall itself. You’ll wander through a lush forest while treated to the sounds of running water all along the way.
The trail from the river is lined with small waterfalls and creeks, simply dreamy!
Note: this was after a heavy rain and things were really flowing.
where to eat
There aren’t a lot of restaurants in this area. Harrison, which is 20 or so miles away is probably the closest place to eat.
JB Trading: I hear tell they will make you sandwiches (and possibly serve food.) I haven’t been there so can’t say. You’ll have to pass by there on your way to the trailhead.
Buffalo Outdoor Center (BOC): is located about 10 miles down the road (could be on your way in depending on where you are coming from. We bought some (very good) sandwiches there to take on the river with us.
where to stay
Vacation rentals are popular in this area you can search them at VRBO here:
Here a few that stand out:
Hotels are hard to come by. I like this option:
The Connie Cabin
This cozy mountain top cabin is located in the middle of 10 acres pastures of rolling pasture dotted with cattle. Come stay in summer for fireflies and to make smores on the outdoor firepit.
- Distance from Compton trailhead: located just across the property line
- guest rating: 5/5
- prices: starting at $159 per night
Cozy Buffalo River Cabin Getaway with hot tub!!
Relax at this cozy little cabin Conveniently located to hiking trails as well. Center point trail, Compton trailhead, hideout hollow trailhead, hawksbill trail and more! Watch the elk on nearby highway 43! hot tub too! less than 5 miles from the trailhead.
- Distance from Compton trailhead: less than 5 miles
- guest rating: 4.7/5
- prices: starting at $182 per night
Hikers paradise with cell phone reception & Wi-Fi
There are actually two options on this property. Cabins have large covered decks, fire pits, and grills.
- Distance from Compton trailhead: 1.9 miles
- guest rating: 5/5
- prices: starting at $202 (option 1) $143 option (2)
Hampton Inn Harrison
- location: 121 Highway 43, Harrison, AR
- Distance from Compton trailhead: 21 miles
- guest rating: 8.7
- prices: starting at $127 per night
Frequently Asked Questions
When is the best time to visit Hemmed-in-Hollow?
The National Parks Service points out that the water only flows after a considerable rain so they recommend being mindful of recent precipitation. You don’t want to expend that effort to arrive at the falls and find just a trickle of water coming down. The river can also be fickle. Your best bet is to try and be flexible with your dates.
Why do they called it “Hemmed-in-Hollow”?
Merriam-Webster defines hemmed in as “to close or shut in by or as if by barriers, for instance, a village hemmed in on all sides by mountains” In the case of the falls, it happens to be located in a hollow that is closed in on 3 sides by towering rock bluffs.
How tall is Hemmed in Hollow Falls?
The 209-foot drop earns this falls the title of “the tallest waterfall between the Rockies and the Appalachians.”
What is the tallest waterfall between the Appalachian and Rocky Mountains?
Hemmed-in-Hollow waterfall with it’s 209-foot drop!
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