Lost Valley Hiking Trail Sign Buffalo National River near Ponca Arkansas

Lost Valley Trail in Boxley Valley near the town of Ponca in northwest Arkansas is one of the most popular hikes in the state. This beautiful hike turned out to be one of my all-time favorite trails! Arkansas is known as the “natural state.” and it ever does justice to that name! It’s a green oasis and the perfect destination for nature lovers! As we walked down this beautiful trail, which is located in the Upper District of the Buffalo River National Park and run by the U.S. National Park Service, it was evident that we were definitely not in Kansas anymore!

This “Lost Valley Trail Arkansas” Guide has everything you need to get the most out of your time on this fantastic hiking trail! 

Lost Valley Hiking Trail Sign Buffalo National River near Ponca Arkansas
Lost Valley Buffalo National River Hiking Trail, great places to hike in Arkansas!

Lost Valley Trail Arkansas Hiking Guide

Lost Valley trails wind through a lush hardwood forest made up of American beech trees. The forest hiking trail meanders through a box canyon and crosses Clark Creek. Hikers will experience high bluffs, stairs, caves, and several beautiful waterfalls along the main trail.

Lost Valley Trail Arkansas
train lengthLost Valley trail is a well maintained 2.1 to 2.3 mile (out and back) trail. (1-3 hours)
DifficultyThe trail is rated “moderate” however, the first half of the trail is paved and considered an “easy hike”
feesIs there a fee to hike Lost Valley Trail? the trail and parking are free
PetsAre dogs allowed on lost valley trail Arkansas? Pets are not allowed on the Lost Valley Trail. Documented service animals are permitted. (National Parks Service)
ACCESSIBILITYThe first half of the trail is wheelchair accessible! Short hike: There are approximately .9 miles of trails on this 2.3 mile trail that are paved. There are 3 designated accessible spaces in the unpaved parking lot off of Lost Valley Road, all of them are van accessible. The trail surface is paved, gravel, or natural (dirt, rock, fallen leaf), and has bridges (with railings.)
plant and wildflower speciesbloodroot, crested iris, columbine, mayapple, comfrey, and Ozark trillium, plus others
crowdsNote: this area is heavily visited on the weekends, but on a
Tuesday midday we didn’t meet many people on the trail.
restrooms:there are public restrooms near the trailhead
what to bringa camera, good hiking shoes, hiking poles if you have them (I find they help with stairs and inclines), water, a flashlight for exploring the caves (plus a spare!)

Get a look at the trail

The following are essentially in chronological order as you head down the trail. You’ll find the entrance to the trail at the back of the parking lot, along with public restrooms just a little way off the trail itself. 

path on the Lost Valley Hike Arkansas
The first part of the trail is relatively flat and winds its way through this beautiful place

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stairs on the Lost Valley Trail Arkansas
Eventually you’ll come to the first set of steps
rock formations Lost Valley Trail near Ponca Arkansas
Lost Valley Trail Rock Shelf
rock shelf formation Lost Valley Arkansas trail
rock shelf formation

Next, you’ll come to a spot where the trail splits off, one way takes you to Natural Bridge and it’s waterfall, the other way will lead you to Eden Falls. There’s no reason you can’t do both because you’ll find Natural Bridge just a short distance from this sign.

natural bridge eden falls sign Lost Valley Trail Ponca Arkansas
Lost Valley first trail sign to Natural Bridge or Eden Falls

 the first waterfall

This is the first little waterfall you come to on the trail. The flow of this 8-ft waterfall that cascades from the opening in Natural Bridge varies, depending on the time of the year, and amount of rain in the area. 

small waterfall on Lost Valley Trail near Ponca Arkansas
small waterfall, Lost Valley Trail

Cob Cave (Cobb Cave) Native American Bluff Shelter

Approximately 1-mile down the Lost Valley Trail you’ll see Cob Cave. In prehistoric times (approximately 2,000 years ago), Native Americans used this valley and the shelter. Evidence of their occupation of Cob Cave was collected by the University of Arkansas Museum. Woven baskets, lithic tools, and other artifacts, including corn cobs, which gave the cave its name, were excavated from the site. The shelter is approximately 50 feet tall, 150 feet deep, and 260 feet long from end to end. The surrounding bluffs provided ample shelter for early inhabitants.

Cob Cave Lost Valley Hiking Trail Arkansas
Cob Cave

the stairs on the trail

Stairs…there are so many stairs on this trail. They give the trail a real magical feel. What wonders will you find at the top of those stairs?! To reach either the highest falls, you will need to tackle some of the stairs.

stairs lost valley trail Arkansas
more stairs!
lost valley hiking trail steps Buffalo River National park Arkansas travel inspiration
Yet more stairs on Arkansas’ most popular hiking trail. (the back trail to the cave is treacherous!)

Eden Falls and Eden Falls Cave

You’ll find Eden Cave at the end of the trail, your reward for tackling all of those stairs! It’s a cave with a waterfall inside! Eden Falls Cave can be found about 1.3 miles down the Lost Valley Trail and contains a 35-foot waterfall which was responsible for carving out the cave itself.

The waterfall is multi-tiered and cascades down into the valley below in two long drops. The total drop into the valley floor is approximately 50-feet. You’ll find the falls 200 feet inside the cave. You’ll need proper shoes to tackle the rugged and steep trail that leads from the waterfall down below to the cave. These trails can be treacherous so exercise due caution.

“exercise caution at the mouth of the cave as one side forms a waterfall ledge with a precarious drop off

Buffalo River

If you plan to do a bit of spelunking, be sure to bring your flashlight (plus a spare!) to explore the inner recesses of this dark cave.

Eden Falls on the Lost Valley Trail Buffalo National River Arkansas
pools of water below Eden Falls
water pool Eden Falls on the Lost Valley Trail Arkansas
water pool Eden Falls
Angie Kunze, We're Not in Kansas Anymore at Lost Valley trail Arkansas
me enjoying the heck out of this hike!
Angie Kunze, We're Not in Kansas Anymore at Lost Valley hiking trail Arkansas
this is a great place for a photo shoot!

how to get back to the parking lot

The way back out is the way you came. The main trail you came in on will take you right back to the parking area.

video of Lost Valley Trail

Cob Cave, Lost Valley Trail
Eden Falls
Eden Falls from Eden Falls Cave Mouth

regrets

  • We missed exploring part of the cave because, at the time, I didn’t have the instructions found in this article. So, I only got the view from the mouth of the cave. I stressed a bit about having to retrace our steps on the slippery trail with the sheer drop. If you are concerned about it, just make your way to the furthest falls, and skip the cave.
  • I regret not taking time to linger and soak it all in. Take the time to sit and listen to the waterfall. It’s so peaceful and relaxing.

Safety precautions

WARNING: The National Parks services notes that The Lost Valley Trail is one of the most frequent Search & Rescue (SAR) locations at Buffalo National River. Hazards include slippery rocks and falling hazards. These conditions are cause for many slips, trips, and falls annually. For your safety and enjoyment, please exercise extreme caution and stay on designated trails.

How to get to Lost Valley Trail

Our GPS did a fine job of taking us to the trail head which is located off highway 43, just 2 miles outside of Ponca. From Ponca, go south on Hwy 43 for about 1.5 miles. There will be a sign directing you to “Lost Valley.” After another 1/2 a mile you’ll reach the trailhead parking area.

  • GPS Coordinates (to the trailhead): 36.01077591342835, -93.3747378613638

Lost Valley trail map

Lost Valley Trail Map, Arkansas
Lost Valley Trail Map from the National Parks Service

Other things to do in the area: (Buffalo River Hiking and more!)

  • Hammerschmidt Falls Trail: .7 miles out and back. The trailhead/parking area can be difficult to locate. Don’t expect to find a large parking area. There’s a small pullout area where they sell firewood as you first turn off of the highway onto the gravel. The trail is across the highway from there. This trail is on the primitive side and often muddy. Be prepared for anything! Distance from Lost Valley: 8 miles
  • Glory Hole Waterfall Trail: 1.9-mile trail, (out and back) very similar to Lost Valley with the addition of a “glory hole,” a perfectly cylinder shaped hole in a rock formation with a waterfall that flows through the hole. The trail is considered moderate/challenging. Open year-round, leashed dogs are welcome. Distance from Lost Valley: 18 miles
  • Buffalo River Trail (BRT): This 37-mile trail runs from Boxley to Pruitt, day hike a portion or use it to access one of the many canyon-like side drainages that cascade several hundred feet to the Buffalo River below. Distance from Lost Valley: 21 miles
  • Big Bluff Goat Trail: At 550-ft tall, Big Bluff is the tallest sheer bluff face found between the Rocky and Appalachian Mountains. It takes 4 to 5 hours to complete this challenging round-trip hike. Distance from Lost Valley: 5 miles
  • Whitaker Point (Hawksbill Crag): 2-hour hike through a forested trail, which leads to a rock formation that juts out from the bluff’s face resembling a hawk’s beak. Distance from Lost Valley 11 miles
  • Go Elk sighting: In 1981, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission began an Elk Restoration Project and stocked 112 Rocky Mountain Elk in the Buffalo National River area. The herd now numbers nearly 500 animals. The best place to view elk is along the six miles of Hwy 43 and Hwy 21 through Boxley Valley. Happy “hunting!”
  • Go Kayaking on the Buffalo River, get details!

Get this free Arkansas itinerary that includes the eclectic town of Eureka Springs, Kayaking the Buffalo River, area hiking trails, and more!

Hotels, accommodations, and camping

This area is prime real estate for rustic getaways, hiking, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, camping! Why not stay a spell?!

Here are some area accommodations:

cabins

  • ultimate in private escape: rent the entire1-bedroom home! outdoor fireplace, hot tub, free Wi-fi. Prices starting at: $175 per night, Guest Rating 8.9
  • The View: Cozy cabin vibes with an outdoor fireplace, garden, sunset views, free Wi-fi, in this 2-bedroom vacation home. Prices starting at: $119, Guest Rating: 7.8
  • Lodge at OZK Ranch: Big beautiful rustic hilltop cabin, rent this entire 3-bedroom 3-bathroom home with hot tub, fireplace, free Wi-fi. The vacation home has a barbecue and a hot tub. Prices starting at $350, Guest rating: 9.0
  • Fly Away Cabin: Cozy rustic little cabin, beautifully furnished, outdoor fireplace, hot tub, free Wi-fi, in this 2-bedroom vacation home. Prices starting at: $240, Guest rating: 10

camping

Lost Valley Campground closed years ago due to flooding issues. Lost Valley is for day use only; no camping is permitted. The closest campground is:

  • Steel Creek Campground (distance 4.5 miles): This gorgeous camping area sits on the banks of the Buffalo River, with its crystal clear waters and towering limestone bluffs.

Where to eat

This area is fairly remote and there aren’t a lot of restaurant options. Packing a picnic is a great idea! Still looking for a restaurant? Google “best places to eat in Ponca Arkansas” and check the TripAdvisor results.

frequently asked questions

When is the best time to visit Lost Valley Trail Arkansas?

When is the best time to visit Lost Valley Trail Arkansas? Lost Valley trail is accessible year-round. The waterfalls are in full flow during rainy periods. In winter you may experience snow, ice, and frozen waterfalls (take due caution when there is snow on the trail.) Spring brings budding trees and spring flowers. Summer is a lush green paradise, and fall brings autumn colors. Otherwise, any time is a good time to visit these beautiful trails!

How long does it take to hike Lost Valley Trail in Arkansas?

The trail can be completed in 1-3 hours, depending on how long you linger and how much exploring you choose to do. Leave yourself plenty of time for that!

How long is the Lost Valley Trail in Arkansas?

 The trail is about 2.1 to 2.3 miles long, out-and-back. 

Do I need to purchase Tags Buffalo River?

An entrance pass is not required to access Buffalo National River.

This post was originally posted on We’re Not in Kansas anymore. You can read the article in its entirety at: https://www.werenotinkansasanymore.com/lost-valley-trail-arkansas

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