Hike Rugged, Scenic Trails in Arkansas’ Ozark Mountains

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The beauty of the Ozark Mountains in Autumn can't be beat. Discover hiking trails, waterfalls and the best places to rest and refuel.

A scenic view of the Ozark Mountains in ArkansasKimberly Liss
An Autumn view of Arkansas’ Ozark Mountains

For three glorious days in fall, our family heads south to Newton County, Arkansas, to hike the trails and view some of the prettiest scenery in the Midwest. Vibrant hues of red, yellow, gold, orange and even purple cover the trees. Here in the Ozark mountains, autumn puts on an amazing show.

The nights are cool and crisp, but the days are still warm enough to wear just a light long-sleeved shirt or T-shirt and jeans. While hiking, we’ve even seen a few snakes warming themselves in the hot afternoon sun. We usually stay in Jasper, a small town of about 430 residents, that is surrounded by stunning natural beauty. The Buffalo National River, the first national river in the U.S., flows nearby. There are plenty of recreational opportunities in this stretch of Arkansas’ Ozarks, including hiking, canoeing, kayaking, fishing and hunting.

Check out more socially distanced weekend trips for fall.

Take it Easy on Lost Valley Trail

Our passion is hiking, and we do a lot of it. The trail at Lost Valley, which is located near Boxley Valley and 2 miles southwest of Ponca on Highway 43, is an especially gorgeous and easy hike. The trail is a little over 2 miles long with plenty of scenery to behold and cliffs and large boulders to climb. We sometimes hike up the creek bed, which is mostly dry, and clamber over the large rocks and cascading ledges. Cob Cave has a giant overhang just above the creek. Evidence of corncobs left by Native Americans have been found there, hence its name.

Learn how to enjoy nature on your vacation.

Eden Falls in Lost Valley ArkansasSteveClever/Getty Images
Eden Falls in Lost Valley, Arkansas

The Crawl to Eden Falls

At the far end of the Lost Valley is Eden Cave, which leads to Eden Falls. If you bring a flashlight and can manage the 30-foot crawl to the back of the cave, you are rewarded with a trickling 30-foot waterfall. Bats can be seen in the cave, so please be courteous and do not bother them. Also, don’t forget to duck—the ceilings are low in a few areas!

Spot the Resident Wildlife

Boxley Valley is rich in history and has been made even more famous by its local inhabitants: elk. The animals were once numerous in this region; however, by the 1840s, they were all gone. Elk from the Rocky Mountains were introduced into the Arkansas Ozarks in 1981. Visitors come here year-round to watch the herds. There are spots where you can pull over and photograph the elk in the valley.

Check out amazing wildlife photos in Yellowstone National Park.

View Rugged Beauty

Farther south in Boxley Valley, down several miles of a road that alternates from red clay to dirt and gravel, is the trail leading to Hawksbill Crag, a rock formation that extends out from the cliff and resembles the beak of a hawk. The trek is rugged, but the view of miles of majestic Ozark mountains beauty is so worth the effort.

History and Recreation

For history buffs, there are many lovely old homesites, churches and cemeteries to explore in Boxley Valley, as well as numerous hiking trails along the Buffalo River. Bordered by towering cliffs, the river’s clear, cold water draws crowds of canoers and campers throughout the year. The hamlet of Ponca, located on the northern edge of Boxley Valley, boasts a lodge, cabins, the Elk Interpretive Center, a convenience store and several residences.

If you love hummingbirds and history, visit Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico.

Rest and Refuel

Just south of Jasper, we like to rent one of Cliff House Inn’s five rustic rooms and wake up each morning to majestic views of the Ozark Mountains. On a clear day one can see for miles. Upstairs at the restaurant, be sure to try the Company’s Comin’ pie, a meringue topped with crushed pineapple.

Grab a bite at the Ozark Cafe across the square from the old county courthouse. The cafe celebrated it’s 100th anniversary in 2019, and I can understand why it is still in business—plenty of hearty food, live music and great service.

For a sweet treat, stop in at Blue Mountain Cafe and Bakery. The goodies at this local favorite never disappoint after a hike in the Ozark Mountains.

Newton County and the Arkansas Ozarks are a must-see. Be sure to bring comfortable hiking shoes and your camera! Plan your visit at arkansas.com/jasper.

Originally Published in Country