Easily accessible hiking along Arkansas Rivers is a no-cost way to introduce the youngest and oldest family members to the beauty of the Ozark Mountains.
The best day a child or adult might remember on the Buffalo National River could be the one he or she spends during an Arkansas walk in the woods. Whether its spring, summer, fall, or winter, the trails along the Upper Buffalo are absolutely perfect for hiking.
Gorgeous vistas and waterfalls are plentiful and are all ready to be enjoyed and photographed. Spring is a wonderful time of year to be in the woods while the skies are crystal clear and the leaves are gone, creating exciting vistas for as far as one can see. While the upper Buffalo Region is one of the best places to see the area, please remember that January, February, and March weather can be very unforgiving, so just plan ahead.
Here are two short, child-friendly hikes that I like around Harrison, Arkansas. You can do them on foot, in a stroller, or even in wheelchair, guaranteeing an adventure for everyone in the family.
Hike 1: Easy trail from Lost River to Cobb Cave
Shorter daytime trails begin at Lost Valley and the Cedar Grove Picnic Area, a short drive from Scenic Highway 7 down the Erbie Road.
Located just off Arkansas Highway 43 between Ponca and Boxley, Lost Valley was once an Arkansas State Park which was deeded over to the National Park Service shortly after the river was designated America’s first national river in 1972 and turned over to the federal government. The trail is 2.3 miles round trip. This out and back trail begins at the campground where picnic and restroom facilities are available and progresses slightly uphill following Clark Creek on the right.
The first part of the hike is on a wide, mostly open stretch. When you get to the .7 mile mark, the trail will split. Take the right turn and continue on.
Further up the trail you will see what is typically called the “Jigsaw Blocks”, which is a series of boulders that look as if they fell from the bluff behind them. Continue on up the trail, taking the next two right forks until you get to a tall bluff and the entrance to Cobb Cave (approximately 1 mile). This is one of those unforgettable views along the trail. At the end of this stop is Eden Falls, another of the great viewing places along the way. Take a minute to rest here, before heading back down. Remember to take the right forks as you return to the campground.
If you wish to be very adventurous you can continue on the trail to Cobb Cave. Make sure you remember to bring your flashlight with you. The cave is a tight squeeze for approximately 200 feet ending in a large room with a 35-foot-tall waterfall. The entrance to the cave can be tricky as the water from the falls exits. Cobb Cave is neat to explore but again be cautious with taking children into the cave.
This trail is rated easy and great for children of all ages. It is both handicap and stroller accessible for part of the way. Dogs are not allowed on the trail.
Hike #2: Cedar Grove to South Pond and Back, with Buffalo River Views
The Ponds Loop Trail (.4 miles) starts just across the road from the Cedar Grove Picnic area offering a nice view of the river below. The loop trail begins there (across the road). Off to the left is a hard packed gravel part of the trail that is accessible for both strollers and wheelchairs. Within a short distance, you will come to a nice observation deck overlooking the South Pond. From there the trail narrows (not accessible for either children’s strollers or wheelchairs) and heads up into the woods. Turn right when you get to the North Pond and hike back to the parking lot. Incidentally, the 33-mile Buffalo River Trail passes through the picnic area. Both ponds are clear and full of floral and other aquatic plants and animals.
These two short hikes are not designed specifically for young hikers and offer features suitable for others as well. However, they are excellent when introducing young people to the outdoors.
For additional information on the above mentioned trails, other trails along the Buffalo National River, and local places to stay, visit the Harrison Convention and Visitors Bureau site or call them at 870/741-1789.
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