Hitting the High Points
One of the best ways to explore the Ozark Mountain Region is on a hike. Below is a list of popular trails and overlooks plus some options for where to stay. These places put you in the heart of the scenic surroundings that makes this part of the state so special.
Spring Creek Trail
The 2.1-mile trail is moderate and intersects Kinnard Trail, which in turn intersects Chubb Hollow Trail. A portion of this trail lies within the Big Spring Pines State Natural Area, containing one of the most remarkable pine and oak forests in the Lower Ozarks.
North Sylamore Creek Trail
This trail follows the north fork of Sylamore Creek, providing one of the most scenic trails in the region. Notable features on this 23-mile hike include beautiful sandstone bluffs rising out of the crystal-clear North Sylamore Creek, waterfalls at Slick Rock Hollows and big bright fern beds. Camping is allowed, and there are options at Gunner Pool Campground and Blanchard Springs Recreation Area located at four- to five-mile intervals along the trail. The creek offers a refreshing dip in the summer as the spring-fed waters remain cold.
This is an iconic rock in the Buffalo River Valley. The trail is three miles round-trip and dotted with wildflowers in the spring. You will come to a point where you can turn left or right. If you go right, the trail will follow a creek and lead to a waterfall. Both directions take you to the crag, a sight that you can’t miss. Please use caution on the bluffline. To get there, take Hwy. 43 S to Hwy. 21. Turn left. Go about two miles to the Boxley Bridge that crosses the Buffalo River. Turn right onto gravel road #9560 and go about six miles. You'll pass the Cave Mountain Church and Cemetery on the right, about 1/4-mile from the trailhead.
Lost Valley Trail
An easy 2.2-mile hike is Lost Valley near the Buffalo National River. A ½-mile portion is ADA-accessible. Under a canopy of trees, the trail leads to a large bluff shelter then onto Eden Falls (best experienced after a rain) then onto a cave. You may enter the cave, which requires a bit of crawling to get back into the cathedral dome room with waterfall and bats perched in the top corners. Bring a flashlight, and expect to exit (crawl out) the way you came in. From Ponca, go south on Hwy. 43 about 1-1/2 miles to the paved turnoff on the right, which is marked with a sign. Meander back about ½ mile to the trailhead parking area.
Gaston Wildflower Garden Trail
This garden loop trail near Bull Shoals-White River State Park meanders through three acres of wildflowers that change each week throughout the season. Birds and butterflies can be spotted at feeders and rest areas. The area is under constant development and memorial contributions are accepted at any time. From Mountain Home, travel six miles north on Hwy. 5, then go eight miles west on Hwy. 178.
Where to stay:
Wild Bill’s Outfitter
Located in Yellville, Wild Bill’s is a longtime favorite for its fully-furnished cabins and lodge. Large groups welcome. Wild Bill’s can provide everything you need for your fishing and floating adventure and point you in the direction of the best trails.
Buffalo Outdoor Center
The peak of luxury in Ponca, Buffalo Outdoor Center is known for its beautiful overnight accommodations and hospitality. It’s a popular place to rent canoes with shuttle service to many put-in spots along the Buffalo National River. Stock up on snacks, or order from their kitchen for picnic essentials for your hike. (Photo credit: Tim Landis)
Bull Shoals-White River State Park
Bull Shoals-White River State Park is the perfect spot to hike, camp or just relax. Choose from 103 campsites for overnight stays. For a day-trip, set out on one of the hiking trails then return to set up lunch at one of the picnic areas or pavilions. Other family-friendly amenities include playgrounds and the James A. Gaston Visitor Center with exhibits on the river, lake and dam.
After a full day of hiking in the Ozarks, it’s time to sit back, relax and enjoy a home-cooked meal. At DeVito’s Restaurant and Trout Farm in Harrison, you can catch your own fish and have it cooked any way you like, or order fresh-caught local rainbow trout off the menu. If you prefer to take your catch home with you, you can do that too. Call 870-741-8832 for a fishing reservation.