Out-of-the-way trails in the Ozarks


For exclusive access to all of our fitness, gear, adventure, and travel stories, plus discounts on trips, events, and gear, sign up for Outside+ today and save 20 percent.

Week of November 28-December 4, 1996
Active getaway to Kauai
Rock-climbing in Thailand
Crested Butte a good early-season choice
Kayak camping on Lake Mead
Out-of-the-way trails in the Ozarks

Out-of-the-way trails in the Ozarks
Question: Ever been to the Ozarks? I am looking for some new and out-of-the-way trails for backpacking and biking. Water along the trail is necessary. Any thoughts?

Jason Frazier
Springfield, MO

The Buffalo River is home to many
of the Ozarks’ best camping spots

Adventure Adviser: Well, Jason, in a word, no. Sadly, my experience with the Ozarks is limited to an 80-mile-an-hour driveby on I-40 en route to Santa Fe. I honestly was planning a detour north toward Fayetteville but was so obsessed with finding a place to live once I got to New Mexico that I just couldn’t spare the time. Wish I had,
since the only apartment I found to rent was heinously overpriced and buried under about four feet of dust. Oh well.

Had I gone, though, I probably would have spent some time on the Hemmed-In Hollow Trail, a 10.5-mile round-trip hike in the Buffalo National River recreation area. Starting from the Center Point Trailhead on Arkansas 43, about 23 miles south of the park’s headquarters in Harrison, you climb along the edge of a high bluff before entering the side hollows and meadows of the
Ponca Wilderness Area. For most of the way you’ll have spectacular views of the Buffalo River cutting its path through the valley about 1,300 feet below. Plan on pitching your tent in the general vicinity of Hemmed-In Hollow, the highest waterfall between the Appalachians and Rockies, just make sure you’re at least 100 feet from the trail or river. From there, hoof it down to
the river and the base of the 175-foot falls. Be aware, however, that the trail is steeper than it looks and the rocks around the waterfall are extremely slick.

The Ozarks are chockablock with wildlife, so keep your eyes peeled for white-tailed deer, bobcats, black bears, elk, beavers, mink, and the occasional hairy tarantula. You don’t need a backcountry camping permit, but if you plan on fishing–smallmouth bass are the catch of choice–be sure to pick up a state license before you go. Also recommended is Buffalo River Hiking Trails by Tim Ernst ($14.95, 800-838-4453).

Hemmed-In Hollow gives you a good taste of the Ozarks; if you want to see more, consider trekking part or all of the 37-mile Buffalo National River Trail from the tiny village of Pruitt to Boxley Valley. As with Hemmed-In Hollow, you don’t need a permit and camping is allowed almost anywhere. Pick up the trail on Arkansas 7 in Pruitt and if you’re planning on hiking the
entire trail end-to-end, avoid doubling back by calling Buffalo Outdoor Center at 800-221-5514 to arrange for a shuttle.

Search the archives | Ask the Adventure Adviser

©2000, Mariah Media Inc.