Find Yourself in the Lost Valley
A Good Walk Unspoiled
Story and Photos by Alex Kent
Thousands of miles of trails and waterways stretched across Arkansas beckon us to explore. There are so many spectacular places, in fact, that choosing your next outdoor adventure can be a challenge. People from across the globe are drawn to the Buffalo National River system, which encompasses over 95,000 acres surrounding the Buffalo River. When visiting this park with so much to offer, if you want the best “bang for your step” day hike, the Lost Valley Trail should be placed high on your list.
Despite the fact the trail only spans 2.2 miles round trip, there is a great deal to offer nearly any type of explorer. A mixed hardwood forest with a wide variety of flora that changes throughout seasons will entice the botany enthusiasts. There’s an Ozark mountain stream, a grotto and multiple waterfall opportunities (when there’s been sufficient rain) for water lovers. Giant boulders, overhanging bluffs and caves await geology fans. You may even get a watchable wildlife opportunity if you’re light in your step. All in all, the Lost Valley Trail is a nature lover’s paradise.
Starting at the back of the parking lot, a casual flat trail meanders along Clark Creek. During the right seasons, you’ll pass by hundreds of wildflowers while paralleling the creek. Eventually you’ll come to a Y—hang a right to encounter a spectacular grotto with a large pool at its base. This is a great place to rest and take in the scenery. Continuing right along the trail, the valley develops a “prehistoric” feel with moss-covered toppled boulders, steep canyon walls and eventually a giant overhanging bluff, named Cob Cave. At this point you are close to a trail highlight, the base of Eden Falls, a multi-drop waterfall with the lower drop falling over 50 feet. Follow the trail up the hill to work your way to a bird’s eye view of the falls. This part of the trail is very steep, but it’s short and worth the effort to experience the view and another big highlight, Eden Falls Cave.
If you can handle tight places and remember your flashlight, enter the cave and follow along the right side for a narrow but vertical passage that leads to an open cavern with another 30-foot-tall waterfall inside. Want a little more adventure? Stay left of the walking passage and belly crawl your way into the same cavern via a more horizontal opening roughly 2 feet tall. Either way, once you make your way back to the room, turn off your light, take a breath and enjoy the echoing sounds of the falling water.
A few considerations while preparing for this trip: Lost Valley is day use only, meaning camping is not allowed. No need to fret; there are many great places nearby. Steel Creek is perfect for car camping, or consider backpacking along the Buffalo River Trail for a more rugged experience. If you want something a little more comfortable you can find many private and commercial cabins for rent. Book in advance. If you prefer more solitude, avoid peak times such as the weekends and certain holidays. Do your best to hike early in the morning for a better shot at seeing wildlife and avoiding crowds. If you’re “hunting” waterfalls for photography try to go on an overcast day after there’s been plenty of rain.
And even though the Lost Valley Trail could be completed in only two hours, give yourself plenty of time to discover the wonders of this special place.