How to Hike Centerpoint to Big Bluff (Goat Trail) in Arkansas
Are you looking for an incredible hike with epic views and relatively minimal scrambling in the Ozarks? Then, hike the Centerpoint to Big Bluff (Goat Trail) in Arkansas.
Located near Ponca, Arkansas, and within the Buffalo National River National Park boundaries, this incredible 6-mile hike (out and back) has roughly 1,000 feet of total elevation gain along with one of the tallest bluffs in the area. With million-dollar views, you won’t regret your decision to bring your camera and your sense of adventure to trek this iconic hike in the Ozark Mountains.
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Let’s Clear Up the Trail Name
Before you read any further, we wanted to clear up the trail name. There are a few names for hiking to this specific viewpoint in Buffalo National River.
You’ll hear and read the route called different names, but they all mean the same thing.
So, if you see any of the following, you’re in the right place:
- Big Bluff (Goat Trail)
- Goat Trail
- Centerpoint to Goat Trail
- Centerpoint Trail to Big Bluff
- Goat Trail to Big Bluff along the Centerpoint Trail
Hiking the Centerpoint Trail to Big Bluff (Goat Trail)
The hike from Centerpoint to Big Bluff starts from the Centerpoint Trailhead outside of Ponca, AR.
It is one of our absolute favorite hikes in the Ozarks (along with hiking the Whitaker Point Trail).
Where is the Centerpoint Trailhead?
The Centerpoint Trailhead is located five minutes or 3.3 miles north of Ponca, Arkansas, off AR HWY 43 N. Ponca is an adorable mountain town in the middle of (almost) nowhere within the upper Buffalo National River.
Centerpoint Trailhead Map
Once you’ve parked your car, you’ll see the National Park Service trail sign. You can take a look at the map below before heading out.
There is little to no cellphone reception in the area except at the top of the hill near the trailhead.
If you are not familiar with the area, we recommended downloading maps for offline use or having a topo map (we have this one).
Centerpoint to Big Bluff (Goat Trail) Details
- Distance: 6 miles round trip (O&B) hike
- Elevation Gain: 1,076 feet of elevation
- Route Type: Out and back
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Are dogs allowed: No
- Is there a fee to hike: No, there is no entrance fee to enter or hike in Buffalo National River
How Do You Get to Big Bluff (Goat Trail)?
To get to the Goat Trail, start the hike from Centerpoint Trailhead.
Head down the gravel path, which turns into an old homestead road covered in leaf litter. This is the main Centerpoint Trail. The main Centerpoint Trail is easy to hike and is through the trees. Follow this old road until you see the first obvious fork to the right.
The fork to the right is NOT MARKED with an obvious trail sign but takes you to the Big Bluff (Goat Trail). From this fork is where the rocky bluff begins – so you can hike to Big Bluff along the Goat Trail.
You’ll know when you get to Big Bluff because the views of the Buffalo are epic! You can see the Buffalo River Valley and all of its glory.
Watch the Centerpoint to Goat Trail Video
Watch this super short video — we show where to turn off the Centerpoint Trail to get to Big Bluff (it is not well marked).
Other Things to Consider While Hiking the Goat Trail
This iconic hike is located within the Ponca Wilderness, which is a very remote area in Northern Arkansas. We wanted to share a few things to consider before your trekking journey to stay safe.
- There are wild boars (we saw them).
- No bathrooms – prepare and always Leave No Trace.
- Prepare for no cellphone reception.
- There are steep cliffs along Big Bluff – use extreme caution.
- The Bluff trail follows a steep, rocky, narrow ledge toward the trail’s end.
- The hike is not recommended for children or people afraid of heights.
- The trail is downhill all the way to Big Bluff, so the hike back to the parking lot is all uphill.
- You’ll probably want bug spray in the summer.
- Always tell someone where you are going and when you plan to return.
- If you miss the turn to get on the Goat Trail, the trail will lead you all the way to Compton, Arkansas, which you don’t want to do (unless you plan to). So be sure to plan ahead and have a map.
- Bring plenty of water and a snack.
Best Time of Year to Hike the Goat Trail in Arkansas
Fall, winter, and spring are excellent times of the year to hike in the Ponca Wilderness. The weather is cooler, there are little to no bugs, and the area is quieter.
We love hiking in the late fall and during the middle of the week to beat the crowds. This is a popular hike and can be pretty busy on the weekends.
What to Bring Hiking
We recommend hiking with comfortable hiking shoes, wool socks, a sun hat, sunglasses, a daypack, and sweat-wicking clothes you can layer.
Wearing layers helps regulate your body temperature when hiking to keep your body warm or cool, depending on the weather.
Get a FREE packing list and gear guide from us detailing exactly what we take on a camping and hiking trip!
Centerpoint to Goat Trail Camping Nearby
There are two campgrounds relatively close to the Centerpoint Trailhead.
Buffalo Outdoor Center – is literally right across the highway. This campground is RV-friendly, clean, has fantastic bathrooms, and is open year-round. The Buffalo Outdoor Center also offers cabin rentals if camping isn’t your cup of tea.
Steel Creek Campground – is managed by the National Park Service. The campground is a tent-only facility. It is open year-round. Running water and flushing toilets operate seasonally. If camping during the winter, there are vault toilets. The campground does not have showers. Make reservations at recreation.gov online or on the app.
Find more places to camp along the Arkansas Buffalo River (Upper District) here.
Check out our article with FREE apps we use to plan outdoor adventures hiking, camping, and road tripping all the time!
Final Thoughts on Hiking to Big Bluff (Goat Trail)
If you love hiking in the wilderness, then you’ll love hiking the Centerpoint Trail to Big Bluff.
We hiked here mid-week during early December, and the weather was perfect. We did encounter a herd of wild boars, but they ran off right away. It was neat to see them. We also saw some deer. The area was incredibly remote and quiet. We were the only ones on the trail that we saw.
We will definitely be adding more hikes in the Ponca Wilderness Area to our bucket list, such as a trek to the famous Hemmed in Hollow waterfall.
If you’re hiking in the Ponca area, you might enjoy checking out these other hiking trails:
- Whitaker Point Trail to Hawksbill Crag
- Lost Valley Trail
- Glory Hole Trail
- Hideout Hollow Trail
- Hemmed in Hollow Trail
Check back soon for new articles about hiking in the Buffalo National River, Ponca Wilderness, Ozark National Forest, and Northwest Arkansas!
Ashlee + Pablo
Find More Arkansas Adventures:
We love exploring Arkansas! Check out our other articles related to hiking and camping in Arkansas:
- 5 Best Places to Camp Along the Arkansas Buffalo River (Upper District)
- 12 Hiking Trails in Arkansas You Cannot Miss
- The Perfect Weekend at Mount Nebo State Park
- Plan the Best Weekend at Devil’s Den State Park
- Weekend Trip to Mount Magazine State Park
- The Ultimate Guide to Petit Jean State Park