How to Hike the Hemmed in Hollow Trail in Buffalo National River


Buffalo National River has no shortage of epic day hikes, and the Hemmed in Hollow Trail is one of them. Touted as being one of the tallest waterfalls in Mid-America, cascading over 200 feet, we’ll share exactly how to hike to this hidden waterfall tucked within the Ozark Mountains and Buffalo River Valley in North Central Arkansas.

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Where is Hemmed in Hollow?

The Hemmed in Hollow waterfall is located in the Upper District of the Buffalo National River.

Buffalo National River is managed and protected by the National Park Service and Ponca Wilderness Area. The area is wild, rugged, and remote.

Base of Hemmed in Hollow Falls

How to Hike Hemmed in Hollow

There are a few ways to get to the massive waterfall. You can hike from three different trailheads or float on the Buffalo National River.

Continue reading for more details.

Please practice Leave No Trace while enjoying the outdoors!

Compton Trailhead

Accessing Hemmed in Hollow from the Compton Trailhead is a popular way to get to the falls. There is a good-sized parking lot here, and the trailhead is well-marked.

Hemmed in Hollow Trail from Compton Trailhead Details:

  • Distance: 5.7 miles out and back to the waterfall
  • Add another 1.4-miles if you want to go to the river and back
  • Elevation Gain: 1,414 feet
  • Time to Hike: It took us 4 ½ hours to go to the waterfall, river, and back up.
  • Difficulty: Hard

What makes this route on the more strenuous side are the rock steps going down and elevation change going up.

Other trails connect in the area, so keep your eyes out for trail signs.

What’s cool about this route is that it is shorter than hiking from the Centerpoint Trailhead, and you can walk to the river if you’d like to dip your feet in and enjoy some remote backcountry peace.

Centerpoint Trailhead

The Centerpoint Trailhead is another way to access Hemmed in Hollow. This adds more mileage than hiking from the Compton Trailhead since you’ll start closer to Ponca.

You can shuttle a car if you’re with friends or arrange a shuttle with Buffalo Outdoor Center if you’d like to hike this longer route.

Hemmed in Hollow via Centerpoint Trailhead Details:

  • Distance: 10.3 miles out and back to the waterfall
  • Add another 1.4-miles if you want to go to the river and back
  • Elevation Gain: 1,732 feet
  • Time to Hike: AllTrails says around 5 hours, but I would plan more (7-8 hours)
  • Difficulty: Hard

If you are hiking the Centerpoint Trail and have time, you don’t want to miss a detour to Big Bluff (a.k.a Goat Bluff). It has some of the best views around!

Make sure you have a map to orient yourself safely in the backcountry. The trails are not always that well marked if you’re unfamiliar with the area.

Kyles Landing

Hikers can also access Hemmed in Hollow from Kyles Landing. This part of the trail is within the Ponca Wilderness Area.

If you’re unfamiliar with the area, the trails are not always that well marked, and you’ll want to have a map or download an offline map with GPS. This route requires crossing the river.

Buffalo National River

On a float trip, you can access Hemmed in Hollow from the Buffalo National River.

At the river, the trailhead to the falls is slightly marked with a white sign on one of the trees on the north side of the river. From the river, Hemmed in Hollow is a 0.9-mile hike.

Best Time to Hike

The best time to hike the Hemmed in Hollow Trail is when the water is flowing! The waterfall is the most spectacular part of the hike.

You can hike in the area year-round.

Spring is the best time to experience the most water flowing at the falls. Spring is also the best time to float the Upper Buffalo.

Summers are hot and can be dry; if you don’t time a rain event, the falls might be dry. But, the trail is mostly shaded, and it’s fun to hike down to the river and swim at the remote beach.

Fall is excellent for experiencing the magic of autumn colors, but there may not be water flowing.

For the most part, winters are mild, but you might not see the falls running.

Hemmed in Hollow Falls

Safety Considerations

Steep Bluffs – The Ozarks and Buffalo River Valley are known for their epic bluff overlooks, and since the area is wild and untamed, there are many steep bluffs and cliffs without safety railings. Always know where you are stepping and be mindful of your surroundings.

No Cell Phone Reception – Once you enter the river valley, there is no cell phone reception. There is cell phone reception at the Compton Trailhead and Centerpoint Trailhead.

Significant Elevation Change – If hiking from the Compton Trailhead or Centerpoint Trailhead, the elevation change is said to be the equivalency of hiking to the top of the Empire State Building! Though going down is easy, the hike up is challenging.

Poisonous Snakes – There are poisonous snakes in the area. Don’t be scared, be mindful and watch where you step. We did come across a Copperhead when we hiked during August.

When hiking in areas with snakes, I like to hike with long pants, like these, and hiking poles.

Bring Plenty of Water and Snacks – Since this is a more strenuous hike, you’ll want to ensure you have enough water and fuel to enjoy your day in the Ozarks.

Are Dogs Allowed?

Since the Hemmed in Hollow Trail is within the national park, dogs are not permitted.

If traveling with your furry pal, there are dog-friendly trails in Buffalo National River. Dogs are allowed on the Buffalo River Trail (BRT) between Ponca and Steel Creek or the Villines Homestead Trail at Ponca.

If you are looking for dog-friendly hikes further downriver in the park, dogs are allowed within the trails at Tyler Bend Campground and Buffalo Point Campground.

Where To Stay

There are great places to camp within Buffalo National River!

Close by, check out the Steel Creek Campground or Buffalo Outdoor Center RV Park.

Buffalo Outdoor Center RV Park – fog the morning of the hike

More Great Hikes in the Area

There are so many amazing hikes in the area!

Below are more local favorites:

Our Experience

Hiking to Hemmed in Hollow was on our bucket list for many years. In August, we finally had a great window to go for it. A rainstorm went through the area, which cooled off the temperatures and made it perfect for hiking.

We started hiking from the Compton Trailhead at 8:00 am. The river valley was foggy from the summer cold front. By the time we reached the waterfall, the fog had burned off. The trail was well-marked, well-maintained, and almost completely shaded.

Pablo and I were both in awe once we reached Hemmed in Hollow Falls. The waterfall is so high that it almost hurts your neck to look up!

The National Park Service says the falls are 210 feet tall.

I’ve never been beneath something that majestic. The falls were a trickle but enough to experience the magic. We enjoyed a snack, and Gatorade, took photos, and then ventured to the river for a swim.

We were the only ones on the trail until later in the day when we started to climb out of the river valley.

The hardest part of the hike was the climb out of the river valley back to the trailhead parking area. We are in good shape and huffed and puffed! It took us 4 ½ hours round trip.

We did see a Copperhead, so be mindful hiking.

We had a blast and recommend doing this trail if you like getting into the backcountry.

Hiking Gear

Where Hemmed in Hollow Trail and Buffalo River meet

Since it’s a long hike, bring hiking poles and your favorite day pack. You’ll also want to bring plenty of water and snacks.

Wear good hiking boots and socks to prevent blisters.

We also wear long pants and sweat wicking shirts (but that is our preference to keep the bugs off and wick sweat).

Whenever we hike in the backcountry, we also bring a small hiking first aid kit.

Shop Our Favorite Hiking Boots

Oboz for Women

Oboz for Men

Final Thoughts

The Hemmed in Hollow Falls is one of the coolest hikes we have done in a long time. If you like getting into the backcountry, you’ll love hiking the Hemmed in Hollow Trail to witness one of the tallest waterfalls in mid-America.

If you love Arkansas, check out more adventures!

We love exploring the Ozarks.

Thanks for reading.

Ashlee & Pablo

Read More Arkansas Outdoor Adventures

We Want To Hear From You

Have you hiked the Hemmed in Hollow Trail or floated the Buffalo National River?

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Ashlee Fechino

Ashlee Fechino is an outdoor recreation and travel writer sharing the best-kept secrets that aren’t in your typical guidebook. Her goal is to inspire people to travel with a sense of adventure by sharing hidden gems across the U.S. and beyond. She is married to an expat Argentine, Pablo. They camp in their Aliner often and love wandering the world. Follow their latest adventures on Instagram @thehappinessfxn.


  1. Burt Randall on September 28, 2022 at 2:03 pm

    I’ve been to Niagara Falls as a child.

    This sounds amazing and fun to

    see the waterfall !!

    • Ashlee Fechino on October 4, 2022 at 8:51 am

      Hi Burt! I bet that was so incredible to see. It is fun to chase waterfalls around the world! Thanks for sharing.