Lost Valley Trail: Incredible Hike to Cob Cave and a Waterfall

If your idea of a great hiking trail is easy, with lots of good scenery, rocks, and some cool stuff to explore at the end, then check out the Lost Valley Trail in Buffalo National River. The first mile of the trail follows an easy path into a box canyon leading hikers to explore two (2) waterfalls and an enormous bluff shelter. Further up the trail, the hike becomes more steep, leading adventure seekers to a cave featuring a 25-foot waterfall inside. The Lost Valley Trail is one of the most popular hikes in Buffalo National River.

Continue reading to add it to your bucket list!

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Cob Cave 200-foot bluff shelter

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Hiking the Lost Valley Trail in Arkansas

The hike is more than just a leisurely walk through the forest. It includes intersecting trails that take you on an adventure of discovery to some beautiful places with scenic overlooks, and it ends with an incredible 200-foot bluff shelter called Cob Cave and Eden Falls.

The impressive rock formations, bluffs, caves, and waterfalls are the best parts of hiking in Lost Valley. Eden Falls is a 53-foot waterfall that is a sight to see in the spring after the snow melts and there is spring rain.

AND, if you’re up for an off-the-beaten-path adventure, there is another cave, Eden Falls Cave, further along the trail accessed along the steep stairs passed Eden Falls. The trail ends at the cave’s opening, but there is a 25-foot waterfall inside! You definitely want headlamps and caving knowledge to enter this part of the trail.

It takes about two (2) hours to leisurely hike and explore the rocks and waterfalls along the main Lost Valley Trail. The majority of the trail follows Clark Creek.

Lost Valley is a fun trail to hike!

If you plan on exploring and hiking in the Upper Buffalo River Area, you might also enjoy these epic hiking trails, too!

Centerpoint to Big Bluff (Goat Trail)

Whitaker Point Trail to Hawksbill Crag

Glory Hole Falls Sinkhole Waterfall

Where is the Lost Valley Trail?

The trail is located in the Boxley Valley Historic District of Buffalo National River off Hwy 43 near Ponca, Arkansas.

There is a National Park Service sign next to the highway which is easy to see.

Lost Valley Trail Map

The trailhead is located south of Ponca, AR.

Hiking Lost Valley – Trail Details

  • Distance: 2.3 miles out and back
  • Elevation Gain: 252 feet gain (to Eden Falls)
  • Route Type: Out and back (O&B)
  • Difficulty: Easy for the first mile to moderate if you go passed Eden Falls.
  • Are dogs allowed? No pets are allowed. Service animals are allowed.
  • Is there a fee to hike? No
  • Is there parking? Yes, there is a large gravel parking lot.

The first part of the trail is handicap accessible, and there are a few benches to sit along the way.

The trail is well marked.

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Lost Valley Trail sign

Other Things to Consider While Hiking Lost Valley Trail

This is one of the most popular hikes in Buffalo National River!

To help you plan your hiking adventure, there are some other details we wanted to share with you.

  • Restrooms are located near the trailhead (National Park Service)
  • No cell phone reception
  • Catch the elk migration in the fall in the fields along Highway 43!
  • The last stretch to the cave entrance above Eden Falls is steep
  • Entering the Eden Falls Cave is a little sketchy – it is steep and slippery, so be sure to go with someone that knows the way or an experienced caver, use caution, and protect your head.
  • Bring a flashlight or headlamp (we have this one) to enter the cave. You will have to crawl to see the waterfall inside.
  • Bring plenty of water a snack when hiking in the Buffalo National River National Park.
  • The area is remote.
  • The nearest gas station is in Ponca.

Best Time of Year to Hike Lost Valley Trail

Hiking the Lost Valley Trail can be done year-round. However, spring is the best time to see Eden Falls and the Natural Bridge flowing more water.

Hiking in the Ozarks during the fall, late fall, and early winter is always a treat. After Thanksgiving, there are fewer crowds. Weekends are busy since this is such a popular family trail.

Lost Valley Trail Arkansas Camping

There is excellent camping in the Buffalo National River (Upper District) area!

Steel Creek Campground – Steel Creek Campground is another great option close by for tent camping within Buffalo National River. There are flush toilets and running water seasonally from mid-March through mid-November. Campers can make reservations ahead of time on recreation.gov.

We have camped at Steel Creek a few times and love the easy access to trails!

Buffalo Outdoor Center – this is where we stay with our Aliner camper because the Buffalo Outdoor Center Campground is RV, trailer, and camper-friendly. They also have great restrooms, hot water, wifi, and full hookups. The staff is super friendly too!

What are you cooking at camp? Do you need some meal inspiration? We’re sharing our 15 favorite easy camp meals and they are gluten-free!

What We Wore Hiking

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Cob Cave

Since we hiked during December, we wore layers to accompany the temperature swings, which were around 30 degrees Fahrenheit in the morning and 65 degrees in the afternoon.

Pablo wore his go-to Patagonia R1 fleece layer, Kuhl hiking pants, and Oboz hiking boots.

I wore my go-to Oboz hiking boots and used my favorite Kavu day-pack!

Watch YouTube: Hiking the Lost Valley Trail

YouTube video

Final Thoughts on the Lost Valley Trail Loop

We hiked the Lost Valley Trail in early December and were in awe of the Cob Cave bluff shelter! It was huge, and there was room to explore!

The Natural Bridge and Eden Falls waterfalls were just a trickle during early December, but we saw the beautiful emerald pool at the base of the falls.

We hiked during mid-week, and there were no crowds.

We also saw one bull elk in the fields along Highway 43 (so cool).

If you are exploring and hiking in the Upper Buffalo near Ponca, you might enjoy these hiking trails:

Check back soon to read new articles on camping and hiking in northwest Arkansas, the Ozarks, and Buffalo River.

We are based in northeast Oklahoma and love getting out into the Ozarks as often as we can!

Happy Hiking,

Ashlee + Pablo


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Arkansas has some incredible state parks and hiking trails!

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We want to hear from you!

Are you planning on hiking in Buffalo National River?

Let us know if you have any questions about hiking the Lost Valley Trail. We’d love to help.

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Ashlee Fechino

Ashlee Fechino is an outdoor recreation writer and founder of The Happiness Function based in Oklahoma. Her goal is to help inspire people to build a life they love by sharing how simple and fun it is to travel locally, connect with nature, and explore off-the-beaten-path. You don't have to spend a lot of money or use a ton of vacation time to explore close to home. Ashlee holds a BS degree in Biology and MS in Environmental Policy & Sustainability and has a passion for the outdoors. She is married to an expat Argentine, Pablo! They camp in their Aliner often and love road trips and hiking.

22 Comments

  1. Anushka on February 16, 2022 at 2:48 pm

    This sounds like the perfect hike for me! I love easier trails where I can take in beautiful scenery, plus waterfalls 🙂



    • Ashlee Fechino on February 17, 2022 at 10:31 am

      Anushka – you would love hiking the Lost Valley Trail. Thanks for reading.



  2. Megan on February 16, 2022 at 4:02 pm

    Caves and waterfalls! All my kids (and my!) favorite things when going on a hike 🙂



    • Ashlee Fechino on February 17, 2022 at 10:31 am

      Megan! Arkansas is calling your name!



  3. April on February 16, 2022 at 6:11 pm

    Wow who knew such a pretty place existed in Arkansas! Like the details- what you wore- how far- is it good for families and when is it not so busy!



    • Ashlee Fechino on February 17, 2022 at 10:30 am

      Hi April – Arkansas has some amazing hikes. We hope you have fun exploring! Thanks for the support.



  4. Josy A on February 17, 2022 at 10:52 am

    Woooah this is really cool Ashlee! I love it when a short hike managed to pack in soo many cool sights. The Cob Cave bluff shelter is really impressive and I am always keen to visit waterfalls. It would be really cool to see them in the springtime when there is more water gushing over those rocks!



    • Ashlee Fechino on February 19, 2022 at 2:02 pm

      Hi Josy! Thanks for reading our article. The bluff shelter is jaw-dropping. You will love hiking here!



  5. Krista on February 17, 2022 at 6:00 pm

    This trail looks like so much fun to go on. I love how unique the landscape here is as well. Thanks for sharing!



    • Ashlee Fechino on February 19, 2022 at 2:02 pm

      Hi Krista – thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. It is such a fun trail. You’d love hiking here.



  6. Burt Randall on February 19, 2022 at 1:33 pm

    I love caves and waterfalls too. Have FUN next time you go !!



    • Ashlee Fechino on February 19, 2022 at 2:03 pm

      Hi Uncle Burt! So nice to see a comment from you! Thanks for reading. XO



  7. Alex on March 9, 2022 at 1:19 pm

    This hike sounds so fun!! I will definitely be adding it to my bucket list!



    • Ashlee Fechino on March 9, 2022 at 4:20 pm

      Hi Alex – thanks for reading! We hope you have fun hiking the Lost Valley Trail!



  8. Laura on March 9, 2022 at 2:25 pm

    What fun things to explore on this trail – and the opportunity to see elk is incredible!



    • Ashlee Fechino on March 9, 2022 at 4:21 pm

      Hi Laura! Thanks for stopping by. We hope you enjoy your next trip hiking in Buffalo National River 🙂



  9. Carrie Ann on March 9, 2022 at 6:26 pm

    Caves, waterfalls, and easy trails? Sounds like the hike for me! I’d love to explore Lost Valley Trail if I’m ever in the area.



    • Ashlee Fechino on March 10, 2022 at 10:34 am

      Hi Carrie – The Lost Valley Trail is such an awesome hike! Hope you can make it someday.



  10. Ava on March 9, 2022 at 7:04 pm

    I love seeing waterfalls on a hike. I love the idea of a waterfall in the cave but I’m not sure I’d be willing to crawl to see it!



    • Ashlee Fechino on March 10, 2022 at 10:34 am

      Hi Ava – haha, we totally understand about the cave part. I think it is better to go with someone who has gone in there already. Have a great day. Thanks for reading.



  11. Tucker on March 10, 2022 at 5:35 pm

    Been hiking this trail 25 years now and still going back. I remember when the grass would brush your legs due to the trail being no different from a deer trail many years ago. It still brings me joy everytime I return BUT PLEASE people STOP carving your names in the BIG beautiful Beech trees.



    • Ashlee Fechino on March 10, 2022 at 6:37 pm

      Hi Tucker – Thanks for commenting and sharing what the trail was like 25 years ago. That is really special and we appreciate you sharing. We agree – it is so important to Leave No Trace!