Lost Valley Trail: 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 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.

Guide To Hiking the Lost Valley Trail in Arkansas

Hiking the Lost Valley Trail
Hiking the Lost Valley Trail

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

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.

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 hours to hike leisurely and explore the rocks and waterfalls along the main Lost Valley Trail. The majority of the trail follows Clark Creek.

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 on along the way.

The trail is well-marked.

Watch on YouTube: Hiking the Lost Valley Trail

Check out our short video to get a sneak peek at hiking this trail.

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, Arkansas.

Other Things To Consider While Hiking

Lost Valley Trail sign

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

To help you plan your adventure, here are other details we want to share with you.

Restrooms are located near the trailhead (managed by the National Park Service).

There is no cell phone reception.

In the fall, you can catch the elk migration 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 who knows the way or an experienced caver. Use caution, and protect your head.

Bring a flashlight or headlamp to enter the cave. You will have to crawl to see the waterfall inside.

Bring plenty of water and snacks 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

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 and early winter is a treat. After Thanksgiving, there are fewer crowds. Weekends are busy since this is a popular trail.

Where To Camp

Buffalo Outdoor Center Campground

There is excellent camping in the Buffalo National River Upper District.

Steel Creek Campground – Steel Creek Campground is a great option close by for tent camping within the park boundaries. 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 We Wear Hiking

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 Kuhl hiking pants, and Oboz hiking boots.

I wore Oboz hiking boots and used my favorite Kavu day-pack.

Our Experience

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, which was so cool.

Trails To Hike Nearby

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 the Buffalo River.

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

Have fun out there.

Ashlee & Pablo

More Arkansas Adventures:

We love Arkansas! Check out more of our guides to plan your next hiking and camping trip:

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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. 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!

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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 🙂

  5. 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!

  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. 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.

  8. 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!

  9. 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.

  10. 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!

  11. 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.