Ponca to Steel Creek
FEATURES: Nice Family Trail | Small Waterfall Ledges | Shaded | Views of the River | Pretty Rock Columns | Good for Fall Color
2 Miles / One Way: There are a couple of ways to enjoy this pretty bench trail that offers views down onto the Buffalo River as it wanders between the Ponca low water bridge and the Steel Creek Campground. One way is to hike it from Ponca and have your car waiting at the Steel Creek Campground where you'll finish up. The other is to hike it one way, stop and have a snack or lunch in the campground, then hike back to Ponca (about 4 miles R/T). If you have kids, shuttle service may be the way to go as 2 miles is probably plenty for everyone. A shuttle is $30 per vehicle. If you have two vehicles in your party, then you can run your own shuttle by dropping off a car at the campground then driving back to the Ponca low water bridge in the other car and starting your hike.
The trailhead is located across the low water bridge and to the left (it is marked). While there, take an extra 15 minutes and walk straight up the old road in front of you and visit the old Beaver Jim Villines cabin. It's worth the detour! This is a nice trail to hike year 'round, although summertime hikers will want to spray with bug repellent beforehand. In summer, all Buffalo River trails have some grasses along them that are easy to brush against and which can host critters looking for a snack!
Steel Creek Overlook
FEATURES: Big, Sweeping View of Roark Bluff | Riparian Habitat | Stately Beech Trees
The trailhead for the overlook is located at the horse camp, right at the foot of the mountain you've just driven down and where the pavement ends. Park right next to the horse camp and the trailhead is basically right behind you. It's about a mile or so to the top of the overlook, which affords a wonderful view of majestic Roark Bluff (3/4's of a mile long!). The first part of the trail follows a bench above the horse camp and the former ranger housing. There are a number of beautiful beech trees along the way, as well as a couple of scenic ledge areas that run with water after a good rain. The trail eventually dips down and follows Steel Creek for a short bit, which you will eventually have to cross. In low water, creek rocks help you cross without getting your feet wet. Other times, you may find yourself ankle or boot top deep in order to cross. (Never cross if the water is high or swift. Save the overlook for another day.) Assuming it is safe to cross, watch for the trail to appear (there's a white marker on a tree) on the opposite bank, then follow it another 1/2 mile or so to the overlook. Sit for a speel and enjoy the vista! Photographs are best if taken before noon, as the sun will beam right into your lens after lunch time.
Twin Falls Trail
FEATURES: Easy and Fun for Families | Waterfall Area
70 Yards: Short and sweet, this quick, level hike winds up at beautiful Twin Falls, which runs with THREE waterfalls after a heavy rain! Located next to Camp Orr, the Twin Falls trailhead is marked by a wooden arrow with "Twin Falls" inscribed on it. To get here, take Hwy 74 from Ponca to the Kyle's Landing turn-off on Mount Sherman. About 1 mile down this dirt road is a spur road to the right with a sign pointing you to Camp Orr. About 2 miles down the mountain is the boundary to Camp Orr (an official Boy Scouts of America camp) and a small parking area. The trail is across the road with the wooden sign pointing the way. Please note that the waterfall only runs after we've enjoyed some rainfall. Also, thank you for not driving beyond the little parking area as this is private Camp Orr land, not national park.
Cherry Grove Cemetery
FEATURES: Moderate Hike | Historic Parker-Hickman Homestead & Cemetery | River Access
2 Miles R/T: For the chance to see an early 1800's farmstead, the well-preserved Parker-Hickman homeplace offers a unique glimpse back to how a pioneer family lived on the Buffalo River. It's a special place and deserving of our utmost respect. (Thank you for observing National Park Service rules by not defacing historic buildings, nor removing artifacts---including barn wood---from the site.) To visit Cherry Grove Cemetery, park at the homestead and follow the old road that takes off across a small creek in the yard and up the hill. It's about 1 mile to the pretty, peaceful cemetery, which features pre-Civil war graves, plus, the graves of Civil War soldiers. You can also meander down to the river from the cemetery and even follow a spur trail to the right (east), which loops back to the homestead. (It's about the same distance as walking back the way you came.) If the river is low, you can cross the Erbie Ford and visit a historic barn, plus, access the trailhead to the Goat Bluff, which is another nice 2-hour adventure. There's a lot to see in the Erbie area and we recommend having a good Trails Illustrated Buffalo National River map or Tim Ernst's excellent Buffalo River Hiking Trails book to help you locate and navigate trails in the Erbie area. The maps and books are available in our store.