The Ozarks have no problem with a shortage of great spots to hike and enjoy nature. There are places you can sit and enjoy the Spring wildflowers to places deep in the woods where you can find remote waterfalls and rock outcroppings. However there are fewer locations in the Ozarks that you can enjoy a truly spectacular view and Big Bluff is one of these spots. Cut into the side of a 550ft bluff that towers above the Buffalo River, Big Bluff offers its visitors an all-encompassing view of this wild and amazing river as it twists and cuts its way through the valley, leaving behind the large exposed limestone and dolomite bluffs that are iconic to the area.
Big Bluff is located within the Ponca Wilderness Area in near Ponca, Arkansas. The bluff is accessed by what is known as the Goat Trail, a narrow path cut into the side of the bluff that stands at about 350 ft above the Buffalo River. At times the trail is only about a meter wide, with a cliff face on one side, a sheer drop on the other and the trail in front of you. This is where those with a fear of heights might become a little nervous, but those that are fearless or who can push past it will be rewarded with a view that words can not describe.
Each season brings a change to the surroundings and a brand new scene to take in, making this spot worth going back to again and again. My favorite time to go is during the autumn color change, when the entire river valley is a wash of colors, it’s truly a sight to behold. Occasionally you can see some paddlers down of the river below. Make sure to give them a wave! Although mostly a spec you can still make out the friendly waves from others enjoying the Buffalo National River area.
Big Bluff can be accessed from the Centerpoint Trailhead off of Hwy 43 and is a 6 mile round trip. The Centerpoint trail is a nice moderate hike but does have rough and rocky sections. You will take this trail 2.5 miles downhill to the Goat Trail. Prepare accordingly as the hike back is all uphill. Although the view is spectacular, this hike is not for those with young children or a strong fear of heights.
Difficulty: Moderate to difficult
Trail Length: 6 miles round trip
Location: 2 hrs south of Springfield off Hwy. 43
Pet Friendly: No
Kid Friendly: No