Hiking the Lost Valley Trail

Casey and I wanted to hike during our Arkansas adventure we took over the July 4th weekend.  While canoeing on the Buffalo River we met a couple who told us about a trail they had hiked.  They said it had a few caves and a waterfall, and that a secret cave was hidden behind a waterfall.  They thought that you would have to swim in order to reach the second cave.  Casey was instantly intrigued and asked many questions, trying to get the name or area of this hike.  Our new acquaintances were unsure of the trails name, but as we were debarking back on the river they shouted “Hidden Valley!”

We kept this little bit of information we had about the trail and after we were off the river we did some research.  We found a trail matching the description given to us, it was called the Lost Valley Trail.  Located near Ponca, AR.  The trail is almost 2 miles, rated as moderate, and used to have a campground area.

I was excited to have the chance to view waterfalls, but the prospect of swimming behind a waterfall into a cave gave me chills! However, upon beginning our research we could not find much about a hidden cave.  We decided the trail sounded fun, and wanted to check out the trail for ourselves.

We were staying in Harrison, AR, which is about 35 minutes from Ponca.  The drive curved along the hills and exposed us high above the Arkansas countryside at times.  We arrived at the Lost Valley Trail later in the afternoon.  It was humid, but the heat was waning.

Lost Valley Trail Sign
Lost Valley Trail-head Sign & Map.

Casey and I looked over the map next to the trail-head.  According to the map the trail would be mostly straight, and would loop back along the way it came.  There are 5 “attractions” along the Lost Valley Trail.

  1. Jigsaw Blocks
  2. Natural Bridge
  3. Cob Cave
  4. Eden Falls
  5. Eden Falls Cave

 

Lost Valley Trailhead No Dogs.jpg
Lost Valley Trail-head.

The trail had a rugged start with dense forest on both sides.  To the right appeared a dry creek.  We assumed that there had not been enough rain this summer for it to have a stream.  This “creek” followed the trail almost all the way to the Natural Bridge.

Lost Valley Trail 1
Start of the Lost Valley Trail.

Along the trail were fallen trees.  Maybe from the storms that had been passing through.  We didn’t encounter too many people on our way up and were able to enjoy the sounds of nature: the rustling of leaves and songs of native birds.

Lost Valley Trail 2

After walking for a while the trail becomes more of a sand and gravel path.  Every so often there is a bench overlooking the dry rock creek.  We were able to spot a deer on the opposite hillside.  It paid us no attention until I started getting too close, then it moseyed its way on up the hillside and out of view.

Lost Valley Trail Fork.jpg

We came across a fork in the trail. It showed which way to take to Natural Bridge & Eden Falls. The other trail goes straight to Eden Falls Cave and bypasses the other sights.

Lost Valley Trail 3.jpg
Jigsaw Blocks – Lost Valley Trail.

The forest is dense and at times it is hard to know where the trail is going.  We came across these rectangular rocks, which we assumed were the Jigsaw Blocks listed on the map at the beginning of the trail.

Natural Bridge Eden Falls Lost Valley Trail
Fork between Natural Bridge and Eden Falls.

The trail starts turning and you come to another fork.  You can go right to explore the Natural Bridge.  Going left would curve around the rocks and cave, to go on to Eden Falls.  We went right to see what this Natural Bridge was all about.

Natural Bridge Cave From Outside
Natural Bridge on Lost Valley Trail.

The rocks form a half circle, with an opening and a small stream pouring out of it.  Casey and I walked along the end of the pond that was forming at the base to get to the cave entrance.  We peered inside and could see light near the back.

We had brought a lamp and headlamp.  The cave didn’t look very long, but nonetheless I was hesitant to enter.  Climbing up I had to be careful, as it was slippery.  The creek runs straight through the middle, with a slight bank on each side of the cave.

Inside Natural Bridge Lost Valley Trail
Inside Natural Bridge on Lost Valley Trail.

Inside the cave it was cool and damp.  The cave is not large enough to stand straight up. We had to bend over as we made our way to the other side.

Inside Natural Bridge 2 Lost Valley Trail
Inside Cave of Natural Bridge, Peering out the backside.

I felt as if I was stepping into another word as we came out the back end of the cave.  Giant rocks littered the ground, and the trees towered over us.  We explored this area for a little bit, looking for a path to lead us back to the main trail.

Otherside of Natural Bridge Lost Valley Trail
Coming out the backside of the Natural Bridge.

We eventually found a trail, and some stairs that led us out from the backend of the cave.  It was onward towards Eden Falls.  The trail became more intense as we progressed.

Lost Valley Stairs after Natural Bridge.jpg
Stairs after exiting Natural Bridge area.

After hiking a while, we came across another fork in the trail.  To the right was Eden Falls, and to the left was Eden Falls Cave.  Casey and I were unsure if we were going to find a hidden cave, but we had heard it was behind a waterfall.  So we took the path to the right to explore Eden Falls.

Eden Falls Eden Falls Cave Fork
Fork between Eden Falls and Eden Cave.

When you approach Eden Falls you are greeted by a large rocky cliff.  Massive boulders are scattered under the steep rock face jutting upward from the earth.  The cliff itself feels almost like a cave, a steam flowing below it.  Following under the cliffs overhang, we came upon Eden Falls.

Eden Falls on Lost Valley Trail.jpg
Eden Falls.
Eden Falls Lost Valley Trail
Eden Falls.

I am sure Eden Falls is more breath-taking when the water levels are higher.  It still gave us a cool mist.  We thoroughly checked this area, but there is no sign of any hidden caves.  It was onward and upward to Eden Falls Cave.

Eden Falls Sign Lost Valley Trail
Eden Falls Sign. Going up to Eden Falls Cave.

The trail is extremely steep at times.  Climbing over the giant rocks and boulders, plus hiking such steep hills to reach Eden Falls Cave, my legs were burning by the time we reached the top!

Lost Valley Trail up to Eden Falls

Eden Falls Cave Lost Valley Trail.jpg
Eden Falls Cave.

The cave at the top is quite large, but you still have to bend over the farther back you go. Casey went back a little further than I did, but we didn’t see anything that suggested we could swim or locate a hidden area.  Also, the sun was starting to set, and we decided to start making our way back.

As we descended, we thought that we may have missed an attraction along the way.  We doubled back to Eden Falls.  There we saw that, in our excitement over the waterfall, we overlooked Cob Cave.

Cob Cave was mostly large enough to stand under as we walked around.  The cave had no water that flowed through it.  The story of Cob Cave is that explores found corn husks in the cave, as well as other artifacts.  The artifacts were found in decent condition.  We found this information interesting.

Cob Cave Lost Valley Trail.jpg
Cob Cave.

Casey and I enjoyed this trail.  It wasn’t quite what we had set out to find.  We were a little disappointed that we were unable to find any hidden gems, however, the landscape is beautiful and there is plenty to explore!

 


Have you ever sought a trail that didn’t quite turn out to be what you expected? Please share your stories with us in the comment section below.

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