Take Highway 21 south out of Boxley Valley heading up the mountain.  Look for the large Nature Conservancy Smith Creek sign on the left (east) side of the highway.  Turn into entrance road and park near the red gate
35.93548, -93.38612

Printable Map:
Limited parking outside locked gate.  No toliets.
Nearest Gasoline:
Ponca, Lost Valley Store & Buffalo Outdoor Center.
Trail maps are available at the kiosk at the gate.
Hiking, wildlife watching and photography., exceptional wildflowers
Special Issues:
Smith Creek is remote and is a medium to difficult hike.  You will need to hike 500 feet ascent in 1 mile from the main nature trail.  DO NOT hike alone.
Seasonal Opportunities:
Spring wildflower bloom.
Unique 3 springs at the head of Smith Creek in high water.
Wet weather cascades and waterfalls.
Beware that it is very hot and buggy in July and August!
Emergency Numbers:
Newton County Sheriff  (870) 446-5124

Buffalo National River
Upper River Area

Smith Creek Preserve

Smith Creek Preserve

The Nature Conservancy's Smith Creek Preserve is 1,316 acres of beautiful forest bisected by Smith Creek, a tributary to the Buffalo National River.  It was established in 2004 with a generous land donation by Marty and Elise Roenigk. The Preserve is a premier scenic destination for nature lovers, hikers and is very popular with photographers especially during the spring wildflower bloom.

A trail down to Smith Creek from the locked gate entails a 500 foot descent in the one mile hike from the parking area just off Highway 21.  Trails along the creek are generally level.  The creek has many large boulders, cascades, reflecting pools, and a waterfall named Elise Falls. Look for the round trail markers. At the end of the main trail, The Harvey Williams Nature Trail, you are treated to seeing the three springs that rush out of the mountain side in wet weather creating Smith Creek.  The creek and Elise Falls are subject to rainfall so spring and early summer are the best times to visit.

Every April, TNC hosts and Open Gate Wildflower Tour allowing visitors access to drive or shuttle to the lower parking area. 
The spring wildflower bloom is on par with the bloom at the Lost Valley trail.

Waterfall at Smith Creek Preserve

Itinerary Builder -- Attractions Close to the Smith Creek Preserve

Ponca Elk Education Center

(in Ponca)   Directions
GPS:  36.02215, -93.36141  (8.2 miles, 10 minutes)
AGFC elk education center, nationally recognized facility.
Open daily 10 - 4:30 PM, Closed Tuesday and Wednesday
(870) 861-2432

Boxley Valley Mill Pond

GPS: 35.98829, -93.40081    (4.4 miles, 6 mins)
The historic spring fed Boxley Valley Mill Pond is home to a population of trumpeter swans, many different waterbirds, bald eagles in season, as well as beaver, mink, otters and the occaional raccoon. Popular with photographers and wildlife watchers. Very near the best elk viewing areas.

Lost Valley Hiking Trail

  (2 miles south of Ponca)   Directions
GPS:  36.00787, -93.36625  (6.9 miles, 9 mins)
NPS  The most popular hiking trail in the upper Buffalo River area. Barrier free stretch, suitable for families. Eden Falls, native american shelter, waterfall in cave, outstanding spring wildflowers.

Hawksbill Crag

GPS:  35.88816, -93.4698  (9.7 miles, 37 mins)

Popular 3 mile round trip with 200 ft elevation change. Most photographed Arkansas Landmark. Trail can be rough, a few seasonal creeks. Hazardous around bluff edges, children need to be watched closely. Bear sightings now and then.

Upper Buffalo Wilderness Trailhead

GPS:  35.94606, -93.3994  (1.2 miles, 2 mins)
The Upper Buffalo Wilderness trail travels south past the Whitely Cemetary up to an old roadbed then proceeds south into an area divided between the NPS and NFS. The uppermost Buffalo National River is called the "Hailstone".  Rugged and remote, popular with hosemen. Don't hike alone.

Glory Hole

GPS:  35.82595, -93.39737 (10.3 miles, 12 mins)
This is a popular short hike of moderate difficulty. The Glory Hole is a waterfall through the top of a cave. It is a popular destination with hikers and most serious outdoor photographers.  Fairly remote, probably best not hiked alone. NFS

Boxley Valley Elk Herd

(Highway 43 & 21)    Directions    Web
GPS:  35.97717, -93.40219  (3.5 miles, 4 mins)
Home of Arkansas' famous elk herd, arguably the most viewable in the southern US. Mornings and evenings, fall rut exceptional.
Waterfall at Smith Creek