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The Best of the Buffalo National River for Adventurous Spirits

  • May 16, 2017
  • By Heather Benac
The Best of the Buffalo National River for Adventurous Spirits

For a few years now I had seen these amazing pictures of the Buffalo National River in Arkansas online. And being only 6 hours from Dallas Fort Worth, I knew I couldn’t wait any longer. Thankfully I have some adventure seeking friends who I convinced to follow me into the great unknown. And boy am I glad we did. Jasper, Arkansas has that great mountain town vibe while still being close. The landscape was stunning seemingly everywhere you looked. Especially photo worthy are the meadows of wildflowers against the bluffs through the Boxley Valley scenic drive. There are even herds of Elk grazing.

Some of the highlights and tips from our trip that made it so fun:

The Explorer's Edit | Buffalo National River Canoe Trip, Arkansas

Canoeing the Buffalo National River.
I had spent a lot of time researching different outfitters for our canoeing expedition, but once in town, we were directed down the road to the conveniently located Riverview Motel. Note: After using a spare room to change into our bathing suits, I cannot in good conscious recommend its lodgings. However, they were great as a canoe and kayak outfitting group. Very quickly we were on the middle portion of the river, starting at Pruitt Landing. Due to the low rainfall, the upper portion was closed. Word on the street is that the upper portion of the river is the most scenic but I’d find it hard to beat the views we had in the middle. Right away I was blown away by the cool mountain air, majestic bluffs rising out of the flowing, clear waters. I just kept saying, “This is my happy place.” Our float in total lasted all afternoon long but we could have definitely kept going. Along the way we jumped out of trees into the river with a rope swing (major peer pressure at play there), took on way too much water and bruises when we failed to navigate some of the currents correctly, spotted fishes darting in the water and even a bald eagle resting on a tree above.

The Explorer's Edit | Canoing the Buffalo National River, Arkansas

It was so hard narrowing down the choices to just a couple that our time allotted. Arkansas is beautiful y’all with some gorgeous hikes. Our “big” hike was the Whitaker Point Trail. You see the view and just have to go.

Finding it is a bit tricky. Definitely follow the instruction exactly listed at the bottom of the link. When you turn on the dirt road be aware it is steep. We passed a van chained to a truck trying to help it move along. Once you come to the parking lot, the trail is on the left side of the road, although the trailhead is not clearly marked. Along the trail you’ll pass little streams, gorgeous wildflowers, crags and giant rocks you just gotta climb, and incredible views of nothing but trees. Once you get to the famous outcropping you’ll want to savor the moment and scenery.

The Explorer's Edit | Hiking Hawksbill Crag, Arkansas

Our “easy” hike was to the Three Falls area. This was a refreshing hike after being outside all day. Note: It’s also a windy dirt road to the trailhead for a couple of miles once you get off the main highway. From the start of the trail you’ll walk about .20 miles to the falls. We spent a little way here climbing up to the top, dipping our feet in the cool mountain water and taking in the beauty that is God’s creations.

The Explorer's Edit | Three Falls Hike, Jasper, AR

The Explorer's Edit | Three Falls Hike, Buffalo National Wilderness, Arkansas

Mystic Caverns
Once we were ready for a cool off, Mystic Caverns was the perfect respite. We toured both caverns which I highly recommend if you have the time because they’re so different from each other. The guides are friendly and offer an interesting history of the caverns peppered with cheesy jokes. After we toured the smaller cave our guide turned off all the lights for us and it was as dark of a room as I’ve ever been in. And you had better believe I printed off the $1 off coupon in advance.

I booked this 4 bedroom place on Airbnb and could not recommend it more. I should have taken pictures myself cabin but suffices to say it was an authentic log cabin that was so cozy after a busy day in the outdoors. There were a lot of choices on Airbnb or on the Buffalo Outdoor Center website.

You can’t canoe on an empty stomach which led us to a carb laden breakfast in downtown Jasper at the Blue Mountain Bakery and Café. It was a perfectly adequate meal but our experience the next day at the Ozark Café was well…something to write home about. I would definitely recommend the Ozark Café over Blue Mountain if you pick just one. Also, the Ozark Café offers live entertainment in the evening.

We also prepared a lot of meals ourselves in the cabin which was super relaxing. I would strongly recommend stocking up on groceries before you cross into the Ozark National Forest. It’s remote with few options.

This is a destination that I hope to return to over and over again to get my mountain on, along with other parts of Arkansas. It was perfect for a long weekend getaway! Let me know if you’ve been to the Buffalo National River area too.

By Heather Benac, May 16, 2017
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