Hiking Big Bluff along the Goat Trail is most definitely not for those who are afraid of heights! The Goat Trail takes hikers along the narrow edge of Big Bluff with a sheer vertical drop to the Buffalo National River in northern Arkansas. However, if you can overcome your fear of heights the trail provides some of the best views of the river and of the Ozark Mountains.
The Goat Trail is a short spur trail which takes hikers from the Centerpoint Trail to Big Bluff and the magnificent views.
Tim Ernst produces a good book, “Buffalo River Hiking Trails,” with detailed trail descriptions of the area. Also I highly suggest bringing a map, the trails can be tricky. National Geographic makes an excellent one.
Finding the Trailhead
There are several ways to hike to Big Bluff and the Goat Trail, but probably the easiest and the shortest is via the Centerpoint Trailhead. When departing from this trailhead, the hike is about three miles one way to Big Bluff.
The trailhead for the Centerpoint Trail is about 3.5 miles north of Ponca on Highway 43 on the east side of the highway (the right-hand side if you are driving up from Ponca).
Trailhead to Goat Trail
After departing the trailhead the Centerpoint Trail follows an old roadbed and is a wide and easy trail. It begins heading gently downhill along the ridgeline for about a mile.
Around mile one the trail begins to drop steeply off the ridge. Hikers continue descending, about 600 feet for the next 1.75 miles.
Water always finds the easiest way, and in some places if flows right down the trail, which is actually an old roadbed. After rains or during spring, you sometimes find yourself hiking through a creek.
Watch for spur trails that parallel the old roadbed. They provide a drier alternative. However they can be extremely muddy. I found my trekking poles to come in handy along with the wet and muddy parts of the trail.
The Goat Trail to Big Bluff
The Goat Trail veers off to the left of the Centerpoint Trail at mile 2.75. There is a great backcountry camping spot at this trail intersection. Those wanting to get some epic sunset or sunrise shots from Big Bluff should consider camping here.
The Goat Bluff Trail skirts along the ridge with a few natural steps. You will soon find yourself among Cedar Trees that seem to grow right out of the rock as well as on the edge of the
From the bottom Big Bluff looks like a sheer-faced cliff, however, the trail takes hikers along a ledge carved into the bluff. At some places, the ledge is pretty narrow and at other places, it can be about 10-feet wide.
There are some places that require you to hoist yourself up with your hands and other places require you to grab hold of or brace against trees.
One part of the Goat Trail along Big Bluff gives you the option of literally climbing through the rock! But if you don’t like tight spaces, there is another way around at that point.
The views from Big Bluff along the Goat Trail are unmatched to anything I’ve ever seen in Arkansas. And despite its making my heart beat little faster than normal, I do love to hike along its ledge.
After you enjoy your time on the Goat Trail and Big Bluff, you can either double back to the Centerpoint Trailhead or continue down to the Buffalo River via the Centerpoint Trail.
If you do choose to extend your hike, there are some great things to see along the way, like Granny Henderson’s Cabin and Hemmend-In Hollow. But just remember, that you either have to hike back up to the Centerpoint Trailhead or shuttle between another trailhead before hand.
- 3.25 miles one way
- Elevation gain about 1,030 feet on the hike back
- Trail surface can be wet and muddy
- Dogs not allowed
- Backcountry is camping allowed
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