Posted by Jessie K / Sunday, October 20, 2013 / 6 Comments / Arkansas Life , Arkansas Wildlife , Buffalo River , Hiking , Northwest Arkansas , Ozarks , Search by Region , Things to Do
The Goat Trail to Big Bluff in Ponca, AR
The Goat Trail is a narrow 3-4 foot wide ledge which runs on the edge of Big Bluff. At 550 ft. tall, Big Bluff is the tallest bluff along the Buffalo River. Big Bluff and the Goat Trail overlook the Buffalo River Valley are the destinations of a spin-off trail accessed from Centerpoint trail which is located in Ponca, AR.
It must first be said that the Goat Trail is to be taken very seriously. It is NOT FOR CHILDREN, inexperienced hikers, people who experience vertigo or a fear of heights, roughhousing or goofing around, drinking, or night hiking. This trail is NOT forgiving. One misstep could cost you your life and a number of people have in fact fallen and died from here. Most of these deaths are alcohol and night hiking related, but anyone could trip or become unbalanced here. BE CAUTIOUS, BE SLOW, AND BE MINDFUL OF EACH STEP ALONG THE WAY.
With all of THAT said, the the Goat Trail is amazing. If you respect it for what it is and hike it cautiously, it is something you will never forget! It is one helluva thrill and the view from there is one of a kind! It is probably one of the scariest but coolest things I've ever done and I officially have some hiking bragging rights under my belt!
From Ponca, drive 3 miles north on Hwy 43 to the Centerpoint Trailhead, located at the Firetower Road junction. Park in the parking lot at the trailhead.
-Centerpoint Trail Difficulty: Moderate
-Goat Trail Difficulty: Difficult. Experienced Hikers Only!
-Trail length to the start of Big Bluff trailhead from Centerpoint Trail: 2.7 miles
-Trail length from Big Bluff Trailhead off of Centerpoint to the Goat Trail: 1/4 mile
Read photo descriptions below for more info!
Centerpoint is actually a starting trailhead for the Hemmed-In-Hollow Trail which if you include the trail to Big Bluff is a total of 5.4 miles (10.8 miles roundtrip) and takes you to the tallest waterfall between the Rocky Mountains and the Appalacians! We did not complete the entire trail. Instead, we hiked the 2.7 miles to the Big Bluff trailhead and then another 1/4 mile to The Goat Trail. We came back the same way we came in which totaled almost a 6 mile hike-about 3 hours or so.
Centerpoint trail starts out fairly level and easy. It definitely gives the illusion that this could be a "pretty easy hike." This is somewhat true on the way going in, but then you'll start going downhill and then you'll keep going downhill...for a loooong way. You'll think, "oh this isn't so bad" until you realize that the hike OUT is going to be uphill almost ALL THE WAY!
I was happy to see that there were still some wildflowers growing on the trail.
This crop of mushrooms was awesome! My husband and I immediately commented on how they were as bright orange as a pumpkin! Later we found out that their scientific name is Omphalotus, but they are commonly known as the "jack-o-lantern mushroom" and they are deadly poisonous!
Found this little guy too! He rode along with me for a while :)
At .1 mile in, you'll find the trail head to Chimney Rock Trail which will take you to an old home site and to the Buffalo River. This trail will have to wait until another day for us. We had our hearts set on the Goat Trail!
Here's the start of that trail decent I mentioned earlier. This hike back out is a killer! Make sure you pack plenty of water. Here's a tip..march it out! Marching naturally makes it easier to make it up big hills!
I really like this trail because it takes you through a variety of wooded views. Sometimes the woods are crowding the trail and you feel almost like your in the jungle, and then other times your in wide open areas!
at about 2.7 miles in, you'll see this clearing in the woods. Follow the trail to the RIGHT to get to Big Bluff and the Goat Trail. You'll start to see white trail markers on the trees now as well. (see below)
The trail swings a bit to the left and you'll start to walk along the bluff line. You're almost there!
We spied this little hole in the rocks where someone(thing) has been stashing their winter gatherings.
Here is the first BIG scenic lookout point on the bluff.
This little bluffline is steep but it is NOT The Goat Trail. The trail drops down below this bluff and continues forward. However, if you have a fear of heights or just don't want to take the risk of the Goat Bluff, you can stop here and still get some great scenic views and pictures! (see below)
This little cave on the bluffline is where my husband's journey ended. He has a bit of a fear of heights and from here is where I set out to complete the Goat Trail on my own..all the while yelling back at my husband every 10 seconds or so to let him know I was still alive lol.
"See you in a minute hunny!..hopefully *gulp*"
And there it is....the Goat Trail. The narrow trail here is about 3-4 feet wide and drops straight down about 300 feet. A fall from here is almost definitely fatal.
This picture shows me against the bluffline and how much ground there is separating me from...death.
But once you find your footing and feel balanced, it's easy to forget your fears
because the view from here is amazing!
TA-DA! This is my celebratory shot at the end of The Goat Trail. Basically celebrating that I was still alive, but also that I had the courage to complete it! There is nothing NOT SCARY about this, but it's an adrenaline rush for sure, and completing it feels awesome.
Panoramic from the middle of the Goat Trail.
On the way back out we saw an Arkansas Chocolate Tarantula.
This was actually scarier to me than the Goat Trail! I have a terrible fear of spiders and this was my first time seeing a tarantula in the "wild" before. I was paranoid the whole way back!