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Buffalo National River Trail, AR
Huckleberries are fine eating anywhere, but I like ’em best along the Buffalo River. They taste of blue rock, black dirt that nurtures fat mushrooms, seeps lined with dark-green sedges, and turquoise river water. That’s a lot to fit in a berry, but spend some time hiking the Buffalo National River Trail and you’ll know what I mean.
Eventually, the Buffalo Trail will extend 100 miles, but for now the longest section open (from Ponca to the Pruitt trailhead) makes an excellent five-day, 50-mile adventure. From Ponca, the Buffalo Trail meanders along high ground overlooking the river. Vistas are long and deep, especially in winter when the leaves have fallen, and the cliffs and outcrops seem even more imposing.
Be sure to check out some of the loop trails, such as Hemmed-In Hollow and Cecil Cove, which cross wildflower glades, climb waterfalls, and pass caves and secluded springs where streams are born.
If you prefer to paddle, try the highly recommended five-day trip from Maumee to Buffalo City. At the least, hikers can catch shuttles back to their starting point for a fee.
Where: 154 miles (21/2 hours) northwest of Little Rock and 450 miles (7 hours) northeast of Dallas. The Ponca trailhead is 1 mile south of Ponca on AR 43.
Maps:Buffalo River Hiking Trails Guidebook ($19.95, Wilderness Visions Press, 800-838-4453) is an excellent guide.
Trail Info: Tim Ernst, Ozark Highlands Trail Association, (501) 442-2799. For canoe rental and shuttle, contact Buffalo Outdoor Center in Ponca, (800) 221-5514.