Arkansas is a land of many natural wonders, and the Goat Bluff Hike is one of its best-kept secrets. This moderate hike begins at the trailhead on Highway 154 near Widener and winds its way through the Ozark National Forest before reaching the bluff lookout. The view from the top is well worth the effort, as panoramic vistas of Richland Creek Valley and the surrounding ridges are visible in all directions. Wildlife abounds in this area, so be on the lookout!
Despite living in Texas for as long as we have, neither of us had truly visited Arkansas before the lockdowns, and international travel restrictions forced us to explore our own backyard more. While we wish we had explored locally more without a global pandemic, we are happy to say we have found some new favorites!
Arkansas might not be on the top list of states for outdoor lovers, but there is a reason Arkansas is sometimes referred to as The Nature State. If this is your first time looking at Arkansas, let us tell you there is something for all outdoor lovers. If you are looking for overnight hikes, look no further than Eagle Rock Loop; if you want some of the most stunning vistas in the south, the Ouachita National Forest and the Ozarks have miles and miles of hikes for you.
Recently we stumbled upon the Goat Trail to Big Bluff, which is one of our favorite hikes in Arkansas. While some of the other trails in the state, like Eagle Rock Loop, require an overnight stay or some quick pace, Goat Trail, while not easy by any means, should be doable for most hikers.
CenterPoint Trail to Goat Trail to Big Bluff
The trail to Big Bluff covers 5.9 miles roundtrip with an elevation gain of 1,076 feet. While the official distance is 5.9 miles on All Trails, our GPS tracked us at just shy of 7 miles. This is partly due to their not being an official end to the trail, but instead, once you get to the bluff overview, the trail continues to follow the Buffalo River.
You start the hike at the CenterPoint trailhead in Compton, Arkansas, before splitting off onto the Goat Trail, which takes you to Big Bluff, a remarkable, rocky bluff. It’s an out-and-back hike, so you will return the same way you came.
Most hikers will stop once they get to the overview, but we highly recommend pushing on a bit more to get some of the best views you will see in Arkansas! This part of the trail is rocky, and we would warn caution if you have small children since it is a steep drop-off on one side.
One important thing to mention about this trail is its name. Technically this route is the CenterPoint Trail to the Goat Trail to Big Bluff, which is why it is marked at just 5.9 miles on many websites. Technically the Big Bluff trail portion isn’t listed on many online trail postings. Even though the Big Bluff trail portion is the part, most people refer to when they post photos or reference this trail.
We want to make that very clear since when just searching for this trail, different ones come up, and sometimes, they do not reference the correct parts to hike.
CenterPoint Trailhead Parking
Parking is limited at the trailhead so if you are visiting during the weekend, especially in the cooler months of Spring/Fall, then get there early. The parking lot has around 15 spots if everyone parks correctly, and if you do not see any, you are out of luck. We must advise against street parking since we have heard of tickets and towing due to how little of a street curb there is.
Once you find your parking spot and get ready for the hike, the trailhead is well marked, and it is easy to know where the start of the trail is. This is unlike some of the other trails we have done in Arkansas, where it was an adventure finding the beginning of the trail.
Most of the CenterPoint trail is forested; if you are like us hiking in the middle of summer, you will appreciate the shade. On this point, we want to highlight that if you are hiking as we did in the middle of June, prepare for a hot Arkansas summer day and bring bug spray since the flies and mosquitos are out!
The trail is easy except for a specific portion of very rocky terrain that will be a fun time when you head back out to the car since it is quite an incline. We always recommend hiking poles for safety, which came in handy during this descent.
Our hike turned into an adventure an hour in when we ran into a fallen tree that had not been cleared yet, but luckily, it was an easy scramble to get through. A little after the fallen tree is when we get to the split on the trail directing you to continue on CenterPoint Trail or head towards the Goat Trail!
This is where the trail gets fun, and the scenery gets a lot better for the rest of the hike. The entire first half of the trail is through an Arkansas forest which, while unique, doesn’t offer great views.
Once you get to the Big Bluff view is where the real fun starts, but as mentioned earlier, a big word of caution since this entire portion is a sharp drop-off with a long way to the bottom. This is also the part of the hike that doesn’t have an end which is why our GPS clocked us closer to 7 miles than the 5.9 mentioned on All Trails.
We recommend keeping going on the rocky ledge until you pass a window shaped into the ledge since right after that, you get a perfect spot to sit down, get a snack out and enjoy the views!
The hike out is mostly unassuming, but get ready for some leg burn on the rocky portion back out, and depending on the time of day, be prepared with plenty of water!
We cannot recommend Goat Trail to Big Bluff enough, it is truly one of the best hikes we have done in Arkansas, and we loved how even in the middle of summer, we only saw a handful of people the entire time. Multiple times, we hiked alone without seeing anyone, which made being out in nature so much better.