The first mile of the trail at Lost
Valley will seem like a stroll through the park. Anyone can do it. There's a
wide, well-maintained gravel walking path that is fairly level. It follows a
rocky streambed through hardwood forest and is lined with wildflowers, ferns,
lichen-covered fallen logs and interesting rocks. Watch for a large bluff
shelter along your way.
This tiny valley of Clark Creek, a
tributary of the Buffalo River, is sheltered and secluded and, even though it
sees a lot of use in high visitor seasons, it can give walkers who can't manage
some of the more difficult trails a taste of wilderness experience on foot.
At the top of this stretch is a natural
bridge, a rock arch through which the creek pours, making a small falls
surrounded by a bluff and huge boulders. The clear, round pool of water is an
inviting place to stop and you can walk around on the ledge of the bluff and get
right up to the falls. It's one of the prettiest spots you'll see on any hike in
the Ozarks, so be sure you carry your camera along.
From there, the last half mile of trail
is a steep climb up the side of the hill that ends at a cave. Take a flashlight
with you if you're going on. You'll need it to explore the inside of the cave,
which is about 200 feet long and ends in a large room with a 35 foot waterfall.
Lost Valley has a history. According to
old-timers, it was once home to the granny woman who was the midwife and herbal
remedy healer for everyone in the area. While the mouth of the valley opens out
into the wide and easily traversed Boxley valley, the back side is much more
rugged. To reach those who lived on the mountain or the other side, she would
climb up above the natural bridge on foot and someone would meet her there with
a horse. Imagine, as you return by the same path, what it would have been like
to be walking back down this path at night after being called to the far side of
the mountain to deliver a new baby. It'll give you a new appreciation of what
life was like for those who lived along the Buffalo before the days of cars and