Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Buzzards Roost Scenic Area, Arkansas Ozarks near Treat, Arkansas

11/8/2016 - Buzzards Roost

GPS Coordinates:  (Latitude,  Longitude,  Elevation)
  Parking Location:  35.63647   -93.15814,  1738 ft.
  Buzzards Roost:  35.63387   -93.13344,  1462 ft.
  Small natural bridge:  35.63423   -93.13349,  1466 ft.
  Large natural bridge:  35.63538   -93.13317,  1420-1471 ft.

Pet Friendly:  Dogs off leash may be okay, but there are some areas they may have difficulty getting in and out of.  The trail to Buzzards Roost is wide open and easy, but at the top of the Buzzards Roost bluff, there is a maze of crevasses and rounded rock tops that could get them in trouble, assuming they would be willing to jump out on them at all.  It is best to go around the ends and explore from the bottom.

Motorcycle Friendly:  Nope.  This is many miles on dirt roads, some of them not so good dirt roads.  You do not want to take a big bike on these roads.

Hiking Statistics:  Boomer and I ended up hiking 6.2 miles, with a highest-to-lowest elevation difference of only 400 feet.  That being said, we went up and down that elevation gain several times while we explored "off track" on several side hikes.  The hike from the parking location to Buzzards Roost is only two miles each way with an elevation gain of just under 300 feet.  I would rate it as an easy hike.  The hike to the top of the large natural bridge is also fairly easy, with a short scramble down a small hill at the end.  The hike to the bottom of the large natural bridge, on the other hand, is a bushwhack all the way and I would rate it as moderately difficult.

GPS files (.gpx format) - Maps of the GPS track are at the bottom of this post.
  Buzzards Roost hike track - from parking location to Buzzards Roost
  Buzzards Roost to top of large natural bridge track
  Buzzards Roost to bottom of large natural bridge track

Large Natural Bridge - view from the base
Today is election day.  Thanks to the miracle of early voting, I got that out of my 
system two weeks ago.  That left me free today to get out of town, out of cell phone range, and away from anything as aggravating as election coverage.  We are still in the throes of a ridiculously long dry spell, so there is virtually no water in the waterfalls.  Lately, I have been getting out in the woods in previously unexplored areas looking for where waterfalls will be if we ever get rain again in our lifetime.  But today, I wanted to go out and destress a little; I wanted a good hike with stuff to actually see at the end of the hike.  Buzzards Roost fits that bill very well.  It is an awesome area, with a maze of crevasses, caves, and tunnels, awesome views, and not one, but two natural bridges!  Boomer and I loaded up early and got out of "civilization" before the polling places ever opened.

Parking - at Maupin Flat Road and
start of trail
To get there, you can take different routes depending on where you are coming from.  If coming from Dover, go 12.4 miles north from the Dover town square (intersection of Highways 7 and 27), and turn left onto OLD Highway 7 (That's right, boys and girls, Highway 7 used to be routed over to Longpool Road).  Go 1.4 miles on OLD Highway 7 and turn right onto Treat Road (FR-1805).  Go 7.6 miles on Treat Road, then bear right (north) onto Maupin Flat Road (also FR-1805).  Go another 3.0 miles on Maupin Flat Road and arrive at the parking location.  

Parking on National Forest land
view from Maupin Flat Road
I live just north of Dover, so the directions above are the route I take.  If you are coming from Clarksville or Jasper/Harrison, OR if you just want fewer miles on single-lane dirt roads, go to the parking location from Highway 123 as follows;  From Pelsor/Sand Gap, go 4.6 miles southwest and turn left onto Meadows Knob Road (FR-1802).  OR, from Hagerville, go 22.0 miles northeast and turn right onto Meadows Knob Road.  Go 3.0 miles on Meadows Knob Road and bear left (more straight, actually) onto Maupin Flat Road (FR-1805).  Go anther 3.5 miles south on Maupin Flat Road to the parking location.  

Huge rocks, just hangin out...
It is four miles less on dirt roads if you go up to Highway 123 and come to the parking location that way.  If that makes a big difference to you, I would recommend this route.  It does not matter to me, as Agnetha,  my FJ Cruiser, likes to get out on the dirt roads anyway.  I live just north of Dover and it cuts quite a few miles off the trip for me to use the first route above.  The parking location is marked where the trail intersects Maupin Flat Road, almost directly opposite a house.  You can park anywhere along the road, and there is room next to the trail for a vehicle.  This section of road has private property along the road, so please be cognizant of the property owner's rights.  In fact, the National Forest boundary signs are about 50 feet or so down the trail.  There is room next to the trail to park, but I find it better now to drive a bit down the trail and actually park where I know it is public land.  Beware, if you do this - there is a mud hole about two feet deep on the trail near the road.

The trail - wide, clear and easy
Start hiking down this trail, which is shown on the Forest Service maps as a logging road but hasn't been used for that in a long, long, time.  It is used by ATV's enough to keep the vegetation down and make for very easy hiking.  Could you just drive a Jeep or my FJ Cruiser down it and save some walking?  Very, very iffy.  There are enough big rocks and tight places you end up going slower than hiking.  There is also a tree partially down across the trail about six feet high, so I'm not taking the FJ through that.  At any rate, isn't hiking what you are here for?  If you don't want to hike, there are a lot of places in the Ozarks you can take that pretty Jeep to see fantastic scenery without getting off the pavement.

Buzzards Roost
The parking location is just below the top of a mountain called Umphers Knob.  The trail winds along near the top of the mountain, maintaining about the same elevation.  There are some ups and downs, but for the most part, it stays on the level until the last part of the hike.  Just stay on this old road and after about the 1.2 mile point, it starts going downhill and the roadbed gets a lot rougher.  Today, Boomer and I took a couple of the tracks leading off of one side or the other to do a little exploring, but you want to keep on this main trail all the way down to where you come to a roundish cleared area at the end of the ridge and the old logging road seems to disappear.  Keep going straight through this area that people have used as a campsite, and you will find a volunteer trail down the slope ahead.  It is just a short trip down this trail to Buzzards Roost.  My GPS logged 1.99 miles from the parking location to the rocks at Buzzards Roost, going both directions.  

On your way down that short hike from the end of the knob, look off to your left as you approach Buzzards Roost and you will see a natural bridge.  While very cool, this is, in fact, a very small natural bridge compared to the huge one a couple hundred yards across the drainage to the north.  We'll come back to the bridges later.  Buzzards Roost itself needs a little exploring first.  This area is kind of like the Devil's Playground area on steroids.  From the top, there are a number of rounded rock spires that may have you wanting to do a bunch of rock hopping.  Be very, very careful if you do.  I wouldn't hesitate to bring children here, but I wouldn't let them anywhere close to the top area.  There are just too many very dangerous areas they may not be able to detect that would result in falling down a deep crevice.  

Buzzards Roost
You can hike down around either side of this rock jungle to the get below the bluffline that Buzzards Roost is part of.  From the base of the rocks, you can get into all the caves, tunnels, and crevasses.  If you do take kids they will love it, and from ground level at the base of the bluff, they can explore at will safely.  The same goes for dogs.  Boomer is somewhat smarter than I am when it comes to these things and wouldn't go out on the top of the rocks.  But below, he ran around with no hesitation.  A couple of times I had to get down on all fours to go where he did, but he did lead me into some very interesting areas.

Small Natural Bridge
Getting back to the other attractions in this area, the natural bridges, the small one is easy.  It's right there next to the Buzzards Roost outcropping and is easily accessible.  The large one is not quite as easy, at least to get to the bottom.  If all you want to do is get to where you can view the top of it, there is an easy way to get there.  As you approached Buzzards Roost, you may have noticed another trail branching off to your left; that's the one you want.  Backtrack to the knob area and start going back down the trail the way you come.  Take the first side trail on the right.  This goes down the ridge to the north of Buzzards Roost (see the Topo map below).  You will soon come to another trail branching off on the right, leading downhill to the bluff.  Take this trail and it will take you right to the top of the tall bluff with the large natural bridge in front of you.  It's an easy hike, but be careful with small children along the top of the bluff.

Large Natural Bridge - view from top of bluff
Getting to where you can view the large natural bridge from the bottom is a bit more difficult, but can be done with a little effort.  First, get below the bluffline that Buzzards Roost and the small natural bridge are on.  You can do that right below the small bridge, or by bushwhacking around to the apex of the drainage and then following the center of the drainage down to the base of the bluff.  Keeping the base of the bluff on your left, follow the drainage around to the north.  On the north side of the drainage, you can hike right along the base of the bluff fairly easily and will soon come to the large natural bridge.  This is a rough bushwhack all the way, but I like the view from underneath the bridge better.  Just as we approached the bottom of the bridge, it actually started raining on us.  There is a shallow cave right at the base of the bridge that Boomer and I took shelter in for a few minutes.

Large Natural Bridge - view from below
As I mentioned before, Boomer and I did a lot of "off track" exploring.  You never know what you will find in the Ozarks, so we logged a couple three miles more going down some side trails and doing some impromptu bushwhacking.  We went to both the top and bottom of the large natural bridge.  This hike is easy, without a lot of elevation difference, leaving us with plenty of energy for the extra mileage.  After getting our fill of the awesome, expansive views and the cool features in the area, we headed back.  Going back is uphill, but it's only a little less than 300 feet and stretched out over the first half mile or so.  All in all, I would call this an easy to moderate hike.  Unless you go to the bottom of the large bridge, there is hardly any bushwhacking involved.  Best of all, you get all this awesomeness whether there is a drought or not.  I'll be looking at some other spots like this on my go-to list until we get some rain.  I would highly recommend this hike for everyone.

GPS Track - Maupin Flat Road to Buzzards Roost

GPS tracks to the large natural bridge
Blue - route to top of bridge
Yellow - route to bottom of bridge


  1. This is another great one. I think our dog saved our lives here as we were getting ready to jump over a fallen log at the top of the bluff (heading down to the bottom on the right) and he started acting goofy and whining. At first I suspected he saw a snake, but there was a hornets nest on the other side of the tree we just about stepped on. We quickly found our way around. Such a fun area and the large natural bridge is definitely an under-appreciated Arkansas landmark.

    1. Wow, another really good reason to take your dog with you. Boomer has a better sense of what routes are safe than I do. He sometimes just bows up and won't go the way I want to, and after I look at it from a different perspective, he is almost always right.