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The more and more we make the drive over to the Buffalo National River, the more and more I fall in love with that part of Arkansas. The mountains, the wildlife (including elk), the farmland, the beauty of the river itself… It’s quite a peaceful spot in the Natural State.
While the river lends itself to all sorts of recreational opportunities, there are also numerous hiking trails to be explored. One of our first hikes in the area was Lost Valley. More recently, we discovered Villines Homestead Trail.
Where to Find Villines Homestead Trail
If we were just passing by, I’d never know there’s an entire homestead hidden among the trees just up the hill from the river. Cross the Ponca Low-Water Bridge next to the Highway 74 bridge, and make your way past the gate and up the path.
You’ll soon come to a fork in the trail, both paths leading to different parts of the homestead.
If you take the fork to the left, you’ll come upon a very old double-pen log house. The doors are open, and you can peer inside where you’ll see a fireplace, an old bed, and other odds and ends.
Behind the house sits a smokehouse, chicken coop, root cellar and an outhouse. Farther behind the house is a former sorghum field and former peach orchard.
Make your way down the hill, or take the fork to the right. That’s where you’ll come to the barn and corn crib, which are both open and easy to get a peek inside.
Apparently, James Villines moved to this farm with his bride, Sarah Arbaugh, in 1882. All who knew James knew him as Beaver Jim because of his skill at trapping. A fact I find fascinating is that as far as we know, not one single picture of Beaver Jim exists. He was born and raised in Boxley Valley, and he lived out the rest of his life on this homestead. According to one sign, he liked to take summer naps in the cool of his root cellar.
Trails like this are a history buff’s haven. Even though things are pretty dilapidated, there are still signs of those who lived and worked this farm.
Know Before You Go
Villines Homestead Trail is about half a mile round trip and pretty easy to hike. You’ll gain about 50 feet in elevation. The trail is unpaved, mostly dirt and grass.
There is one sign saying it’s unlawful to enter, which was a little confusing because all of the doors are open, and there are signs up next to the door of the house saying not to take anything, as if it’s OK to go inside. So, maybe err on the side of caution and just peer in from the outside.
There are no restrooms along the way, but there is a vault toilet in the parking lot back across the Ponca Low-Water Bridge.
Have you hiked Villines Homestead Trail? Share your experience in a comment!
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