During the wet season, Northwest Arkansas has a lot of amazing waterfalls. They range from massively tall pour-offs like the 209 foot tall Hemmed In Hollow, to shorter, interesting falls like Six Finger Falls, to even amazing falls like Big Creek Cave Falls that pour right out of a cave. The variety of the waterfalls lets everyone have a different "favorite" -- and they're all right!
But one area that is a favorite of nearly every Arkansas waterfall-hunter is a polyfos area commonly referred to as the Bear Creek Waterfalls -- which is a series of waterfalls on (or near) Bear Creek in Pope County. This is an amazing area during the wet season and features six (or more) photo-worthy waterfalls -- and each is completely unique.
This area had been on our list for awhile, but because it's a bushwack, and there are only a few write-ups about the area, it was a bit intimidating because not all bushwacks are as easy to follow as others.
But this area is pretty easy to find during the peak season (during wet conditions, winter through early spring), and the trail, while not maintained, was easy enough to follow to what quickly become one of my favorite areas of the Ozarks and one that I'm eager to return to.
From Highway 7 in Pelsor/Sand Gap (28 miles south of Jasper and 29 miles north of Dover), turn WEST/South onto Highway 123 toward Haw Creek Campground. Go 4.7 miles and turn LEFT onto a fairly well maintained gravel road that is Forest Road 1802/1805, County Road 14/61 or also known as Treat Road or I've even seen it called Meadow's Knob Road. This is the road to get to Buzzard Roost and has 6 different names depending on the map you're using. There was no sign with any of the road names when we were there in spring 2017, but there have been signs there in the past.
Go down this road 2.2 miles and there is a little ATV road on the right (Marked with a metal sign at ground level as 93179A). If you have a reasonably high-clearance vehicle you can turn onto this road and park in a small parking area on the ATV road. If not, you may want to park on the main road -- there is a wide spot in the road so there should be room.
The trail starts down the ATV road. After a short, comfortable walk, the road comes to a large open field on the RIGHT.
The trail enters the woods toward the back (west side) of this field. My recommendation is to follow the road to the far side of the field, then turn right and follow the woods-line until you hit an obvious trail. The trail was fairly well worn when we were there, and will likely be marked with sticks forming an arrow, or a rock cairn.
There is an upland swamp just beyond the trail which is definitely worth checking out. If you find the upland swamp first, the trail begins shortly to your LEFT as you look at the upland swamp.
The trail starts into the woods and quickly leads to a scramble down in a ravine. The trail then turns right and starts heading down the hill.
To your left is a small creek that takes excess water from the upland swamp and down to Bear Creek. The trail essentially follows this small creek/drainage all the way to the larger Bear Creek that waits below. As long as you stay on the right side of the creek there should be an easy-ish-to-follow volunteer trail that is relatively free of undergrowth.
The trail continues down the hill, picks up a part of an an old road trace, then leaves the trace, and then jumps back on it again. At the point where the trail leaves the road trace there is a nice little waterfall to the left. This waterfall is officially unnamed and not one of the featured falls on the trail -- but it is a nice find along the trail. Rick Henry called this "Halfway Falls" because at this point you're about half way to Bear Creek.
The trail continues down the hill and through a little campsite and then ends up at the top of Sidewinder Falls. This area is incredible.
Sidewinder is 21 feet tall and is the first of the series of waterfalls we explored along Bear Creek. As the name suggests, it pours off through a turn in the rocks and into a a simply amazing canyon. Swamp Falls (which pours off from the creek we followed down the hill) is also visible pouring off into the ravine at this spot (You can catch a glimpse of it in the top center of this photo)
From this spot, we first followed Bear Creek upstream.
At .1 miles upstream from Sidewinder Falls is Baby Bear Falls. Baby Bear Falls tumbles about 12 feet into a beautiful pool of water.
After exploring around Baby Bear Falls, we went back downstream to catch a peak at what waited for us down there.
First, we stopped off to get a better look at Swamp Falls. Swamp Falls is a 19 foot tall waterfall that pours into a deep canyon. The water from this falls originated at the upland swamp where this journey started.
As you make your way downstream from here, follow along the side of the creek you arrived on and continue making your way down. There is a nicely worn path here and it is very treacherous on the opposite side of the creek.
The trail runs above the canyon and crosses the creek that makes Swamp Falls that we followed down. During the spring, there are amazing wildflowers in this area as well. Be sure to watch your step as to not damage these beautiful flowers.
The trail then drops down the hill and on the backside of the canyon that formed near Sidewinder Falls. The trail runs along here for a bit -- there are some other interesting small water features in this area.
Just a bit further downstream is the 10 foot tall V-Slot Falls. V-Slot Falls is a falls that flows around a large boulder that has wedged itself in the middle of the creek. During higher water, the water flows on both sides of the rock forming an interesting "V".
The water here then forms a super-interesting slot canyon. There are not many slot canyons in Arkansas -- and this one is particularly scenic.
From here, the trail loops around the top of the hill again and around this slot canyon. It then dips back down to creek level. Once reaching the creek, turn RIGHT and head back upstream
Upstream about 75 yards or so is Slot Pool Falls. This falls isn't very tall (guessing about 12 feet or so), but pours out of the end of the slot canyon into a beautiful blue pool in what is an amazing canyon area.
In total, only a few hundred yards separate Baby Bear Falls (upstream) with Sidewinder, Swamp Falls, V-Slot and Slot Pool Falls downstream. So while in the area, I highly recommend taking them all in. As noted before, all are unique falls and add to the beauty of the area.
From here, we simply retraced our steps and hiked back to the parking area. The hike out is pretty steep -- with more than 750 feet in elevation gain climbing out. So while it's fairly short, it will take your breath away -- so take your time.
This area is simply one of the most scenic waterfall areas in Arkansas -- and easily among the ones I'm excited to return to. There is also a lot of other exploring to be done in the area.
One additional note; this area is super-slick with a lot of steep drops and falls. As with all waterfall areas, be very careful and be sure you have secure footing to risk slipping and falling. Enjoy safely.
Distance: Approximately 3.2 miles round trip
Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult -- mostly due to slick surfaces near the creek and the 750 feet of elevation gain.
Trail Guide: Tim Ernst's Arkansas Waterfalls. Also, Rick Henry has a nice overview of this one at his place.
Footwear: Hiking boots that can grip slick surfaces
Rating: 5 of 5
Photos from our hike on April 14, 2017.