The former community of Erbie offers a variety of hiking trails that can often be combined together for larger or shorter loops depending on what you plan for the day. Because it was a community, many of the trails feature a lot of historical sites that tell a story of the early settlers to the area.
The Cecil Cove Loop is the longest of these hikes. And as such, provides a wonderful assortment of spring-fed ponds, creeks, historic stone walls, an historic cemetary, former home sites, and a spur trail that leads to a couple of awesome waterfalls. This is a full day of nature, and historic sites that is well worth the trip. The trail is also shared by horses.
The trailhead is in the community of Erbie -- just North of Erbie Church. The simplest way to get to the Erbie trailhead is by taking the Erbie Campground Road from Highway 7 (just South of Pruitt). This road takes you past the Koen Interpretive Trail, the Ponds Loop, The Erbie Campground (currently closed), the Parker Hickman Homestead and eventually crosses the Buffalo River before heading North to the Erbie Church. However, as a general rule, if the river is floatable from Ponca, the river is going to be too high to cross unless you have a 4-wheel drive -- and even then, it's dependent on the vehicle and the driver.
The other two ways to get here are via the road from Compton that runs past the Compton Trailhead. This is a 4-wheel-drive only road after it gets past the trailheads up there and is VERY rough.
The most consistent route is coming in from Marble Falls off Highway 7, just North of the former Dogpatch location. This route is long, and mostly gravel. But is generally passable with any vehicle.
Park at the trailhead just North of the Church. The Cecil Cove Loop starts just north of this parking area by the pit toilet there.
Cecil Cove Loop
The loop starts off on what appears to be an old road trace and heads into the woods and gradually down a hill. At about . 2 the trail gets pretty steep and at .3 you run into a small pond. This area is is formed by Van Dyke Spring (which comes out of the small bluff on your left just upstream a little) and some help from the local beaver population who have damned up this stream. It's a beautiful area -- and also creates the first of two pretty challenging water crossings.
There is not really a good way to cross here (unless you're on horseback), but if you go to the right (downstream) you can often find a combination of rocks and logs to find your way across and keep your feet dry.
Once you cross, and this is IMPORTANT. Don't cross the second stream. You'll need to turn left and cross a few more rocks where the water from the pond area is flowing into the other stream (this should be a fairly easy crossing) and end up in a middle island area between the pond and the creek. You can pick up the trail here.
The trail will stay on the level and run along the edge of the pond you just crossed. The pond and the bluff opposite create a beautiful area to hike along.
At about 1.0 miles, the trail crosses the creek that has been running to your right. When the water is high, this is a tough little crossing (much easier on a horse it appears!).
But, as with the other crossing, if you go downstream a bit, there are a bunch of rocks that make for some possible boulder hopping to get a cross.
Just be careful. The rocks are often smooth from being worn by water over the centuries and sometimes wet and moss covered. If you feel like you need to bring a second pair of shoes or socks (I highly recommend extra socks) in cold weather just in case it may be a good idea.
Once you cross the creek here, things get a little easier for awhile. The trail follows on that side of Cecil Creek for awhile. It is level here and runs through the woods and generally along the creek.
At 1.4 miles, the trail crosses the creek again -- at this point the creek runs underground so this is a dry crossing. Once you cross the creek, the trail turns right and follows along the creekbed for a bit. At 1.8, it crosses the creek again (another dry crossing) and follows on the level again.
At 2.0 the trail passes an old stone wall. This is the first of many historic things you'll see along this trail. It's a well-constructed stone wall and is, in its own right, very scenic.
Just past the wall, the trail crosses the creek one last time and begins to climb the hill on the other side. At 2.2 (just a short walk up the hill), you will get to an intersection. To complete the loop, you will continue straight. However, there is a spur trail to the right that heads back to a great camp site and two amazing waterfalls. You can read about this spur trail here.
To continue on the Cecil Cove Loop continue on the trail that veers to the left and head UP the hill. This part of the trail follows an old road trace and is a pretty steep climb with about 400 feet of elevation gain.
At 2.7 miles, you'll reach Jones Cemetery.
Jones Cemetery is one of many old, abandoned cemeteries that you'll come across on trails along the Buffalo. And like the others, reading the tombstones you get feel for just how difficult life was in this area in at the turn of the last century.
Many of the tombstones are of young women, and infants, that died during child birth. It was a tough time...and really, not all that long ago.
After exploring the cemetery for awhile, continue on the trail and at 2.9 you'll see an old homestead. There isn't much left of it now except for a foundation and an old fireplace and chimney, but this is the former homesite of William Jones -- his tombstone is in the cemetery you just passed.
From here, the trail turns sharply left and continues out on the level. Soon you'll pass a stone wall on your right -- this is the Faddis-Keaton Homesite.
The trail here continues and is following an old road that would have joined the several home sites that you have passed, or will soon pass along the route, to the cemetery, and to the church that once existed at the bottom of the hill. The road follows a bench along the bluffline and is great hiking.
During leaf-off you'll see a lot of scenic views to your left and a lot of areas with large boulders. During wet season, a lot of these rocky areas become really interesting with small waterfalls and water displays.
The trail will pass another homesite -- this one includes a spring that is protected by rocks. This would have been a great source of water for the early settlers.
The trail continues along the bench -- with a steep bluff to your right, and steep-downhill to your left. Enjoy the views, and the trail.
At about 5 miles, a bluffline will begin to form on your right. At the top of that bluff is McFarrin Point. To your left is more views.
At 5.2, the trail connects with the 4WD road that runs from Compton to Erbie. Turn left on this road. If you are continuing the hike, you'll go about 800 feet and turn RIGHT back into the woods and will go down to the JW Farmer Homestead, and then connect with the end of the Goat Bluff Trail and then back to Erbie.
Because both times I've hiked this trail it has been winter with very short days, I've been chasing daylight (and a little tired from the uphill climb) and we've opted instead to follow the the road down the hill directly to the trailhead in Erbie. To do that, it is 1.2 miles back to the trailhead and the road is not often used and is actually a very nice hike. If you complete the route by taking the road, the entire loop is about 6.4 miles.
Cecil Cove Loop Hike Details
Total Distance (if you take the road back to trailhead): 6.4 miles
Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult due to distance, water crossings and elevation change
Footwear: Hiking Boots
Kids: Older would be ok
Guidebook: Tim Ernst's Buffalo River Hiking Trails
Rating: 4 stars out of 5