Arkansas’ nickname of the “Natural State” might grab the attention of hikers in search of solitude, but it’s the hidden wilderness waterfalls that truly draw wilderness lovers. Whether sprinkling, cascading or thundering, waterfalls accent the bluff lines throughout northwest Arkansas’ forests. Nature photographer, hiker, spelunker and trail advocate Tim Ernst lists no fewer than 134 waterfalls in his “Arkansas Waterfall Guidebook.” This means there’s something for everyone, but a few waterfalls stand out for their unique characteristics.
Lost Valley Waterfalls
With bluffs stretching to the sky below and mazes of boulders dotting the landscape, it’s easy to feel as if you’ve hiked into the “Land of the Lost” while exploring Lost Valley. A moderately easy hiking trail leads to Lower Eden Falls, arguably one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Arkansas. During high water, it’s hard to hear yourself talk over the thunderous rush of water as it spirals past fern-covered ledges and pours along the base of Cobb Cave. The hike also provides views of Middle Eden falls, a smaller waterfall cascading beneath a natural rock bridge, and a series of falls dubbed Armadillo Falls if you’re willing to hike a bit off the path. Better yet, a slightly more strenuous hike to Eden Falls Cave will lead you to an underground waterfall that pours almost magically from the cave’s rock ceiling. This remains one of the few underground waterfalls open to recreational caving.
Hemmed In Hollow
The hike to Hemmed in Hollow is not for the faint of heart, but visitors claim this difficult hike is worth the exertion. Those who brave the steep and rocky five-mile round-trip hike are reworded with the tallest waterfall in existence between the Appalachian and Rocky mountains. The waterfall has been reported to plummet between 210 and 220 feet – few people would likely squabble over the difference. Another beauty, Diamond Falls hides just around the corner from Hemmed in Hollow Falls. Both falls have received five-star beauty ratings from Tim Ernst.
Glory Hole almost qualifies as an underground waterfall, although you won’t have to go spelunking to view this beauty. Glory Hole is one mile off Highway 16 near the town of Deer, a short but strenuous hike. This leads to a waterfall that plunges more than 30 feet through a large opening in a cliff-side grotto. What’s best, you can view this waterfall from above or below if you are willing to add a short side-trek.
Although the Arkansas River Valley isn’t bursting with as many waterfalls as the Arkansas Ozarks, the region still boats a handful of nice falls. One favorite of locals and tourists is Cedar Falls, located at the base of a forest pathway constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s and maintained by Petit Jean State Park. This 95-foot waterfall received a beauty rating of 5 – the highest ranking possible – from Tim Ernst. Don’t expect to have the place to yourself, but the scattered boulders and rocks provide ample room for your own space, privacy and perhaps a picnic. If you don’t care to picnic, you can rest and replenish after your hike at the restaurant and lodge that sits at the entrance to the Cedar Valley Trail. As an extra bonus, you can view the fall from a wide, well-constructed boardwalk above. The boardwalk is wheelchair-friendly, making Cedar Falls one of the few magnificent waterfalls in Arkansas that is accessible to anyone.