Sunday, January 19, 2014

Pam's Grotto, Arkansas Ozarks

01-19-2014 Pam's Grotto Falls

GPS Coordinates:
  Pam's Grotto: N35.68330, W93.25539
  Parking: N35.67971, W93.25214

Pet friendly: Iffy.  OK for pets on or off leash.
Motorcycle friendly: Yes.  Parking is right off Highway 123.

This is a nice little waterfall tucked away in a hidden grotto. It is a fairly short 
Pam's Grotto Falls
(about a mile round trip), easy hike and no GPS is needed.  Today my wife Bethany, my normal hiking partner, and I were joined by son Scott as well as my brother Tom and his wife Jeannette.

It was a bright sunny January day and we were looking for a quick hike to a fascinating area before our guests returned home to Oklahoma and Arizona.  Pam's Grotto Falls fits the bill nicely since we only had a couple of hours to kill.

Parking Across Road From Trailhead
To get to the trail head, go to Haw Creek Falls Campground on Hwy 123.  From there, go 0.5 miles east, and there is a pull-off to a parking spot by Haw Creek (photo at right).  Go across the road and to the right will be a small creek that passes through a culvert under the highway and into Haw Creek.  This is actually the creek that Pam's Grotto Falls is on.  Go to the right side of the creek, and there will be a trail going up the mountain.  

Trail Head Location
On my first trip to this waterfall, my directions were to "take the trail next to the creek".  There is indeed a path right next to the creek and I jumped on it.  Unfortunately this is NOT the trail you want.  The trail next to the creek disappears in a short distance.  Once I had lost the trail, I just used my GPS to try to find the falls.  Unfortunately, this took me across the creek and up the mountain on a very steep slope, difficult bushwhack, and generally heart attack inducing slog.  Stupid me - don't do that.  Once I approached the falls from the west, I realized my mistake since my directions said I should have followed the bluff line west to get there.  I reversed that and found the correct path back down the mountain.  This is a much easier path that zig-zags across the face of the slope to make for an easy hike.  At any rate, this was a lesson I remembered and today we took the correct trail up the mountain for a much easier hike.

view From Behind Falls 
The trail zig-zags up the mountain to the base of a cliff-like bluff line.  Once you reach this bluff you are about half way there.  This is different than most Ozark waterfalls in that you get all the uphill hiking in at the start and get to go downhill on the way back.  Once at the bluff, go left and follow the bluff line around to the left for roughly a quarter mile.  There is a short decent to the grotto area, which is a fairly large shelter style cave.  From this side of the grotto, the waterfall is mostly hidden behind a house size boulder.  You have to do a little scrambling over rocks to get to the falls; keep the inside cave wall on your right and you will find a fairly easy way over the rocks along that cave wall.  Once you go between the cave wall and the very large boulder it opens up to a large open area with the waterfall right in the middle, flowing into an emerald pool and down to the creek below.

Although the shelter is fairly large, the creek has eroded the top of the rock down to a "V" that the creek flows out of into and the center of the shelter floor. The water falls ~37 feet into the pool below.

Scott, Rick, and Bethany
Tom and Jeannette
All in all, this was a great hike, great company, and not a bad way to get a little exercise.  We also got to show off some beautiful Arkansas wilderness to our out-of-state visitors.  While you are in the area, remember that Haw Creek Falls is just a half mile down the road.  While not a particularly tall waterfall (6 feet at the highest section), it is always beautiful, even in low water conditions.  You can drive right to the Haw Creek Campground which is literally right next to the falls.
Haw Creek Falls

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