Monday, January 27, 2014

Sandstone Castle, Richland Wilderness, Arkansas

1/26/2014 - Hike to Sandstone Castles

GPS Coordinates:
  Parking:  35.84146, -92.98413
  Trail Head on NC5080:  35.84189, -92.98472
  Sandstone Castles:  35.81647, -92.97268
  Rock Wall:  35.82412, -92.98407
  Another Rock Wall:  35.82039, -92.97832

Pet friendly: Yes.  Be aware there are a number of trees down on the trail and other obstacles that might challenge a smaller dog on a leash.

Motorcycle friendly: No.  Getting to the parking area takes about seven miles on rough gravel forest service roads.  I wouldn't take my Harley there.

GPS files:
  GPS track file, trail head to Sandstone Castles (.gpx format)
  Route file (.anr format)

The Sandstone Castles are actually a series of caves cut into the rock of the
Sandstone Castles
bluff at the top of the ridge overlooking Big Devil's Fork and Long Devil's Fork high above where they join at Twin Falls of Richland.  The caves have 'windows' overlooking the valley below.  Legend has it this place was used by criminals and civil war deserters to hide out from the Law.  I'm betting that strategy was highly successful.  This is one of those places that if you know where it is, it is easy to get to and easy to find.  If you don't know how to get there, it can be quite challenging to find.  My wife Bethany and I set out today to spend a fun day in the wilderness and record enough details to make this as easy as possible to find.

'Window' in Sandstone Castle
To get there, take Highway 7 north and turn onto Highway 123 north at Lurton.  From the 'T' where you can turn left to Hwy 7 or right to Hwy 123, turn right and go 1.5 miles.  Turn right on NC5070 (aka FR-1200, aka CR-36, aka Herbie Hampton Rd, aka Assembly of God Church Road).  Take NC5070 for 6.8 miles, then turn right on NC5080 (aka FR-1205).  Go 1.1 miles on NC5080 and look for where the power lines cross from the right hand (south) side to the left hand (north) side of the road.  The trail head will be near the last power line pole on the right.  On the north side of the road, there is an extended gravel shoulder to park on.  

Trail Head
The trail head GPS coordinates are listed above.  Someone has taken the time to paint a smiley face on a tree at this point on the south side of the road.  From the trail head, there is an old trace road.  Turn RIGHT onto it from the road.  i.e. - you will be heading south-west, at first almost paralleling the NC5080 road you just drove in on.  The trail will head up the mountain on this trace road.  This first part of the trail will give you the impression it will be a bushwhack the entire way as it has a lot of undergrowth and fallen trees.  That is not the case.  As you climb the trace road it will crest the ridgeline, and just over the ridgeline you will make a sharp turn to the left.  The trail here is more discernible and easier to follow, with very little undergrowth.

Rock Wall on Trail
After cresting the ridgeline and turning left, the trail follows more or less just below the crest line of Big Middle Ridge, the ridge between Big Devil Fork and Long Devil Fork.  The old trace road is visible in most places and the trail will follow that as it can, with zigs and zags around fallen trees.  The trail is usually visible, but there are a couple of places it gets difficult to see.   As you can see from the GPS track I recorded (at bottom of this post), the trail sticks pretty much to the ridgeline of Big Middle Ridge.  The elevation along this route does not vary a whole lot, but there are some gradual ups and downs.  You pass a couple of rock walls and an old well along the way.  The first of these is hard to miss and is about at the half way point.  These are a good check that you are on the right path.  I included GPS coordinates for these so you can track your route.

'Great Room' 
The trail will lead right down the ridgeline to the point where it drops off above Twin Falls.  the  Sandstone Castles are caves in the rock bluff line at this point, and the trail leads to the cliff directly above the caves.  There are a couple of spots you can make your way down to the cave level.  My GPS track for the route out showed 2.4 miles and 1 hour, 25 minutes.  We returned on the same track, but a little better pace at 1 hour 10 minutes.  

Lunch - this must be the 'Dining Room'?
We had considered dropping down to visit Twin Falls and Richland Falls, then returning through Hill Cemetery and walking back up the road from Iceledo Gap to where we had parked.  But we spent a good deal of time climbing around the rocks, exploring the area, and going a good deal down slope for photos.  We decided to take it easy and just backtrack the way we came.  It is an 800+ foot drop from Sandstone Castles down to Twin Falls and we didn't relish climbing back up there or the climb up from Twin Falls to the opposite ridgeline where Hill Cemetery is.  That's right, us old people are lazy.  We still got our exercise for the day, with the 4.8 mile round trip on the trail and a good deal of running around at the Sandstone Castles.  We had a great time on a sunny, warm (for January) day and got to experience some of the amazing features that make Arkansas the Natural State.  This hike is highly recommended.
GPS track for route to Sandstone Castles

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the info. We plan on hitting this trail today and your GPS track will be very helpful.