Saturday, February 22, 2014

Hamilton, Twin, and Richland Falls - New Route - Richland Wilderness, Arkansas

2/22/2014 - New Trail to Twin Falls, Hamilton Falls, Richland Falls

GPS Coordinates: 
  Parking and Trail Head:  35.82546, -92.94733
  Hamilton Falls:  35.81199, -92.96375
  Twin Falls: 35.80594, -92.96412
  Richland Falls: 35.80075, -92.96010
  Devon Falls:  35.81724,  -92.96145
  Trail branch to top of Long Devil's Falls: 35.80555, -92.96223

Pet Friendly: Yes.  Easy for pets off leash, doable with pets on leash

Motorcycle Friendly: No.  The road is definitely too rough.  Wouldn't take my Harley on it.

GPS files:
  GPS track file for FR-1205 to Hamilton Falls to Twin Falls (.gpx format)
  GPS track file for Twin Falls to FR-1205 (.gpx format)

Big Devil's Falls (right Twin)
I think I have made no secret of the fact that Twin Falls of Richland is my favorite of all the Arkansas Waterfalls.  The down side of that is getting there and getting back, never all that easy but always worth the trip.  Today, I set out to see if there was a better way.  

There are three other routes (that I know of) to visit these falls.  You can drop down the spur from Sandstone Castle, but you have to get to Sandstone Castle first, then go back to where you parked.  From Hill Cemetery, it is not an overly difficult hike, but it is fairly long and going to and from takes a good part of your hiking day.  And add another 1.6 miles if you can't get down the Hill Cemetery road.  Going up Richland Creek from the campground is very scenic, but not an easy hike.  The trail is a little rugged and you have to ford across two creeks, three if you 
count Devil's Fork.  

Where I Parked
Where I Should Have Parked
So I broke out the Topo maps and looked for a different route.  I picked the point on FR-1205 closest to Twin Falls, which looked like it was on the peak of the mountain spur that drops right above the falls.  My thinking was "if I had to haul stuff with a horse and wagon, where would I put my road"?  Or a logging truck, for that matter.  It appeared you could stay on the peak of the ridge with very little elevation change until it sloped down to the falls.  On my Topo Maps software, the route I plotted was only 1.64 miles!  Compare that to 2.8 miles one-way from Hill Cemetery. That is, IF you can drive to Hill Cemetery. I know, I know, you can only tell so much from Topo maps and high resolution aerial photos.  You can't see those rock cliffs that take you a half mile out of the way, or numerous other 'Ozark obstacles'.  That's why a field trip was needed.  At least, that was my excuse for getting out in the wilderness today.  I did some internet research and could find nothing about a route to Twin Falls this way.

I was pretty close on my mapping and calculating.  From the parking location I headed south-west along the top of the mountain ridge.  Very quickly, I ran into an old trace road heading the direction of the route I plotted.  I followed it, but vowed to go back the other way on my return hike to see where it intersected FR-1205.  As it turned out, the old trace road angles back to FR-1205 and there is an excellent parking location at the roadway.  This was another 0.1 mile from where I had parked up next to the road.  It looked like folks had used this turn out as a campground in the past.  I followed the trace road all the way to the spur where the ridge dropped off toward Twin Falls.  Along the way, you stay on top of the ridge with the creek canyon that Devon Falls is in falling off to the right, and another creek drainage on the left that flows into Richland Creek.

Hamilton Falls 
I dropped off the right flank of the mountain directly toward Hamilton Falls.  I arrived at Hamilton Falls in only 45 minutes from my start on FR-1205, and a little less than 1.7 miles on the GPS track!  Woo-hoo!  Easy peasy!  I spent some time taking photos and soaking in some Natural State beauty, then went on downstream to Twin Falls.  At Twin Falls, my total GPS track time from FR-1205 was 1:14, and total distance was 2.11 miles.  Not bad.  

Normally, I would be eating my lunch by the time I got to Twin Falls.  Today, with extra time on my hands, I headed on to Richland Falls.  To get the most diversity on my hike, I took the high route on the way there, then took the low route at creek level on the way back to Twin Falls.  I ate a leisurely lunch, hydrated, and rested up a bit, then headed back.

This is the part I don't care for, no matter which route you take.  Twin Falls is
Richland Falls
under 1200 feet elevation, and where you need to go is almost 2000 feet. At least you get the hard uphill part out of the way in the first half mile, and pretty much coast the rest of the way.  I picked up the old trace road toward the top of the mountain, and was able to follow it back to the trail head.  There are few real obstacles along this route.  One of those is a bunch of brambles right below the ridge.  On the way in, I skirted around them to the left but on the way back I just bulled through them.  Not too bad with jeans on, but wouldn't want to do that in the summer with shorts on.  I can see where that would be much worse in spring/summer.  You might want to skirt around it in summer, but let's face it - this is going to be a bushwhack no matter which route you go.  I would rate this a moderate to difficult bushwhack, similar to the other routes.

Twin Falls
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 4.4 miles on NC5080 (FR-1205) and turn right into the parking location and trail head.  If you know where Dickey Junction is, this trail head is right at one mile south of Dickey Junction on FR-1205, or 2.8 miles past Iceledo Gap.  FR-1205 continues on to the Richland Campground and Falling Water Road, but my experience is that the road from Lurton is usually in much better shape than coming in from the south.

All in all, this was a great day to be outdoors in the wilderness area.  I got to put another route in my bag of tricks for this area and had a great time doing it.  Normally, trips into Twin Falls are an all day affair.  I did a lot of sightseeing and still ended up with plenty of daylight left.  I decided to stop by Native American Falls on my way home since you can park for that hike right off Hwy 7.  I'll make a post for that hike soon.
GPS tracks for FR-1205 to Hamilton Falls, then Twin Falls,, and back to FR-1205

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