Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Glory Hole, Arkansas Ozarks

4/22/2014 -  Glory Hole

GPS Coordinates: Lat/Lon/Elevation
  Parking Location:  35.82838, -93.39050,  2125 feet
  Glory Hole:  35.82210, -93.39352,  1732 feet

Pet Friendly: Yes, dogs on or off leash should be fine. This is a popular hiking location, so if your dog is not well behaved around strangers, please keep it on a leash.

Motorcycle Friendly: Yes - park right off Highway 16.

GPS files:
  GPS track file for hike to Glory Hole (.gpx format)

Bottom half of the Glory Hole - Boomer and Rick
The Glory Hole has to be one of the weirdest waterfalls ever.  It started out eons ago like many Ozark waterfalls, just a creek spilling out over a big sandstone ledge.  But over the millenia, this 'little creek that could' eroded a hole all the way through the ledge.  Now the waterfall starts up above the ledge and pours down through the hole into the large shelter cave below the ledge.  Glory Hole's 'cool factor' plus the fact that it is a relatively easy hike makes it a popular location.  Since Boomer and I had wrapped up our hike at Stepp Creek today before 2:00 pm, we decided we had to go see this one as well.  After all, it was "right in the same area".  

It is right off Highway 16, where Highways 16 and 21 are combined.  Getting there is pretty easy.  If coming from the east, it is 2.3 miles west of Edwards Junction.  If coming from the west, it is 5.7 miles east of Fallsville.  There is a lot of room on the south side of the highway to pull off and park, and you can see where a lot of folks have done so.

View from behind the Glory Hole
There is an old road heading south from this parking location.  You can drive down this road another 0.3 miles and park, but be warned it is a VERY rough road and has a couple of long mud holes that you might get stuck in.  When we got to the parking location there were a couple of Jeep Rubicons with big tires and high clearance parked there already.  I figured if they weren't taking the road, neither should we.  At any rate, you only save yourself a quarter mile of hiking on a very easy trail, so why not save the abuse to your suspension and just enjoy the hike?  That's what we did.  It was rather unusual for us to find other hikers on the trail, especially on a weekday.  A couple of college students were just coming out as we started our hike, and another nice couple with a small dog were on the trail ahead of us.  This little dog had to be all of eight inches long and all of five pounds soaking wet, but she thought she was all that and a bag of chips.  I think she wanted to take on all 95 hulking pounds of Boomer, but he was very polite and well behaved.  He chases squirrels bigger than this dog, so he just gave her a funny look, shrugged it off, and we hiked on.

Turn Right at Road Branch
Talk about directions - at the highway there is actually a small white sign nailed to a tree that says "Glory Hole' and an arrow pointing the way.  At 0.3 miles down the old road, you will come to a branch road to the right that is even rougher and narrower.  There used to be a Forest Service bulletin board at this point, but it was torn apart in a storm or something and only has one post remaining.  Someone took the large piece of plywood from it, painted 'Glory Hole' on it with an arrow, and leaned it against a tree there.  

Upper part of the Glory Hole
After you turn right on the old road, it goes downhill and crosses Dismal Creek.  If you stay on this old road, it gets narrower until it is just a hiking trail and not even something an ATV could use.  Shortly afterwards, this trail brings you to the top of the Glory Hole, where Dismal Creek falls through the hole in the ledge.  It should not need to be said, but be careful at the top of the ledge and going down to the base.  It can get slippery.  From the top of the waterfall, you can see where it used to run out over the ledge a bazillion years ago.

Lower part of the Glory Hole
To get to the bottom of the Glory Hole, go along the bluff to your right as you face downstream.  There is a trail of sorts across the feeder creek there.  When that creek has water flowing, as it did today, there is also a small waterfall.  On the other side of that feeder creek you can pick your way down the bluffline to get to the base of the Glory Hole.  The hole is smack dab in the middle of the large shelter-type cave under the ledge.  Today, it had a fair amount of water.  Dismal Creek is not a real large stream, and often virtually dries up in late summer and fall.

Small Waterfall Upstream of Glory Hole
Cascade on Dismal Creek
I said earlier IF you stay on the old road, it will take you to the top of the Glory Hole.  While that's true, I don't recommend you go that route.  After crossing Dismal Creek, you will see a number of trails heading off to the left toward the creek.  Take the first one you see.  There are several small waterfalls and cascades along the creek upstream of the Glory Hole that you will miss out on if you go straight down on the old road.  There are well worn trails all along this west side of Dismal Creek.  While these trails are a little rougher than the old road, they are not much so.  It is still what I would call a very easy hike, and is a much more scenic way to go.

I would categorize Glory Hole as a 'must see' waterfall at least once, just because of its unique nature.  It is easy to get to, and a very easy hike of about two miles round trip.  The trail is clearly defined and unobstructed, going through a really pleasant pine and hardwood forest.  It's just a really nice stroll in the woods.  To top it all off, you can park right next to a paved road.  What's not to like?  I recommend going during wet conditions, when there has been a substantial amount of rain.  In late summer it is still a pleasant hike, but you'll be lucky if there is even a dribble of water going down the hole.
Glory Hole Track

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