Friday, October 31, 2014

Fern Falls, Arkansas Ozarks

10/30/2014 Hike to Fern Falls

GPS coordinates:  (Latitude,  Longitude,  Elevation)
  Parking location: 35.89291, -93.19023,  2045 feet
  Turn on trail: 35.89332, -93.19416,  2010 feet
  Fern Falls: 35.89748, -93.19249,  1851 feet

Pet friendly: Yes.  Easy open trail, with bypasses around downed trees and obstacles.  As always, be careful around the top of the waterfall.

Motorcycle friendly: Yes.  Just pull off Hwy 7 and park.  The ground there is low and may be a little soft, so be careful where you put the kickstand down.

GPS files:
  GPS track file for Fern Falls Hike (.gpx format) 

Fern Falls (42 feet)
After finally getting back out in the woods and hiking the loop trail at Alum Cove, Boomer and I decided to check out at least one waterfall, just to see how the creeks were flowing.  In the vicinity of Alum Cove, that meant Stepp Creek, Fern Falls, Lonesome Hollow, or Big Creek Cave.  In my experience, Fern Falls always seemed to have some water, even in the driest of times.  So we headed a little further up Hwy 7.

This is another of the few waterfall hikes you can actually drive on a paved road right to the trail head.  Go north on Hwy 7 from the intersection where Hwy 16 branches off to Deer.  Go 3.4 miles north from this intersection and look for the 'Highway 7 Scenic Byway' sign.  If coming from Jasper, it is 11.4 miles south of Jasper town square. Pull off the highway and park near the sign.  The drop off from the highway shoulder is a little steep right where the sign is, so be careful about the angle you pull your vehicle over.

From the sign on Hwy 7, go directly back from the highway, across the utility lines, and find the trail heading off directly away from the highway.  This is an old ATV trail, and apparently has not been used for ATVs for some time.  I have been to this waterfall several times and have never seen the trail so overgrown.  It looked like no one had been here in the six months since my last visit.  

GPS Track to Fern Falls
The old ATV trail was still easy enough to follow, but was considerably more overgrown.  In fact, I was looking for the turn off (about a 0.2 miles down the ATV trail) where you leave the ATV trail and head down to the creek and I missed it.  Fortunately, I had been on this trail many times and realized quickly that I was in unfamiliar territory.  I had almost left the GPS in the car, but I'm glad I took it.  A quick check of the turn off point led me back to it.  I had only overshot by a few yards.

Many years ago this trail was an old logging road that went from the ATV trail
Ferns (of all things) on Trail to Fern Falls
down to the creek, then follows along it downstream to the falls.  At the point you branch off onto it, it is now just barely discernible as a trail.  Once you head downhill, it does widen and become much more discernible.  There were quite a few downed trees on the old road, and at one point you have to go around a section of them on the trail.

East Fork Shop Creek is the creek that actually flows over Fern Falls.  As you approach the falls you will notice that there are actually several smaller creeks that converge on the main creek just before the waterfall.  One of these appears to be spring fed by a spring that has a fairly good flow, and that's probably why Fern Falls usually has at least some water flow.  Today, most of the feeder creeks were dry and the main creek was lower than I have ever seen it.  Still, Fern Falls is one of those Ozark waterfalls that will be very pretty even with substantially lower flow.

Boomer and I didn't hang around for long.  Oddly enough, while I was lamenting the lack of rain the sky clouded over and it started raining.  The afternoon temperature had warmed up to the mid 50's, so it didn't hurt us to get a little wet on the way back to the Explorer.  The entire round trip hike is only about 1.5 miles, and the elevation change is only about 200 feet, so I would rate the hike as easy even with the encroaching undergrowth.  This is one of the waterfalls I keep on my list to take friends and family to that provides a nice payload for minimal hiking effort, and one that almost anyone can make.

No comments:

Post a Comment