Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Hudson Shelter Falls, Arkansas Ozarks

3/10/2015 -  Hudson Shelter Falls

GPS Coordinates:  (Latitude,  Longitude,  Elevation)
  Parking Location:  35.85416,  -93.12623,  2111 feet
  Hudson Shelter:  35.85146, -93.12411,  1912 feet

Pet Friendly: Yes.  Be careful, however if you go down to the shelter cave itself (base of the lower waterfall).  You have to cross the creek to do so, and right at the top of the fall.  Less sure-footed dogs might slip and go over the ledge.  You might too, for that matter.  Be careful!

Motorcycle Friendly: Marginal at best.  It is over four miles on a gravel road, but I will say it is a fairly well maintained gravel road. 

GPS files (3-D map of GPS track is at bottom of this post):
  GPS track file for Hudson Shelter Falls hike (.gpx format)

Hudson Shelter Falls - Middle and Lower Falls
Hudson Shelter is a large (huge) shelter-type cave tucked away in a drainage right off the side of Hudson Mountain.   I had not really intended to go hiking today, but I got to thinking about the amount of snow and ice we had seen just a couple of days before at Paradise Falls.  That tends to slowly seep in, building up the groundwater.  We had received another inch of rain last night, so I got to wondering if I could catch Hudson Shelter with a good amount of flow.  It was at least worth a look, so Boomer and I packed up and headed north for a quick trip.

Turn off Highway 7
To get there, drive north 11.0 miles from Pelsor (aka Sand Gap), or if coming from the other direction, drive south 2.8 miles from the junction where Highway 16 splits off from Highway 7 to go west toward the community of Deer.  This will bring you right to the middle of the small community of Cowell.  Turn right on the road going toward the northwest here (or left if coming from the other direction) onto NC-6560 (aka FR-1204).  On some maps this road is CR-55 (old county road name) and on some it is Newton 6370.  All I can tell you for sure is there is only one street sign on Highway 7 for this road, and it says NC-6560.

Hudson Shelter Falls - Upper Falls
Whatever you want to call this road, go down it for 4.1 miles and turn right onto FR-1204B.  FR-1204B is also known as Hudson Mountain Road locally, but the only marking is a stake on the right that says 1204B.  Go about a hundred yards down FR-1204B and there will be an old logging road on the right.  Park there and start your hike.  In the past, I have been able to back all the way down this logging road to where it bends to the left.  Today, the roads were in terrible shape, very muddy and sloppy, so I parked at the top of the logging road and started hiking down.

Hudson Shelter Falls - Middle Falls
Follow the old logging road for a short distance to where it makes that bend to the left.  Keep going straight and leave the logging road at that bend.  There is a volunteer trail there that goes down to the creek, then follows it downstream.  This drainage is a feeder creek that flows into Campbell Creek about a third of a mile below Hudson Shelter.  Today, I could hear the creek below as soon as we started down the trail.  Now that's a good sign!  Normally, this creek and the waterfall are dry or close to it.

Hudson Shelter Falls - Lower Falls
The trail crosses over the creek a couple of times before coming to the top of the falls.  Hudson Shelter Falls is actually a triple-tiered waterfall, with three distinct waterfalls.  There is only 15 to 25 feet from the base of one waterfall to the top of the next, so I only list one GPS waypoint for the group of waterfalls as a whole.  

The top waterfall has a cascade of about six feet, then drops off a ledge for another four to five feet.  This one is small, but still a pretty waterfall.  It was difficult to get an unobstructed view of this one for photos due to fallen trees.  As you go past this waterfall on the left side as you face downstream, there is a path for a relatively easy climb down to the next level.  From there, you stay on the left side of the creek for a similar drop down to the base of the second tier, the middle falls.

Hudson Shelter Falls - Middle Falls
The middle falls are nice by themselves, falling off a ledge then down large rocks for a total of at least 20 feet.  Once you get to the other side of the creek, there are several locations where you can see the middle and lower falls together, for a striking view.  To descend to the base of the lower waterfall and to the cave itself, you have to cross over the creek and descend a scramble of large rocks.  Boomer has a difficult time trying to get firm footing from rock to rock, just because they are so large.  

Hudson Shelter
Hudson Shelter itself is a huge cave, easily 75 feet deep and much wider than that.  It has a high ceiling, at least 20 feet in the center.  The lower waterfall falls over the right side of the mouth of the cave (as you look downstream), the side you just climbed down to get there.

This is a quick and easy hike.  Although technically a bushwhack, the volunteer trail is easy to follow and less than a mile round trip, with a total elevation difference of only 200 feet.  My only word of caution would be to take extra precautions if you take children or smaller dogs.  To get to the cave below, you have to cross a slippery creek just a couple feet from the ledge over the cave, and the rock scramble down to the mouth of the cave can be hazardous.
GPS track - Hudson Shelter Falls

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