Sunday, June 5, 2016

Moonshiner's Cave and Falls, Devil's Den State Park, near Winslow, Arkansas

6/4/2016 -  Moonshiner's Cave Falls

GPS Coordinates:  (Latitude,  Longitude,  Elevation)
  Parking Location:  35.78083   -94.23651,  1536 ft.
  Moonshiner's Cave Falls:  35.78015   -94.23221,  1335 ft.

Pet-Friendly: Yes, dogs on or off leash should be fine.  That being said, I'm not sure if this is within the confines of the state park or not.  My maps show the parking area in the park boundary, but not the cave and waterfall itself.  I do know that on occasion Park Interpreters lead hikes to it.  Inside the state parks, dogs are supposed to be on a leash.  

Motorcycle Friendly: Yes!  There is a nice big parking area right on Highway 74.  

Hiking Statistics:  This is an easy hike, in my opinion.  I have heard folks complain about the hike out being a hard one, but I really don't get that.  It is a half mile each way and an elevation change of 200 feet, spaced out over the whole half mile.  There is an old Jeep trail all the way down, so no bushwhacking or rock climbing is necessary.  

GPS files (.gpx format) - Maps of the GPS track are at the bottom of this post.
  Moonshiner's Cave GPS track


Moonshiner's Cave Falls - with Bethany
This was one of those cloudy, gray, spring days.  It was supposed to rain all day, according to the big fat liars at NOAA's weather center.  We had fallen for that line too often lately and the weather folks have about zero credibility with us now.  At any rate, it wasn't raining this morning when we were trying to figure out what to do.  We decided not to let the weather hold us back, but we would go someplace with short hikes that we could abandon on short notice.  Devil's Den is one of those Arkansas favorites that is always a fun outing, and I have long wanted to see if we could catch Moonshiner's Cave Falls with some water for a change. My wife, Bethany, and I quickly settled on that and packed up the Explorer to go do some exploring.  We thought we would go to Fort Smith for an early dinner afterward, so we left Boomer (our German Shepherd) home this time.  After we left our home north of Dover, it poured rain on us for much of the hour-long trip to Devil's Den.  Been there, done that, and we didn't let it scare us. 


Inside the cave, it is acutally quite roomy
This is one of the easiest trailheads to get to I have ever seen. To get there, take I-49 (which many maps still show as I-540), and take exit 45.  This is called the Winslow exit, but you will turn west, away from Winslow, and go 4.4 miles on Highway 74 (also known as Devil's Den Road).  You will pass through the small community of Blackburn.  You should see the big sign for Devil's Den State Park on the right.  Park across the highway from that sign, in the nice big semi-paved parking area they have provided for you.  If you happen to be on the other side of the state park, you can enter Devil's Den State Park from the west on Highway 220, turn up Highway 74, go through the park to the entrance sign, and park across from the sign.


Moonshiner's Cave Falls
The trail is an old Jeep road that runs downhill from Highway 74 almost down to Blackburn Creek.  Moonshiner's Cave is only halfway down to the creek.  From the parking area, go about a hundred yards west (toward the park) on the same side of the road.  You will see a well defined Jeep road going downhill on your left.  Hike down this trail and keep on it, staying left if any tracks branch off.  A half mile from the highway, just before the trail crosses a stream, there is a small cleared area on the right.  The stream is actually what feeds the Moonshiner's Cave Falls, and the clearing is actually on top of the cave itself.  If you look over the bluff, you can see the waterfall on your left and the creek continuing on down the hillside to Blackburn Creek.  Another waterfall spills off the bluff a little further to the right.  There is a trail on the right, leading down from the bluff to the front of the cave.


Moonshiner's Cave Falls
If you do a little research, it's easy to find directions to this unique and picturesque place.  It is also a short and fairly easy hike.  Plus, it's just a downright cool place to check out.  It is a piece of Arkansas history, so please show this place, and the future generations of people that visit it, the respect it deserves.  Leave it unchanged and unlittered when you leave.  I know the top of the door frame has been deteriorating for years and has seemed ready to collapse under the weight of the rocks above it.  Today, the rock that was above it was gone, and the cedar post that had been used to try to prop it up was set aside.  I'm assuming the rocks were taken down as a safety measure since one wrong move going through the door would have brought it all down on someone's head.  


Etching next to doorway
There is a carving next to the door that says "J.P.H 10.1(?)4 1905".  I'm guessing that is the date the rock wall was initially put in place to seal off the shelter and the initials of the guy that did it.  That was only a little over a century ago, so I'll bet some of the locals know the whole story, but I haven't found anyone yet that knows.  If you know more about it, please leave a comment below.  Legend has it this cave got its name from moonshiners using this location for a still.  It is a great location for a still, with a source of water falling right over the front of the cave (sometimes), but I can't verify it was ever actually used for that.  I did find an article that implied an early family in the area had blocked off the front of this shelter-type cave to store vegetables and other stuff.  I find that a little easier to believe since the waterfall is often dry, so there are much better places for a still.


Another waterfall around the bluff from the cave
The hike back is, unfortunately, uphill, but it really isn't that bad.  Some folks have complained about it being a really hard hike out because of the climb, but I  would say don't listen to them.  The elevation change is pretty much constant, so it is only 200 feet spread out over the whole half mile.  I have seen many photos of small children here, so it can't be all that bad.  I'm 63 years old, don't exercise enough and eat too much, and I'm calling this an easy one.  No matter how out of shape you are, if you just take a little time you will be fine.  I highly recommend this hike.  It is easy to drive to, easy to hike to and has a nice payoff at the end with high ratings on the cool factor.  This is a wet weather waterfall, and will dry up every summer, so try to go after a good rain in the wetter seasons.  
Devil's Den GPS Tracks
Red - Devil's Den Loop Trail track
Blue - Moonshiner's Cave Falls track



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