Friday, January 26, 2018

Hole Creek, Arkansas Ozarks east of Hagerville

1/26/2018 - Hole Creek area; huge boulders and rock formations

GPS Coordinates: (Latitude, Longitude, Elevation)
  Parking #1:  35.61632   -93.27034
  Parking #2 (at trace road?):  35.61909   -93.27424
  Hole Creek Unnamed Falls #1:  35.61596   -93.27034
  Bear Crack:  35.61678   -93.26958

Pet Friendly: Yes, dogs on or off leash should be okay.  It is all a rough bushwhack, so taking a dog on a leash is going to make for a long day.

Motorcycle Friendly: No, this is several miles down a really rough dirt road.  

Hiking Statistics: The Hole Creek basin itself is about 1000 feet from top to the bottom, where it drains into Big Piney Creek.  For today's hike, we only hiked partially down into the most southwestern prong.  We hiked 1.75 miles, with a highest-to-lowest elevation change of 351 feet.  This was not a particularly long hike, but I would rate it a difficult bushwhack just for the steep terrain.

GPS files:
    Dover-Pelsor-Hagerville area waypoints
    Hole Creek GPS track

Today, my friend Dan Frew and I went out to an area that Dan had already partially explored.  The Ozarks were still very dry, and waterfall areas just don't look that good without water.  Dan knew this area had some huge boulders and rock formations.  I just wanted to get out somewhere, so I jumped at the chance to go on a hike here.  This is a relatively short bushwhack, and I would rate it as difficult due to the steepness and ruggedness of the terrain.  For a place to just get out and do a quick hike and see some stuff no one else does, I would recommend this hike.  

From the Dover town square (junction of Hwy 7 and Hwy 27), go north on Highway 7 for 5.5 miles and turn left on Highway 164.  Go 7.6 miles on Highway 164 and turn right on FR-1800 (Pilot Rock Mountain Road or CR-3891).  This is just past the twin bridges over Big Piney Creek.  Stay on Pilot Rock Mtn Road for 5.5 miles as it changes to CR-3890, to CR-3861, to CR-4840, then bear left to stay on Pilot Rock Mtn Road.  Go an additional 4.2 miles and park alongside the road.  Pilot Rock Mountain Road (FR-1800), as the name implies, runs along the ridge of Pilot Rock Mountain, and circles around the west side of Hole Creek, eventually ending at a junction with Highway 123.  The parking #1 location we used today is closest to the huge boulders here. Parking location #2, an additional 0.2 miles down Pilot Rock Mtn Road, should be at an old logging road on my Forest Service maps that hopefully is a better way into the area.

Bear Crack - that's Dan at the bottom
From the parking location, we headed straight down towards the creek, following a side drainage until we came to a major bluffline where Falls #1 will spill over the bluff whenever we get some decent rain.  Today, there was barely a trickle.  From Falls #1, we followed the bluffline around to the left (east) for a short distance, to the biggest, deepest bear crack I think I have ever seen.  While I was still near the top of the bear crack, I waited for Dan to get to the bottom to snap a quick photo so you can get a feel for the size of it.  At the bottom of the bear crack, there is a fairly roomy shelter tucked up under the rock face.  There were clear signs this shelter had been used in the past for a still operation.  I have found that in virtually every hollow in the Arkansas Ozarks, you can count on finding a couple of things; waterfalls and sites where a still was during prohibition.

Old still site in shelter at bottom of the bear crack
Once down below this high bluff, we were still only roughly halfway down to the creek, with at least one more large bluffline below us.  That should be great for waterfalls hunting later, but for today, we just hiked through a maze of huge rock formations.  From the bottom of the bear crack, we continued on east along the bluff.  There is a veritable maze of huge rocks, cracks, shelters, and other formations where the massive layer of sandstone has broken off of the big bluff and eroded over the millennia.  This mass of rocks extends for about a third of a mile along this level in the hollow.  From there, we went through a break and started our climb out.  

The climb out is a little steep in places and has its share of briers and other growth, but it was not too difficult to pick our way through the more undergrowth-free areas.   The Forest Service maps show some old logging roads in the area we hiked out through, but we never did find one to help us on our way out.  Depending on how long it has been since the logging was done, they are sometimes grown over and difficult to locate, but usually, you can find where they were cut through the sides of the slope.  The grade is usually much more even and much easier hiking, so we try to utilize them where we can.  Today, as I said, we never did find one.  The climb out was still not all that bad.  This hike is definitely worth doing at least once.

Hole Creek GPS track


  1. I am so sorry you had to go waterfallless here. Are you OK? Nice rock action though.

    1. You're killing me... :) See what I resort to when there is no water?