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Glory Hole Falls, Arkansas

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There are two very good reasons to visit Glory Hole Falls.  One, it’s unique — where else have you ever seen a creek that cut a clean hole directly through the ceiling of a cave?  Two, you get to jokingly tell all your friends that you visited a Glory Hole on your vacation.  (If you don’t know the off-color meaning of a “glory hole”, you’re on your own — I’m not going to explain it to you.)

 

Location

 The trailhead is on Arkansas Routes 16/21, exactly 6.3 miles north of Fallsville, and 2.3 miles south of the 16/21 junction near Swain.  The trailhead is unmarked, and there’s only room for a couple of cars to park beside the road.  If you’re coming from the north, look for a dirt-road turnoff on the left side of the road (the dirt road is the trail).  The gate and shack will be across the street.  Here’s a Google Map that pinpoints the exact location of the trailhead.

My Visit

This incredible view is the reward for a hike that requires a downhill trudge through the woods, and a few educated guesses (since this isn’t an official trail).  Let’s start at the beginning:

This is what you need to look for, in order to find the Glory Hole Falls trailhead: a gate with a “no parking” sign, and an abandoned (or at least run-down) shack/house behind it.

At the trailhead, you can park along the side of the road, or try to squeeze into one of two small parking spots in the woods, just off the highway.

If you had an ATV, you could drive part of the way down the trail towards the Glory Hole.  The trail used to be a dirt road, but it’s quite overgrown, and the further you go, the narrower it gets.

This is the only sign I saw for Glory Hole Falls, at a point where the road splits.  The sign says “About 1/2 Mile”, but someone added a “+” sign, and someone else added “… and 2 miles back!”.  Whatever the distance, you can be sure that you’ll be quite tired and thirsty by the time you’ve made the climb back up to your car.

It took me about 25 minutes from the time I took the picture of the sign, until I took my first picture of Glory Hole Falls.

Since I didn’t know how far I was hiking, or at what point I should turn off the trail to look for Glory Hole Falls, I was distracted by the sound of trickling water about halfway down the trail.  I found this small waterfall, complete with a tiny cave behind it (probably no taller than 6 feet).  It was pretty, but it wasn’t what I was looking for — and to make matters worse, it was a tough, slippery climb back up to the trail.

The path continued to narrow.  Several times I had to climb over, or under, a fallen tree.  One of the worst obstacles was this cluster of bent and fallen trees that created multiple hurdles.  The good news is, when you see these trees, it’s time to start looking for the Glory Hole.

At first, you’ll come upon the top of Glory Hole Falls.  This spot is almost impossible to photograph, especially on a sunny day — the hole is too dark, and the cascade of water above the hole is too bright.  But, you can still dangle your feet over the edge and peer down into the hole.

At this point, it’s easy to see how the hole formed.  A long time ago, before the hole opened, the creek must have continued to flow over the rocky overhang, then fall (just as it does at my “wrong turn” waterfall earlier on the page).  Eventually, the plunging water eroded the rock, opening the perfectly round, smooth hole.

From the top of the falls, walk around to the side of the overhang, and you’ll find a way to climb down that doesn’t require much scrambling.

You can walk back into the cave, directly under (and even behind) the waterfall.

It was tough to take a picture looking up through the hole, without getting my camera wet!

What a neat place.  Unfortunately, it’s a little hard to relax here.  The entire floor of the cave is wet, and covered with loose rocks which are slippery and wobbly.  I suspect they would also make the perfect hideout for snakes.  I only spotted one slithery creature (a safe distance away in the corner), but I was very cautious with each step.

After admiring the waterfall for a few minutes, there’s nothing else to see, and no choice but to trudge back uphill to the car.

After visiting Glory Hole Falls, keep driving south/west on Route 16. At Fallsville, you can choose to go south on Route 21 (for quick access to I-40). Instead, I chose to stay on Route 16, and extend my drive through the scenic Ozark Mountains a little further west, before turning south on Route 23.

Drivelapse Video

Here’s a time-lapse dash-cam video of my drive from Lost Valley State Park, past the Glory Hole Falls trailhead, and on to St. Paul, Arkansas on Route 16:

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