The cool, rainy morning was a relief after a number of brutally hot and humid days. Not that the heat and humidity should have surprised us, this was Arkansas after all.
We had come to the Ozark Mountains for a long weekend of hiking and exploring. Crossing the Mississippi River in Memphis, we immediately hit the flat, fertile flood planes of Arkansas. Rice paddies (who knew?!!) stretched out in front of us for miles and it was a long time before we entered the hills of the Ozark Mountains. Fields gave way to pines and the small towns grew further apart. The road curved sharply, climbing higher as we passed vacation homes clinging to the sides of the mountains.
We stopped for gas at a station with an amazing view and a dog blocking the entrance of the store. He raised his head and looked at us with half open eyes as we entered, but did not move. The two women behind the counter, excited, it seemed, to have a customer, told us of a hidden waterfall nearby that they had just explored. The waterfall sounded great, but we had to keep moving. We reached our hotel just as storms rolled in and watched the rain fall in sheets from the dry safety of our room.
The rain stopped mid-morning the next day as we drove through rolling farmland. A misty fog clung to the hills as we passed dirt roads leading to small farms set among fields filled with cows. It seemed hard to believe that there was a hike set among the farms, but soon we entered a lush hollow and saw the sign for the trailhead named, appropriately, Lost Valley Trail.
Lost Valley Trail, located within Lost Valley State Park, is a great hike that at just 2.2 miles R/T is accessible to anyone. It’s a popular hike, so the trail is often crowded. But the great thing about the hike, the reason we decided it was our favorite, is that it is so varied. There is just so much to explore on this short hike.
The first half mile or so of the trail is flat and handicap accessible. There are even a few benches to sit and rest and enjoy the cool quiet of a hardwood forest and the Clark Creek. After that the trail becomes less level and starts to climb some.
The entire hike is through a box canyon which might have once all been underground. High bluffs surrounded us on both sides. Many of the feature on the trail point to this, such as our first stop to look at massive stone blocks that fell long ago from the surrounding bluffs.
We hiked some more and soon came to a natural bridge. Here the creek has carved through limestone to create an arch. The water was low enough that we were able to climb through the “tunnel”. The sun came out, rapidly burning off the remaining fog and the day started to heat up, so we stopped to rock hop and play in the creek.
Our next stop on the hike was Cob Cave. It’s not actually a cave, but rather a giant bluff shelter once used by Native Americans that gets its name from corn cobbs found on site. We spent some time exploring the cave and marveling at the sheer size of it. It was easy to imagine this being used as a shelter and place to stop and rest for the night.
Stop number four on the hike was Eden Falls. It’s a series of four waterfalls that plummets 170 feet down the bluffs. The hike brought us to the base of the falls and then turned to steeply climb out, providing good views of the entire waterfall.
The trail climbed some more, up a set of mossy stone stairs. They twisted around large boulders and disappeared into the green forest. Water from last night’s storm still dripped down on us as we stared up at the canyon walls. They surrounded us and made us feel very small.
Lost Valley. Here, you could feel how the area got its name. Standing quietly in the forest, you had a sense of timelessness. Of the ancient hitting against the present; unchanged by time. It was comforting to know a place like this still existed!
We hiked on, still climbing some until we reached the last stop of the hike; Eden Falls Cave. Water from Clark Creek flowed out of the entrance to a small underground cave. We crossed the creek and climbed up a ledge which the water flowed over, creating a small waterfall. Peering inside the murkiness of the cave, we were excited. It was time to go explore!
The cave has been carved by the stream but there is still a good deal of dry land to walk on. We strapped on our headlights and began to walk back into the darkness. You definitely need a flashlight to explore the cave as it is very dark once inside. We decided to head to the left and soon were on our hands and knees crawling because the ceiling of the cave was so low.
After a couple minutes of crawling we reached a large room in which we could easily stand. This is the waterfall room which is about 200 feet back from the entrance of the cave. We could just make out the 35 foot falls through our headlights. It was really neat to see a waterfall so deep in a wild cave. (I included a picture of it but it was difficult to get a good one with an iPhone in a dark cave!)
We turned to head out of the cave and realized that there was a narrow passage to our left that we could take that did not require us to crawl. It was so much easier! So, if you don’t want to crawl, take the passage to the right when you first enter the cave. You might need to stoop here and there, but will stay on your feet.
We exited the cave, blinking against the shock of bright sunlight after the darkness of the cave, and crossed back over the creek to the trail. Eden Falls Cave is the end of the trail, so we headed back; a quick one mile hike out through the forest. The cool solitude of the forest was enjoyable and before we knew it, we had reached our car.
This was a great little hike! Definitely a must do if you’re ever in Arkansas. I’ve included a link to the trail information and location below. Have fun exploring!
Lost Valley Trail