[This post was originally published on July 11, 2011 in the blog "Exploring Northwest Arkansas."]
Indian Creek Bushwacking
Indian Creek is one of my favorite Buffalo National River areas.
The path to Indian Creek is not an official trail, but it is pretty well traveled. It runs right along Indian Creek, so it’s fairly easy to follow. Just follow the creek.
To get to the trail, head out on the Buffalo River Trail out of Kyles Landing toward Steele Creek. After a stretch, you’ll see a sign that points you toward Indian Creek. At that point, you are no longer on a maintained trail.
The highlight of the trail is Tunnel Falls, a 31-foot high waterfall that pours out from a cave.
The trail follows Indian Creek out away from the Buffalo River. When the water is high (like after a good rain), there are numerous volunteer waterfalls that appear along the creek area. (Some photos of the volunteer waterfalls and cascades from my hike on in May of 2011 are in this post.)
The trail crosses the creek three times on the way to the falls. This creek is usually passable, but in times of high water (the best time to venture back to the falls) it may be a wet crossing. My visit to the falls was after a hard rain, so my feet were very wet. But it was well worth it.
After about 2 miles, you’ll go up a steep section of trail that loops around high above the creek. It’s a pretty scary stretch. A slip would be extremely bad!
Eventually, you will reach Copperhead Falls. I think this is usually a nice waterfall, but the water was so high the day we went it just looked like a huge cascade (so, it’s not pictured).
Tunnel Cave Falls
At about 2.7 miles, you get to Tunnel Cave Falls. This 31-foot waterfall emerges from a
cave on the side of the bluff and then flows into a beautiful blue pool of water.
When the water is really flowing, there is also a series of large cascades pouring over the side of the ridge – just beyond Tunnel Cave Falls. (You’ll be able to see and hear it.) This waterfall (I don’t know if it has a name) is extremely impressive. (I’m standing next to it in the last photo below.)
Listing to all the water flowing that day was an incredible experience. I think this is one of the most beautiful areas along the Buffalo River.
There is apparently more to see here, but the “easy” way to see it is no longer accessible. One used to be able to climb through the Tunnel Cave to reach the other side, but it is closed now (along with most of the area caves) due to the white-nose syndrome threat to the bat population.
There is an alternative way to reach the other side of Tunnel Cave. It involves climbing up a bluff by rope and then scurrying up more bluffs. Apparently, it is extremely dangerous. I thought it was best to leave that challenge for another day.
Best time of year: Winter and spring when water is high
Footwear: Hiking boots
Children: Not recommended
Guidebook: Indian Creek Area in Tim Ernst’s Buffalo River Hiking Trails Book