A few weeks ago, on the spur of the moment, I decided to take a hike in Arkansas. I sent out a few messages looking for someone who wanted to go on one of my adventures. My friend Brad Mace was the first to respond with “Lets Do It!”. I met Brad earlier in the year at one of the Joplin Kayak and Canoe Stream Clean events. Brad is a pretty cool, down to earth guy who loves the outdoors and is always looking for adventure. He loves telling me stories of rock climbing and some of his mountain biking experiences. One of these days I’ll have to tag along and learn more. Brad is also very intelligent with lots of creativity! I mean this guy can do it all. Really you should check out his site as he has so much to offer this world. BradMace.com
Indian Rock House is located near Yellville, AR which is not far from the Buffalo River. It’s a 3-mile loop that has waterfalls, caves, bluffs and old mines. This trail has tons to see and is worth the 3-hour drive from Joplin. With the current government shutdown, we didn’t know what to expect. In past years when the government would shut down, they would barricade the roads and stop people from entering. This time was much different. We were very glad to see the park was open to guests.
Starting at the trailhead from the parking lot you will cross the road and head north. Here you will follow an old road down the hill following a run-off. Eventually, the ground flattens out some and you come across a giant sinkhole called the Ice Box. After this, you keep following the trail and you will notice the sound of water and a small spring to your left. As you get closer you realize the spring feeds a nice waterfall. To get to the waterfall just stay on the trail as it will take you down to the base. This area makes for a great group photo spot!
Leaving the waterfall you will follow the trail north until you come across an old mine on your left. This is a very cool location. I can’t help but wonder about the people who spent hot summers digging this mine. Sitting at the entrance you can feel the cool air escaping the mine and once again, a great spot for a photo.
Keep following the trail north until you reach Panther Creek. Here you will take a left turn and follow the creek up. I really enjoyed this section of the trail as it was flat and was very easy hiking. The creek is clear and had lots of bluffs on both sides. I really enjoyed it.
Following the creek, you come across a cave on your left. This was a huge surprise for us! I didn’t expect this at all. It’s more of a bluff shelter but it’s my understanding that it has the name Small Cave. Inside it can be very cool or warm depending on the season. It has a large sinkhole that allows light to touch everything inside. This is where we stopped for lunch. Brad was awesome enough to pack me a sandwich. For the most part, I don’t pack a lot of food. However, this was a treat! It was turkey and cheese on a bagel with homemade guacamole! It was amazing! I plan on inviting Brad on more hikes!
After the cave, keep following the trail up the creek. Here you will find that the trail splits. You want to stay to the right of the trail as this other section loops back. Hiking along Panther Creek you start to see more and more rock formations. Really take your time and enjoy them! Crossing the creek back and forth a few times, you will eventually make a small climb over a hill. Here you’re not very far away and probably can see the entrance to Indian Rock House.
Cross the creek one more time. I realized, this isn’t a small shelter; this thing is huge! I can’t even describe how large this thing is. This shelter has its own creek running through it on the left and on the right far side, there is a large opening in the ceiling. This provides a lot of light similar to the other bluff earlier on the trail.
We spent a good hour or more just exploring the rock house. I could see myself spending a full day just in this location. Unfortunately, we couldn’t stay forever. Following the trail back out we stopped to check out Pebble Spring. You won’t be able to miss it.
Once you make it back to where the trail loops back, you will take a right. This is the hardest part of the trail as you work your way back up. It starts off easy at first following a creek, then turns into stairs as you climb your way out. Eventually, you make it to an old road that you will turn right on and this will lead you the rest of the way to the parking lot.
So far I haven’t found a hike I didn’t like. Some are definitely better than others, and many of the popular spots can be ruined with large crowds. I personally enjoy being alone or in a smaller group. I have stopped sharing GPS locations and instead suggest people do their own research. Don’t follow someones guide perfectly. Be courageous and explore. Make it your own adventure!