Tucked in the Ozarks, you find hollows, history, creeks, caves, and springs. Some of the cool places the Ozark National Forest and Buffalo National River do a great job of showcasing with trails or pointing them out on maps. However, some are not so easily accessible. This helps preserve the wildness of the area. The Big Creek Cave Falls is one such place. Not an official trail, this 3-mile out-and-back, showcases three large springs, two in the form of waterfalls, and one in the form of a creek.
But you won’t find signs directing you to the trailhead. And you won’t find a marked trail, although a worn path is fairly easy to follow for some parts of the trail. However, if you can handle some route-finding, know how to navigate via GPS, and don’t mind bushwhacking, Big Creek Cave Falls has some big payouts.
Finding the Big Creek Cave Falls trailhead
Because there is not an official trail, there is not an official trailhead to Big Creek Cave Falls. But the unofficial trailhead is on County Road 6840. Driving north on Highway 7 toward Jasper, County Road 6840 turns off of the highway 1.3 miles north of the Highway 16 intersection, where it goes west to Deer. Turn right, or east, on County Road 6840 from Highway 7. It looks a little like a driveway, but a road sign tells you it’s not. You then drive east for 2.8 miles as the dirt road snakes down into the valley. You will see a power line clearing. The trail leaves the roadway to the right just past the clearing.
An old road, which also looks like a private drive, is on the east side of the clearing. This is the beginning of the trail. The first time I hiked Big Creek Cave Falls, I was afraid I might be on private land. However, once back, I found a Forest Service map that shows the entire trail to be on Forest Service land.
Trailhead to split
The trail begins by heading down an old road and skirts the remnants of an old homestead. At 0.3 miles, you come to your first creek crossing. This is the Right Fork Big Creek, and shortly after the crossing it flows into the Left Fork Big Creek.
After you cross the creek, the trail enters a large mowed field. This is a great place to spot wildlife like deer and elk.
Around mile 0.5 the trail goes back into the woods, where you have another creek crossing. This time it’s the Left Fork Big Creek, and it’s a little bit bigger of a creek crossing. You enter another mowed field and then at mile 0.65, the trail takes you back into the woods.
You follow the creek fairly closely and several social trails lead to beautiful small waterfalls and swimming holes along the creek. Right around mile 1, the trail kind of splits in three ways. If you go to the left, you can see an old vehicle abandoned years ago. It’s only a few steps, so I advise taking the slight spur to check it out.
Finding the cave and waterfall
Once back to the fork after checking out the abandoned vehicle, this time you want to take the trail to the right along the Big Creek Cave Falls Trail. You want to head toward the creek. In about 0.05 miles the trail crosses the creek. This is a great swimming hole if you are hiking in warmer weather.
From the creek crossing, you want to continue to follow the worn path south. The trail begins to climb a little of the hillside. After about 0.15 more miles of hiking the trail follows another creek for a short way before turning and heading toward the bluff. At mile 1.3, you find a cave with a creek flowing out of it. This is a large open cave, and it’s pretty interesting to watch the creek flow out of nothing.
From this point, you want to cross the creek. Other hikers have made rock footbridges to help you get across without getting your feet wet. You then want to follow the bluff line around, continuing south. Here the unofficial path is hard to follow and can have some tricky footing.
After hiking about 0.05 of a mile from the cave, you come to the main showcase, Big Creek Cave Falls. This is a large waterfall that comes out of the rock wall like someone has turned on a faucet.
Waterfall to Big Creek Cave Falls main trail
After you take in Big Creek Cave Falls, follow the hillside around and head down into the creek bottom. At mile 1.4 you have to cross the creek again. Continue heading east through the woods and at mile 1.45, you come back to the old road and can see a remnant of a trail. Here you want to go right, or south.
Big Creek Cave Falls main trail to Wolf Creek Falls
You cross another small creek, and at mile 1.55, you cross Big Creek again. You follow along the creek for a short way before the trail turns and crosses the creek one more time at mile 1.62. From there you want to follow the tributary into the hill. This tributary is something to see as well. It flows out of the cave in back into another small one. It’s like you are walking across a bridge in a botanical garden.
You will quickly see water coming out of another cave cascading over moss. This is Wolf Creek Falls. It almost looks manmade and manicured. Please abide by the sign that tells you to not enter the cave. It might be tempting to crawl in there, but it can harm animals like bats.
Wolf Creek Falls back to trailhead
From Wolf Creek Falls, retrace your steps to the point where you came out of the woods to the main trail. Here you go straight along the easier-to-walk unofficial trail. This is around mile 1.88.
From there you follow the old trail with glimpses of the creek. At mile 2.2, you come back to the three-way fork, where you left the main trail before. From there, you want to continue straight and retrace your steps back to the trailhead.
Wet feet and flagging tape
When I hiked the Big Creek Cave Falls Trail, some places had flagging tape to mark the way. However, it can still be confusing. You can download my GPX data here. AllTrails also has it mapped, but it doesn’t include the first cave. I found the first cave by fellow blogger Brent’s description.
Also, looking for waterfalls usually means higher creeks. The first time I hiked Big Creek Cave Falls, it was October and the water was relatively low. The second time was in late March and the water levels were higher. I could not keep my feet dry in March. I was able to rock hop and keep my feet dry in October.
Big Creek Cave Falls
Big Creek Cave Falls is a fairly easy hike in the way of length and steepness. However, I would rate it harder because it requires route-finding and bushwhacking. Also, the water crossing and lack of a trail in places can make it slippery and dangerous. But, it has some great payoffs.
- 3.17 mile lollipop loop
- Elevation gain and loss 321 feet
- Dogs allowed
- Backcountry camping allowed