I dipped my foot into icy-cold water. I put both feet in and sat down in the creek which washed over the lower half of my body. “Wow! This is cold!” Heart-stopping cold. But it was just what I needed after the June heat and humidity left me hot and sweaty – sticky skin acting as a magnet to the dirt and grime. There is no official trail to Twin Falls in the Richland Creek Wilderness Area, but it’s more than worth the bushwhack.
Twin Falls is two separate waterfalls that are actually on two different creeks: the Big Devil’s Fork and the Long Devil’s Fork. A shelf-like rock hangs right over where the two creeks come together, each creek cascading over it into one giant pool at the bottom and then flowing out into Richland Creek as one the Long Devil’s Fork.
The 5.5-mile hike follows an unofficial trail along Richland Creek, one of the most scenic waterways in Arkansas. Twin Falls is about 2.5 miles from Richland Creek Recreation Area. It’s not a hard trail in the way of elevation gain, but there are two stream crossing. And there is no official trail, so some bushwhacking and route finding is necessary. This
Finding the trailhead
The unofficial trail leaves from Richland Creek Recreation Area. To get to Richland Creek Recreation area from Russellville, take Highway 7 north for 28 miles to Pelsor. Turn right onto Highway 16 and travel about 10 miles east. Then turn onto County Road 1205. Continue straight on County Road 1205 for about 6.5 miles and Richland Creek Recreation Area will be on your left.
Park in the Day Use area lot, which is just before the campsites start. Following the road toward the campsites. A set of stairs will appear on your right. Follow the stairs down to the dirt road and then follow it to the left to its end. At the end will be a sign and sign-in box. This is where the unofficial trail begins.
Falling Water Creek Crossing
From the sign-in box, you will continue along the dirt road and immediately come to a creek crossing. This is not Richland Creek, but Falling Water Creek. After the creek crossing, the path kind of follows Richland Creek a little bit.
This part is technically an island at the confluence of Falling Water Creek and Richland Creek. But the second time I crossed Falling Water Creek it was dry because a log jam had dammed it up. It may not be dry when you hike it. You could cross Falling Water Creek a little further up before it splits to go around the island, but it is much deeper there.
After I crossed the dry part of Falling Water Creek, I followed the dry creek bed upstream past the dam. A sign tells you that you are entering the Richland Creek Wilderness Area and that Twin Falls is 2.5 miles away. When you see it, you know you are in the right spot and heading the right way.
By the way, I have tried to get to Twin Falls twice before, going two different other routes. I failed both times. You can read about those hikes here and here.
Falling Water Creek to Richland Creek Crossing
After you pass the Forest Service sign, you begin heading uphill above Richland Creek. You soon come to a landslide. Here, and like many other places you come to, it takes some scouting to find the easiest and best way to cross.
The trail continues along Richland Creek. There are many great swimming holes along the way. which is nice if you hike it in the summer and want to cool off before getting to Twin Falls.
At mile 2.15 the path comes close to the creek and Richland Creek makes a sharp, 90 degree turn to the left, or south. A small creek flows into the Richland Creek in the middle of the curve. This is the stream, Longs Devils Fork, you will follow to find Twin Falls.
Long Devils Fork
The first time I hiked to Twin Falls I followed the drainage up and hiked through the creek. So on my second time, I did the same thing. But on the way out, I noticed that there is an unofficial trail on the south side of the creek. So after you cross Richland Creek, you’ll want to look on the south side for a trail
Twin Falls is about 0.3 miles from Richland Creek. The waterfalls are about 17-19 feet high and I love that they are next to each other but from two different creeks.
Long Devils Fork to Richland Creek Falls
After you explore Twin Falls, hike back to Richland Creek the way you came in. But be careful there are a few other paths, so you’ll want to remember the one you came in on. And since there is no official route, I wasn’t sure where these trails went so I stuck to the main path.
About a third of a mile up Richland Creek is Richland Creeks Falls, a magnificent waterfall that spans the entire creek.
The unofficial path that leads from Twin Falls to Richland Creek Falls is on the other side of the creek that you hiked in on. So when you come out of the Long Devils Fork, you’ll want to stay on that side of the creek.
At about the half-way point between the confluence of the Long Devil’s Fork and Richland Creek Falls, the trail veers to the right (away from the creek) and goes uphill. Remembering the other unofficial paths, I decided that was not the right way. However, I was wrong. I was able to make it to Richland Creek Falls by walking up the creek, but it was not an easy hike.
So on the way, back I noticed the trail and followed it the right way.
No official trail to Twin Falls in the Richland Creek Wilderness Area
You’ll notice some splits on my map, where I hiked in one way and out another. But that’s the chance you take when you bushwhack.
At the beginning of my hike, I noticed some unofficial tree markings in red paint. But they were not there for the entire hike, so I wouldn’t advise relying on them. There is also some orange and pink flags that mark the path, but again, I would not advise relying on them. Instead, use them as guidance.
Anytime you hike off trail you really want to make sure you have a map and a compass. Like I said before, I’ve tried hiking to the falls twice before and didn’t make it. Bushwhacking takes much more strength than you realize. Both previous times I didn’t make it to the falls, I failed because I was moving much slower than anticipated. And knew it was going to get dark soon.
But with that said, and even though it’s a bushwhack, it is so worth the hike.
Bug spray and poison ivy
In preparing for my hike, I read Brent Toellner’s blog post. He advised wearing long pants in the summer because there is a lot of poison ivy. And I’m glad I wore long pants! You’ll also want to be sure to take defense against ticks and chiggers.
- 5.5 miles out and back
- Elevation gain 429 feet
- Bushwhack, no official trail
- Backcountry is camping allowed
- Ozark National Forest
Good report, I did this hike last February in 37 degree weather. both have their challenges. you don’t want to fall in the creek in 37 degrees……….
Ha! No that would not be good!