At one time, this was considered the best hike in the Ozark Mountains and while it is still part of my favorite wilderness area, the Richland Creek Wilderness Area, heavy use has taken it’s toll on the area of the last few years. There are a couple different ways to conduct this hike, but I think the easiest and most scenic is to start at the old Richland Creek Campground, which has been closed for several years and proceed west up Richland Creek.
There are no maintained or marked trails in this area, so at times the going can be very rugged and wild. On the far west side of the old campground, there is a faint hint of a trail that crosses two small filler creeks. This is the first water crossing, which can be from knee high to waist deep. Continue west up a saddleback and along the ridge line overlooking Richland Creek. There are places where you can see a defined trail and places where there is no trail, but just keep traveling west up Richland Creek.
After several miles, you will reach a sharp bend in Richland Creek, where the Big Devils Fork meets Richland Creek. If you want to continue to the Twin Falls, you will have to cross Richland Creek and head west up the Big Devils Fork. This crossing can also be from knee deep to waist deep depending on the time of year and weather. Once you crossed Richland Creek, follow the Big Devil’s Fork west for approximately .4 miles to reach the Twin Falls, which are spectacular.
If you want to hike to Richland Falls, from the intersection of the Big Devil’s Fork and Richland Creek, continue following Richland Creek upstream for approximately .5 miles to reach Richland Falls. These falls are also great and depending on the time of year can span the entire width of the Richland Creek.
From the Twin Falls, one can follow the stream on the right, the Big Devils Fork, upstream to reach another waterfall called the Don Hamilton Falls. If you continue upstream, you will eventually run into several old Mill Stones along the stream that were once used in the area.
For the extra adventurous trekkers, if you travel up the steep hillside and small stream to the south of the Mill Stones, you will eventually locate a place called the Sand Stone Castle. This is a very hidden area, that was once used my outlaws and deserters during the Civil War. You can also locate the Sand Stone Castle, but traveling west from the Twin Falls, directly between the two streams. Follow the of the ridge up a very steep and rugged for .9 miles and you will locate the Sand Stone Castle.
The Sandstone Castle is a maze of rooms and entrances in the bluff line that create kind of a Castle feel with the various rooms and tunnels. It is a very special place, but not easy to locate as you will have to bushwhack your way there.
While this area is indeed rugged, wild and not easily accessible, it is my favorite area in the Ozark Mountains, in part due to the rugged nature of the area. This area is a great place to explore, but can also be dangerous and injuries occur in this area often, so seek advice from a outdoor professional before setting off to explore.
North Approach: Take AR Hwy 123 East from Lurton, which is about 26 miles south of Jasper on Scenic Hwy 7, between Pelsor/Sand Gap and Cowell. Go 1.5 miles, then Turn Right onto FR# 1200/CR# 36. Travel 6.8 miles, then Continue Straight/Turn Right onto FR# 1205/CR# 37. Go another 1.6 miles to a four way junction of sorts. This is Iceledo Gap. Turn Right onto what appears a driveway, drive down the hill and past the house, then across a small stream. The road will end after 0.8 miles at Hill Cemetery. The first part of this road passes through private property, so be sure to not trespass. Also, the road is starting to get rough in places, and a high clearance vehicle may be needed.
South Approach: From the intersection of AR Hwy 7/16/123 at Pelsor/Sand Gap, head East on Hwy 16 approx. 9.8 miles, just past the small community of Ben Hur, to FR# 1205/CR# 68/Upper Falling Water Rd. Turn Left and go about 10 miles to the campground entrance on your left.