The Glory Hole Falls was definitely was one of the more unique waterfalling experiences that we’ve ever had. As you can see from the photo at the top of this page, it was a rare waterfall where the water fell through a hole into a deep grotto. It had always been on our bucket list ever since we were first made aware of it a few years ago (though in the internet literature, photos tended to be Photoshopped or under ideal conditions to make it appear far ideal than the reality would be). In addition to experiencing this waterfall from the base of this hole, we also got to see the very top of the hole where the stream fell through. Indeed, it was because of the uniqueness of this waterfall that we gave this waterfall the high scenic rating score despite its modest size of around 30ft.
We started our hike from its relatively obscure trailhead right off the Hwy 21/16 (see directions below). There happened to be a sign at the start of the trail that said “Glory Hole” with an arrow pointing left, which gave us the confidence that we were in the right place. From the highway, we followed what appeared to be a wide jeep trail or 4wd road flanked by tall thin trees. Since our visit had followed around a week of rain, there were still some deep puddles flooding sections of the trail. Fortunately for us, we were able to go around these wet and muddy spots as there were established trails of use to dodge them.
After a few minutes of gradual downhill walking, we reached a fork where the trail veered to the right and considerably narrowed a bit more. The trail on the left was a continuation of the jeep trail though we knew not where it went. In fact, we noticed one person who drove his high-clearance truck all the way to this “false path” to perhaps shorten the hike or something. Anyways, as the trail narrowed and curved to our right, it then got to a descending part where it went downhill more steeply than before. We knew that on the return hike, this would probably cause us to sweat a bit. Anyhow, we encountered many people going in the other direction along this section of the trail, which attested to its popularity (as these folks were already leaving well before we showed up pretty early in the morning).
As the descending part of the trail veered to the left, it crossed a creek, which turned out to be the very creek that would ultimately feed the Glory Hole Falls further downstream. However, we heard the sounds of falling water, and it turned out that we started to notice some trails of use branching to our left away from the main trail to get closer to the creek. The first of these branches led to an attractive cascade and smaller grotto that was kind of a precursor to the Glory Hole Falls that we’d see later. It was easy to linger around here for a bit (especially since we were alone here), but we knew there was more to see later on so we quickly backtracked to the main trail and kept going.
Moments later, there was another spur trail to our left, and this went to yet another small cascade on the same stream. The second cascade was not as pretty as the first so we didn’t linger there. There was a use-trail that kept going downstream alongside the creek as well as the main trail itself, and they eventually converged at the top of the Glory Hole. When we looked upstream from the creek, we saw there were a few more attractive cascades in succession. However, it was really the Glory Hole that got all the attention as hikers just arriving or just leaving would check this spot out. It took us around 45 minutes to get to this point as the trail was about a mile in length. In order to get right up to the brink of the hole, I had to scramble onto a ledge with a couple of large boulders. This was not a trivial scramble (as some agility was necessary due to the huge step to take down to and up from the ledge), but once I was on the ledge, I was then able to carefully walk closer to the brink. I had to be very careful not to get too close because the surface around the hole was worn smooth by the water so it was very slippery. I was very cognizant that people have fallen through the hole before so I made sure to stay away from the wet spots and not tempt fate. Thus, it was difficult to look all the way through the hole to its bottom.
After having our fill of the top of the Glory Hole, we then continued along the main trail, which went away from the falls towards another small creek crossing before descending back towards the main creek. At the creek level, we then followed the trail briefly upstream towards the large grotto through which the Glory Hole Falls fell through. And this was where the majority of the hikers spent most of their time (so it was difficult to take photos without other people in them despite the amount of space beneath the ledge causing the grotto). While around the waterfall and hole, we were able to walk completely around the falls. When we had our fill of the falls, we returned back the way we came for a grand total of 2 miles round trip of hiking and about 2.5 hours away from the car (indeed we had spent a lot of time at the falls).
During our visit, even though the falls was clearly very popular, we did have a few moments of having the waterfall to ourselves before the next wave of visitors showed up. So we just had to be patient or opportunistic (whichever came first). As for photographing the falls, we’ve heard conflicting advise about it. On the one hand, it would be nice to show up in the late afternoon where the rays of the sun should more or less reflect and light up the grotto and create that warm effect in those internet photos that drew us to the falls in the first place. On the other hand, if it was cloudy (like it was during our visit), we were able to get even lighting so the contrast between the shady grotto and the area outside the grotto wasn’t so great that it would result in photos that were overly dark or blown out. And with the waterflow, it gave the appearance that there was a ray of light shining piercing through the darkness of the grotto (perhaps having something to do with its monicker “Glory Hole”). That said, we were also well aware of a more devious meaning or connotation behind the name of the falls. We’ll leave it up to you to figure out what we’re talking about. In any case, it was probably wise to bring a tripod to get creative with taking photos of this waterfall, but I regrettably didn’t bother to do it and I’m kicking myself for it.
By the way, this wasn’t the only waterfall we’ve seen where a waterfall fell into a hole before re-emerging from a cave or grotto. We’ve also seen an example of this at Running Eagle Falls (where a waterfall fell onto another waterfall) in Glacier National Park and Natural Bridge in Springbrook National Park in Australia among others.
Since we visited the Glory Hole Falls from Clarksville, we’ll describe how we managed to make our drive from there. I’m sure there are other ways to get there, including from the north near Kingston and the east near Deer, but we’re most familiar with the approach we took from Clarksville so that will be our focus.
So we drove on the Hwy 64 (Main St) in the western end of Clarksville and followed it eastwards until we turned left onto Hwy 164 at the eastern end of town. Not long thereafter, we kept left where it became Hwy 21 (leaving Hwy 164), and we followed this road for about 28 miles to its junction with Hwy 16. We turned right at this junction where Hwy 16 and Hwy 21 merged, and we continued down this merged road for another 6 miles or so. That was when we saw a bunch of parked cars off the embankment of the highway to our right.
Even though there were a bunch of cars here, the trailhead wasn’t obviously signed until we noticed on the jeep trail (that we were supposed to walk on) that there was a white sign for “Glory Hole.” There was also a seemingly abandoned ranch with a “No Parking” sign at its gate right across the road, which kind of served as a landmark letting us know that we were indeed in the right place. Overall, this drive took us 45 minutes or so. Note that the Hwy 21 kept going past this trailhead for another 25 miles to the north before reaching the charming little village of Kingston.
To give you some context, Clarksville, Arkansas was 103 miles (90 minutes drive) northwest of Little Rock, Arkansas, 239 miles (3.5 hours drive) east of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and 335 miles (5 hours drive) northeast of Dallas, Texas.
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