Richland Creek is one of my all-time favorite places to go in Arkansas. Well worth the 2.5 hour drive from Fayetteville, it's an incredibly scenic place to hike, see waterfalls, swim, and car camp or do an overnight backpacking trip.
Starting in the campground, there's easy access to picnic areas, the water, and the 2 mile trail out to Richland Falls and Twin Falls - which is absolutely stunning. Following the creek itself, which is full of giant boulders and the blue-green pools of water the Ozarks are known for, it's a moderate trail that often has a few downed trees and one particularly narrow spot with a steep drop off. The trail crosses Falling Water Creek right off the bat, which can make things interesting, depending on the water level.
Once you get to the confluence of Richland Creek and Long Devil's Fork, you're faced with a few options of where to go next. There's an excellent campsite right at the confluence, or you can keep following Richland Creek to Richland Falls. This is a great spot to set up, swim, and spend the day, and if you look closely enough there are tons of fossils in the rocks along the creek.
A Crinoid fossil on the way to Richland Falls
Alternatively, you can cross Richland Creek at the confluence and follow Long Devil's Fork. This brings you to the stunning Twin Falls, where Big Devil's Fork and Long Devil's Fork converge into a double waterfall and an awesome swimming hole.
Twin Falls in the winter
There's another unique spot a ways past Twin Falls, which takes some work (re: hiking uphill... for a while) to get to. Follow a trail (on the left) above Twin Falls, and continue up the ridge that rises between the two forks - Look around and you'll find a trail leading you upward. This continues to the top of the ridge, ending at a place called the Sandstone Castle, a series of cavernous cutouts in the upper bluff line. It's well worth exploring, if you're willing to make the trek up there.
In the last few years, this area has seen an increase in popularity - which is great, except for the noticeable rise in trash left on the trail and at campsites. The last time I went, I collected a broken water filter, capri sun pouches, several socks, band aid wrappers, a tea kettle, and various things melted in the hike-in fire pits. Please visit responsibly, and help us keep our natural areas clean and enjoyable for future visitor. Pack out what you pack in, and maybe even clean up a little extra on your way out. I hope you enjoy Richland Creek as much as I do!
A map of this area is included in the Ozark Highlands Trail - West map