Day Trippin near southwest Missouri

Seth Kinker
Neosho Daily News

I’m new to the area but quickly learning that living here offers a plethora of outdoor activities to satisfy that adventure itch.

Over the course of this summer, I’ll be plotting out and exploring some day trips that can be made in the southwest Missouri area, and I’m always open to suggestions!

To kick off this series, I simply searched, “Best Ozark hikes” with the first option being from alltrails.com with 44 trails ranked for the Ozark National Forest in Arkansas. 

Now, full disclosure, my first weekend down here I did hike no. 1 on the list which was Whitaker Point Trail (Hawksbill Crag). It had incredible views, a nice workout while not too strenuous but still a bit early in the season with a lack of green on the flora so I plan to make a return trip later in the summer. 

So, for my first entry into this series I chose no. 2 on the list which was the Gloryhole Waterfall Trail.

Travel time: Keeping in mind that it’s nice to get back home with a little bit of your day left, I left my apartment in Joplin at 9 a.m. I arrived at the trailhead around 11:30 a.m. and began down the trail and was back to the parking lot by 1:15 and home by 4 p.m. The roundtrip distance driving was just under 300 miles but should be a shorter distance if you are traveling from Neosho or Aurora.

I tracked my distance on my phone, which was a total of 3 miles down and back that included small detours to check out paths that branched out and other sights along the way.

A small waterfall off the path on the way down to the main attraction.

What to look out for: The first half mile or so was fairly easy, with a wide, weaving path to offset a small elevation change. It got a little bit steeper after that but could still be done at an easy walking pace. As the trail descends, you come to a small waterfall and pool that branches off as another trail that can be followed along the creek all the way down. I took that on the return trip back up but stayed on the original path heading down.

The creek leading down to the falls.

About a mile in, you’re just about there. It gets steeper with bigger rocks but is still manageable to walk as long as you take your time and look at what’s ahead. I saw dogs of various sizes and kids once I got down to the bottom of the trail near the waterfall, but didn’t see any infants or strollers as the path wouldn’t really allow it as you got closer to your destination.

Above the falls at the end of the trail, don't get too close!

Before you descend under the waterfall, be sure not to miss the main attraction! It’s just off the path to the left before you go down under the falls, you can see the water flow through and drop down the hole that has been eroded away over time.

The descent below the falls is a bit tougher, with more loose rocks, a steeper path and exposed roots but just take it nice and easy and you’ll be able to explore the valley under the waterfall.

Hugging the rockface on the winding path down leads you to below the falls.

You can take a goat path up against the rocks underneath the falls where you can see the hole where the water is falling from above. There’s also a huge rock shelf you can walk up against and see some gigantic pieces of it that have fallen off over time and climb if you’re careful!

The water from the creek was cold and refreshing to splash on your face after exploring above and below the falls as well as standing under the falls if you want to cool off even quicker.. After a water and granola bar break, I headed back up the trail to the car.

A view of the creek as it continues down and away from the falls.
A view looking away from the falls, big rocks like the one pictured have split off from the cliff over time and can be walked through at the bottom of the falls.

I moved fairly quickly as a party of one, but feel free to take it all in once you get to the bottom, it’s gorgeous and easy to get to as long as you take your time with some of the steeper areas.