Day Trippin near southwest Missouri: Lost Valley Trail

Seth Kinker
Neosho Daily News

For the latest installment of the Day Trippin series, I went a little bit off the beaten path to find my next adventure.

I have to give credit to Reddit user u/benstonevideos for posting some great pictures of his adventures on a subreddit that I follow. In the comments of one of his posts, he mentioned that the Lost Valley Trail in Arkansas as one of his favorite hikes in the Ozarks and that was enough for me.

Unlike last week, when I meant to go to Devils Canyon Scenic Area Trail & Bushwhack and ended up exploring White Rock Mountain, I made sure to double check the directions this time. Apple Maps failed me once again, so I reached out to Ben Stone and he let me know that Google Maps led him straight to the trailhead for Lost Valley.

So, if you’re thinking about visiting Lost Valley Trail after reading this, be sure to use Google Maps!

This hike will take you right alongside Clark Creek, ascending up throughout the 2.3 mile out and back trail that features the ability to climb over some rocks if you’re careful, a waterfall, a cavern and even some cave exploration.

Travel time: I left Joplin at 10 a.m. and arrived at 12:45 p.m. with two traffic jams included. After arriving at the trailhead parking, you go a down a path behind a clearly marked sign to some bathrooms before the trail begins.

I spent a lot of time exploring the stops along the trail that included the Natural Bridge, Cob Cave, Eden Falls and the Eden Falls Cave and arrived back to the parking lot just after 3 p.m.

After a stop at Sugar Booger BBQ, which you pass on the way in, on the way out, I was back home in Joplin by 6:30 p.m. with a roundtrip total of 268 miles. If you decide to stop there on the way out, the smoked brisket is a nice reward for all the hiking you’ve just done and the Gatti Mac (mac and cheese with bacon bits and jalapenos) was great but spicy!

What to look out for: Once you reach the actual trail, you have to cross a small creek before you get to a wide path that takes you to the aforementioned points of interest. The recommendation is to bring waterproof shoes and although they may not have been necessary to start the journey, those do come in handy later.

That’s speaking from experience with my soaked socks and shoes!

A view from the beginning of the hike, walking along the trail with the creek on your right.

The signage is clear throughout this hike and after walking down the wider path, you’ll come to a sign that points you to the right towards the Natural Bridge and Eden Falls. Do not go left as that is the path you’ll come down on, on the return journey.

That first sign also mentions using extreme caution beyond that point and although the path is defined, there are a lot of opportunities to explore off path. The path itself is skinny and the ascent is quite rapid as you go up, I saw kids and even infants in harnesses with their parents, but I wouldn’t recommend it to the elderly.

The first stop was at the Natural Bridge, Clark Creek had carved an arch through 50 feet of limestone and it emptied into a small pool at the bottom. With the flow not as heavy with a lack of rain recently, you could get right up to the falling water and even climb through that arch.

A view looking back at the Natural Bridge, if you're careful you can climb through it!

Continuing on, the path winds up and I was able to actually climb through the arch and through the creek bed over rocks and trees to get back into the trail heading towards the Cob Cave but you can get back on the trail after exiting the Natural Bridge to get towards Cob Cave too.

As I got back on the path towards Cob Cave, I passed a couple with a black lab that remarked, “right around the corner is paradise,” and they were right.

Cob Cave on the Lost Valley Trail, the picture doesn't do the size of  it justice whether you're looking at it from inside out like this picture or the outside in from the trail.

Cob Cave is a massive overhang and was given its name when in 1931, a team of archaeologists from the University of Arkansas found tiny corn cobs and fragments of sandals, bags and baskets there. The cobs were 2,000 years old!

As you go over the trail you see the massive rock wall that makes up the top of the overhang of Cob Cave and the size of the space underneath surprised me. From the trail itself, you could go off the path and cross a little bit of running water to get to the cavern and explore all around it.

Near one end of that cavern was a waterfall you can get to as well. Hopping some rocks allows you to get right under the waterfall if you so choose, the water was cold and refreshing to dip my head under on a hot day.   

Eden Falls on the Lost Valley Trail.

From there, you continue onwards and upwards to the top of that waterfall you just saw.

At the top of that waterfall are the Eden Falls Caves and you can actually crawl through the cave to reach falling water within that cave that feeds the waterfall you just came from and the creek you have been following up the trail.

Inside the Eden Falls Caves at the top of the trial. Bring a headlamp!

Now, the recommendations when I looked up this trail said to bring waterproof shoes and a headlamp. I was 0-2 on both of those. When it came to the headlamp I figured, I have my phone, that will be good enough.

But there I was crawling through the tight space in the cave to get to the end with one hand holding my phone and the other for getting a grip. I would definitely recommend a headlamp.

Now, I’m not claustrophobic per se, but I’m also not consistently looking to put myself into tight spaces that were in those caves. It’s a short trip to get to the end but I definitely felt like John McClane in Die Hard as he’s crawling through the ventilation at Nakatomi Plaza.

On the way out, it was more like Roger Murtaugh from Lethal Weapon. I stretched before starting the hike but should’ve stretched more.

The descent back down is downhill and much easier. All in all, probably my favorite hike thus far just with the variety of different views on the hike and how up close you were able to get visiting the points of interest along the trail.

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