Every year Lisa and I figure on a place to go to get away from the chaos that is Christmas Day. This usually results in a cold hike often times at our park of choice, Pinnacle Mountain State Park. This year we decided on a different venue for the hike so Christmas morning with the young one secure at her grandmother’s house we set out for Lake Catherine State Park between Hot Springs and Malvern.
We visited Lake Catherine last Labor Day for a picnic, some hiking, and a little horseback riding. We had a great time exploring the Horseshoe Mountain Trail. This trip we had decided on the Dam Mountain Trail. A little bit longer trail that would take us past the waterfall that is one of the icons of the park and all the way down to Carpenter Dam which creates Lake Catherine. Neither one of us had been on this particular trail since we usually have kids with us that limit our hiking distance.
For a few days before Christmas, Arkansas was hit with steady rains. The good news would be that the waterfalls would be flowing nicely. We were a little worried that the drive from Little Rock would be tough due to some flooding on I-30 the night before. Luckily it was all cleared up before we headed down to the park.
We pulled into the park around noon, it was very quiet. The temperature was hovering around freezing and there were only a couple of cars at the trailhead. The three main trails in the park Dam Mountain, Horseshoe Mountain, and Falls Branch all start at one trailhead. All three are National Recreation Trails. At the first trail split about 100 yards up the trail we saw a sign saying that the Dam Mountain Trail was closed. Bummer. We walked on knowing that the actual trail didn’t start until just past the waterfall. So on we went.
We figured out pretty quickly why the trail was closed. The water was really rushing over the falls and the park obviously didn’t want to have anyone injured trying to cross the swollen creek. It’s great when there is so much water that a few “surprise” falls happen. You can see one to the right of the main falls in the photo.
We decided to go on and continue on the Falls Branch Trail which took us past several other smaller waterfalls.
We followed another stream past several smaller waterfalls
We continued to follow the Falls Branch Trail until it intersected with the Horseshoe Mountain Trail so we took a left and went up the Mountain following it all the way around to the original trail intersection near the trailhead. At this point, we decided we had plenty of time to go the other direction on the Falls Branch Trail. We stopped at one of the bridges for this silly shot.
The far end of the bridge had more stone steps and another waterfall
Once we got to the top of the Falls Branch Trail we came back to an earlier intersection that allowed us to take another left and finish the section of the Horseshoe Mountain Trail that we hadn’t done on this trip. So basically we hiked all the trails in the park except for the one we came to do, the Dam Mountain Trail. Oh well, another reason to return to a wonderful park. Ham and cheese sandwiches in the car and back on the road home for more family fun.
P.S. I got a new helmet cam for mountain biking and other treks down the trail so watch for more videos! Oh, and tell me what you got for Christmas to enhance your outdoor experience or what outdoor holiday traditions you have.