North Sylamore Creek Trail

For some time, the local Sierra Club group has done an annual trip to the Blanchard Springs Recreation Area in north central Arkansas.  The main attraction for me has been the 23-mile North Sylamore Creek Trail.  During my first visit last year I hiked the Allison to Gunner Pool sections.  This year I did the Cripple Turkey to Gunner Pool sections so I’ve now hiked the entire trail.

Backing up a bit, Blanchard Springs was closed this year, apparently due to recent flooding, so we stayed at the next campground to the west – Gunner Pool.  On Friday 4 of us drove to the Barkshed trail head and hiked back to Gunner Pool.

We were planning to hike the Cripple Turkey to Barkshed sections on Saturday but for various reasons the others weren’t able to do it.  One was kind enough to drive me to Cripple Turkey and drop me there so I could hike 13.5 miles back to Gunner Pool.

My ride leaves. I'm kinda committed now.

Besides being the western end of the North Sylamore Creek Trail, the Cripple Turkey trail head is also the intersection with the Sylamore section of the Ozark Highlands Trail.

The section between Cripple Turkey and Cole Fork Road was a nice walk in the woods but there was nothing particularly scenic about it.  It’s a relatively new trail and needs more traffic to help keep grass from growing in the tread.

This large tree was growing in less than a foot of soil on top of a rock slab. It was bound to fall over.

An orienteering control point next to the trail

The trail crosses Barkshed Creek on the west side of the Cole Fork Road trail head. This was a nice place to eat lunch and resupply with water.

Between Cole Fork Road and Barkshed are some scenic areas.

This is a particularly nice area about 1/2 mile north of the Barkshed trail head where the trail follows the bluff around a bend in the creek.

Looking downstream from the bridge at Barkshed trail head

Of course, the wildflowers were great.  The bluffs were often draped in hydrangea, heuchera, columbine, and shooting star that grew from crevices.

Spiderwort - Tradescantia

Columbine - Aquilegia

Shooting Star - Dodecatheon

Maybe next year I’ll try hiking the entire trail in one (long!) day.

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About Michael R

I enjoy hiking, landscaping with native plants, nature photography, dark chocolate, fine dining, good movies, and old jazz.
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9 Responses to North Sylamore Creek Trail

  1. Kerry says:

    Looking to Backpack this toward the end of April. I was reading on the NPS site that the newer part of the trail on the north end does not have year round access to water and that you should cache water. Is this true, or were they probably just talking about potable water that doesn’t need to be filtered/treated? Also, what does camping opportunities along the trail look like? We would rather not camp in the recreation areas, we want to be away from the car campers. Thanks!

    • Michael R says:

      Much of the area between Cripple Turkey trail head and Barkshead is well above the creeks. There may be some water in minor side channels if it has rained recently, but the only “major” water will be be about halfway between where the trail crosses Barkshead Creek right before flowing into Cole Fork.

      I have not yet backpacked this trail – only day-hiked – but lots of people do backpack it so it must be doable. Even if there isn’t a “Backpacker Magazine cover-shot dream camp site” around every bend there will be places to put a tent. A topo map will show the fairly level areas that are possible sites.

      • Kerry says:

        Thank you for the response, I do have a topo map of the trail, and it looks like there are some awesome flat areas in the shadow of bluffs to set up camp. It looks like there will be plenty of access to water south of Barkshead on the last 2 days of the trip if we start at the Cripple Turkey trail head and hike south. Does that sound correct to you? Thanks!

        • Michael R says:

          Yeah, once you get past the Barkshed area (east-bound) you’ll be near the creek often enough that water won’t be a concern.

          Halfway between the Barkshed campground and Cripple Turkey you cross Barkshed Creek and can get water there. This is about the only place to camp along that stretch of trail as well.

          If you didn’t see my recent article, I hiked Cripple Turkey -> Barkshed Rec Area last weekend. There was much damage from a recent storm. I expect it will all be cleared-up in the next week or two but you better call the Sylamore Ranger station before your trip to make sure.

          • Kerry Michel says:

            Really? That’s a bummer to hear, hopefully they’ll have it all fixed by the time we set feet on the dirt. Now as far as camp, are you talking about it being the only established campground, or the only suitable place to drop open camp? Thanks again for all of your great info. The ranger that I spoke to over there seemed to have gotten up on the wrong side of the bed and wasn’t very helpful.

            • Michael R says:

              There is a lot of level ground around the Barkshed Creek crossing and at least one place where people left obvious traces. No official campground. It looks like there is more open space on the other side of Cole Fork too.

  2. Justin says:

    Very nice! We are doing Allison to Cripple Turkey this weekend. How hard is it to find the Cripple Turkey Parking? We are dropping a vehicle there.

    • Michael R says:

      We had no trouble finding it. There is a sign for the turn from AR14 to FR 1108. My recollection is that the turn onto Cripple Turkey Road was marked by a carsonite sign with a 5 or 6-digit number rather than the name. It’s on the left 2 miles from the highway. This last leg is not much of a road but we made it in a minivan.

      With last weekend’s rain there should be some nice waterfalls. Enjoy!

    • Michael R says:

      My map of the Leatherwood Wilderness shows Cripple Turkey Road as “91079A” so that’s probably what I saw on the carsonite post.

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