Spring Hike to Hideout Hollow

By Robert J. Korpella

First posted on 04-08-2011

Click on any of the photos to see a larger image.

A very warm spring Saturday was custom made for a hike in the Buffalo River wilderness area. Hideout Hollow was the destination this time, and I was hoping to see some wildflowers and maybe even some of the many varieties of mushrooms for which the trail is noted.

The trees still clung to the grays and browns they had worn all winter and only a few violets, wild plum trees and some harbingers of spring dared come out this early in the season. Not a single mushroom was in sight. In another week or two, this trail and many others in the area will be washed in blooms and ‘shrooms.

Not that the hike was a bad one, few are. And I had not yet been to Hideout Hollow, a spot named for the nine World War I draft dodgers who sought refuge there for nearly a year during America’s involvement in the war. Actually, two of them did walk out of the hollow early and joined the military, but the others simply hid out.

Deeply undercut bluffs ring the canyon that forms Hideout Hollow, which made nice natural shelters for the boys. A creek above the canyon drops off in a waterfall to the hollow below and creates a meandering creek. Wildlife and vegetation for food, plus water from the creek likely made life fairly comfortable.

The trailhead leading to Hideout Hollow is called the Schermerhorn Trailhead, named in honor of the late Jim Schermerhorn, an Arkansas filmmaker and spelunker. The trailhead is located about 3.5 miles down a dirt road—the Compton – Erbie Road—leading out of Compton, Arkansas. Compton is on Highway 43, about 8 miles from Ponca.

The Compton – Erbie Road starts almost directly across the highway from a now closed convenience store and gas station at the Compton town limit. Head down the road and you’ll face a building that looks like it may have once been an old general store. Straight ahead is a dead end, to the left returns you to the highway, so right is the correct choice. The road is rough at times and narrows to one lane often. Eventually, you’ll pass by the entrance to the Compton Trailhead (on your right) and, just a little way past that is a tiny parking area on the left, which is at the entrance to the Schermerhorn Trailhead.

The trail begins with a slight downhill slope toward a small creek you’ll need to cross. Hikers before us laid down a few rocks to make forging easy. Then, it’s back uphill, under a powerline and off toward the hollow. The uphill climb is a little challenging with plenty of loose, fist-sized rocks to contend with, but a bit of caution and light stepping gets you through just fine.

Along the way, you’ll probably see some reddish-purple ribbons tied to trees and to stakes under the limbs. They mark the trail’s border with private land, so please stay on public property and avoid trespassing.

A large stand of tall pines greets you as the trail flattens out and the scent of pine needles is intoxicating. As the trail nears the bluffs that hem the hollow, huge room-sized rocks and boulders seem to have tumbled from nowhere and are worth a side trip to explore.

The trail takes off to the left and, before long, you hear the waterfall. Smooth rocks along the creek just above the falls make a fine spot for a snack or lunch and, since you’ve walked a mile, a sit to enjoy creek gurgles and water rushing off the bluff.

After a quick break, head up the trail about 200 feet or so. You’ll be very close to private land at this point, but just stay on the trail to avoid it. At the end of the path is a very nice waterfall flowing off stone that looks as if it had been bent for charm. A fire ring at the site makes the spot especially inviting for camping, which is allowed along the trail.

To complete your journey, just head back out the same way you came in. The whole trip is about 2 miles and not too strenuous compared to other trails in the area.

Hideout Hollow is one of the lesser known trails in the area and is a little more difficult to get to, so it’s likely you’ll have the place to yourself most of the time. We went on a nice weekend after a spell of cold, wet weather, prime time for hikers. We only saw four other people on the way in and four more on the way out. The rest of the time it was a quiet, peaceful time in nature.