Backpacking Cecil Creek

8 miles  - Loop Trail

Added by John Chau

Camp beneath an overhang where Jesse James was rumored to hide. You can climb and rappel off the nearby walls and explore the slot canyon on the way to Thunder Canyon Falls.

From Tulsa, head out east along US-412 until you reach HWY 103. Take a right (south) on HWY 103 and follow it toward Compton, Arkansas. Shortly before reaching Compton, take the dirt road on the right (before the road starts to head north), and follow the road south. Keep on it as it bends to the east, and follow it until you reach the Hideout Hollow Trailhead.

From the trailhead, it’s a short 1 mile hike to the overlook. Follow the trail to the left (west) and stay on it as it curves north along the top of the hollow. Cross the small creek, hug the wall and crawl along the ledge. Hop down on the rocks that form a sort of staircase and you should now be below the large overhang that makes the hollow. Walk beneath the large overhang (now heading south) and snap some pics of the waterfall that cascades down.

Keep going beneath the overhang until you reach the remnants of an old structure. Find a flat spot to camp nearby, and establish your base. On the wall opposite from you, there are numerous small caves and climbing routes, so if you still have daylight, check it out. One of the caves also has a neat spot to camp, as well as a stash of firewood. Be sure to replenish that stash when you leave.

Climb up or rappel off those large rock walls, and be sure to use suitable anchors, as some of the trees on top are rather suspect. Explore that area around Hideout Hollow for the rest of the day – maybe you’ll even find Jesse James’ loot that is rumoured to still be hidden somewhere in the area.

The following day, pack up your gear and start on the long (but only about 2 miles) bushwack down the creek. Follow the creek past large boulders, and be careful not to twist your ankles. Keep following the creek until eventually you will come out to the occasionally dry creekbed of Cecil Creek. Follow Cecil Creek north and get onto the Cecil Cove Trail when you find it.

Follow that trail (or stay in the creek) all the way until you reach the junction where one creek flows to the north east and the other flows to the west. Head west a few yards on the trail after crossing the western flowing creek, and you should find a small trail heading north. Follow this trail as it meanders up toward Broadwater Hollow.

You’ll pass by several large caves which are closed until 2019 due to the white-nose bat syndrome. There is a $50,000 fine for entering them (as well as the chance that all of your gear will become carriers of the fungus), so don’t risk it.

Continue on until you reach the waterfall that flows into a large pool and has a decent flat sandy beach where you can set up your tent. This will be your campsite for the night. Have fun in the pool below the falls, and go skinny dipping if you want to.

The next day, you’ll hike back the way you came until you reach Cecil Creek, which you’ll follow south. Follow the creekbed until you reach the turnoff to Thunder Canyon Falls and the slot canyon that goes through it. Be careful on the rocks in the canyon as they are extremely slippery. You should hear the roar of the falls as you come around the last bend in the canyon.

After you are done exploring the area, bushwack up the hillside above the falls toward McFerrin Point (you may need to go back out of the slot canyon a ways before finding a route up along the less steep hillside), and eventually you should reach the Cecil Cove Trail as you head that way. Get onto the trail and hike southeast along it until you reach the forest road. Go right (west) and follow the road west back up to where you parked.

  • Fresh water (always filter or boil it though) is usually easily accessible on this hike
  • Don’t do the bushwack in the summer
  • Be sure to leave a detailed itinerary with someone, but allow enough buffer time in case it takes you longer than you planned when you bushwack
  • Be experienced and knowledgeable with using a map and compass. The creeks act as handrails, but you can still get lost
Read More


Rock Climbing
Easy Parking
Swimming Hole


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🥈 Contributor

over 4 years ago

Ready to Explore this area!

I am ready for some rain to explore this area soon! Thunder Canyon falls has been on my list for a while now! Keep up the good work buddy!

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