In Lake Catherine State Park near Hot Springs, you'll find the Falls Branch National Recreation Trail, a relatively easy hike to the ten-foot falls that anchor the trail's loop. The trailhead begins at a campground at the base of the mountain, where you can park and pick up the trailhead, and follows the Ouachito River to a suspended footbridge over the Little Canyon Creek. Up ahead is the fork in the trail that will lead you to the falls.
You'll find plants, wildflowers and animals as you walk along the trail, and you'll encounter several streams with wet crossings where you and the fur-pup can refresh yourselves and take a break. Benches are scattered along the trail here and there, pawrfect for a rest or contemplation, and some have stone steps with access to the water.
Once you are at the falls, you may find that at times they are reduced to a small trickle, but in the spring or after a drenching summer rain, their beauty and force return. In any season, the pool at the falls' base invites you and your pup to jump in and take a swim or just sit in the cool water.
The loop back to the base is mostly downhill, although the overgrowth in summer may need to be pushed out of your way as you walk. The return takes you along the river if you've taken the trail counter-clockwise on the way out. In either direction, you'll see scenic landscape and magnificent foliage and flowers.
There are no facilities on the trail. Be sure to use the restroom before leaving the campground and bring waste bags for the pooch. Also take plenty of water for you both.
This is a lovely hike that
features a reward at its middle: the inviting falls, and the solitude and quiet of the trail contribute to its allure for folks who don't want to climb hundreds of feet for their prize. Woofderful!
Wear protective clothing and good shoes to shield you from the ticks and snakes that live in the summer's overgrowth of high grasses. A walking stick to move vegetation aside will alert wildlife to your approach and make it easier to spy them, too. Bug spray is a necessity! On the return, especially near the waterfall, you may find some large, slippery boulders so watch your step here.