My Ride, My Trail
Fossil Flats Trail, Devil’s Den State Park
By Tim Scott, Assistant Superintendent, Devil’s Den State Park
There are 52 Arkansas State Parks, and my home park, Devil’s Den, was one of the first five that began as a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp. As part of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal program, the CCC put young men between the ages of 18 to 25 to work during the Depression years. They were here not only to build the park but to help save the nation. All of us who work and maintain Devil’s Den are very proud of that CCC heritage.
Not only did the CCC construct the park’s cabins and dam from 1933 to 1942, they also built trails that are still in use today. The Devil’s Den, Yellow Rock, and Lake trails were all built during that period, with two of those trails listed on the United States Department of Interior’s National Trail System.
Recreation has always been a part of the park’s mission, so the development of mountain bike trails fit perfect with that objective. Which brings me to my trail: Fossil Flats.
The Fossil Flats Trail was built in 1990, making it one of the first mountain bike trails in the state—and the first in an Arkansas state park. The name for the trail comes from fossils found in the middle creek crossing’s limestone bedrock. Commonly referred to as a “stacked loop,” there are three trails that form this six-mile loop: The Outlaw loop (three miles) and The Sawmill and Racer’s Hill loops (one-and-a-half miles each). It’s a perfect trail for the intermediate cyclist.
Through the years, the trail has morphed and evolved due to new trail building techniques and flooding. Originally, the three-mile path started with an old house site road on one side of Lee Creek, with the other side built by park staff. Later, Sweet Trails and Progressive Trail Design (PTD) constructed portions of the Outlaw loop, and local volunteer group Ozark Off Road Cyclists (OORC) built and re-routed Racer’s Hill. OORC has been instrumental in maintaining the trail.
Most cyclists ride the trail clockwise. Here are some of my favorite features on this landmark trail:
• Right out of the gate you will find a “sweet” Progressive Trail Design pump track. Then the trail extends up the valley.
• The trail briefly flows along Lee Creek before climbing up the side of the valley.
• Eventually the trail connects with an old road and your next challenge is affectionately called “Heartbreak Hill.” No explanation necessary.
• From there the trail becomes open and fast until the upper creek crossing.
• The upper creek crossing is dry about half the time.
• Time for Racer’s Hill, a half-mile climb with the reward of a half-mile descent.
• From Racer’s Hill your next feature is “the ledge,” a narrow portion of the trail overlooking one of the best Lee Creek valley views.
• The trail becomes fast again for the next mile until you reach the legendary “Gravity Cavity.” You pedal in one side, and it shoots you out the other.
• One last creek crossing before returning to the starting point in Campground A. It is a great place to cool off as you finish your ride.
Devilís Den is also your perfect mountain bike base camp. From your campsite, you are a half hour to an hour and a half from some of the best mountain biking in Northwest Arkansas which includes Lake Fort Smith State Park, Hobbs Conservation Area State Park, Fayetteville, Rogers, and Bentonville/Bella Vista. There are over 70 miles of exciting, hand-cut to machine groomed trails. After a day of riding, you arrive back at your Devilís Den campsite or cabin and relax for the eveningóour home is yours.
For more information about Devilís Den State Park, visit arkansasstateparks.com/devilsden. For information about mountain biking at Devilís Den and other Arkansas state parks, visit arkansas.com/bicycling/mountain-biking.