Go For A Colorful Ride
By Joe Jacobs ? Photos Courtesy Arkansas Outside and Arkansas Parks and Tourism
Arkansas is a beautiful state year round, but in the fall the forests take on a fresh dimension of color and vibrance. Many inspiring views of our autumn palette can be enjoyed from scenic roads throughout the state, but to get to some of the more unique spots, youíll need to get off the road and hit the trail. Many mountain biking trails offer great access to these special places. Remember that all of these trails are also open to hiking; if you feel a trail is too technical for you to ride or you happen to be in the area without your bike, feel free to walk on out.
Syllamo Mountain Bike Trails
Just north of Mountain View, Arkansas, is the Syllamo Mountain Bike Trail System. This International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) Epic Trail includes over 50 miles of Ozark beauty. One of the best fall views on the trail is on the White River Bluff Trail. From the Green Mountain Road Trailhead, follow the trail just over a mile to a very rocky technical riding section. Here hikers and cyclists will find a rock ledge high above the White River Valley with beautiful views of the colorful hills to the east.
Lake Ouachita Vista Trail
Some of the best views of the Ouachita Mountains can be found along the Lake Ouachita Vista Trail. The Hickory Nut Mountain overlook near the halfway point of this 40+-mile trail gives visitors an unobstructed view of Lake Ouachita, its beautiful islands and a backdrop of the Northern Ouachitas. Not really up to the 20-mile ride to this scenic spot? A much shorter ride is available from the Crystal Springs trailhead or you can drive up about four miles of gravel roads from Highway 270. Pro-tip: take a camera no matter how you get there.
On the south side of Jonesboro is Craighead Forest Park. This park offers miles of mountain bike trails on the top of Crowleyís Ridge, a unique landform that rises above the Delta region of the state. The terrain lends itself to a mixed forest including oak, hickory, American beech, sugar maple and yellow poplar, much like the forests of the western Appalachian Mountains. Although there are some technical areas on the trails, much of the park is easily accessible to the beginning mountain biker.
Cane Creek Lake Trail
On the border of the Delta and the Timberlands in Cane Creek State Park, near Star City, the Cane Creek Lake Trail offers surprising terrain for what many would assume is a flat part of the state. This trail is home to mountain bike and trail run races. The trail is well known for its three large suspension bridges and more than 50 smaller bridges throughout the 15-mile length. Bottomland hardwoods contrast with the pine and cypress trees along the trail. Camping is available in the park along with kayak rentals so visitors can take advantage of the kayak trail on the lake.
Mount Nebo Bench Trail
The Arkansas River Valley is home to many first-rate mountain bike trails, but few offer the views of the Mount Nebo Bench Trail. Located in Mount Nebo State Park, the Bench Trail circles the mountain just below the upper bluffs. The Bench Trail is actually an old roadbed, making it the perfect ride for a beginner mountain biker, families or someone looking for a more casual ride. Take your time on this four-mile ride and enjoy the numerous overlooks. While you're up on the mountain, enjoy more overlooks at the very top including the Sunrise and Sunset points.
Fern Hollow Mountain Bike Trail
A little known mountain bike trail in the Arkansas State Park system is the Fern Hollow Mountain Bike Trail at White Oak Lake State Park in Bluff City. A non-technical trail in southwest Arkansas, Fern Hollow offers both four and nine mile options with minimal elevation changes. In a part of the state known for extensive pine forests, this park is an oasis of lowland hardwoods like the park namesake. Enjoy fall camping in the park and ride straight out of the campground on the trail. The park also has several hiking trails.