Ride the Spa City

New Northwoods Trail the latest cycling attraction for central Arkansas

By Dwain Hebda

RandySpanglerHotSprings05.jpg
 

As the center for gaming and horse racing in Arkansas, Hot Springs has always had a way of picking a winner. The opening of the new Northwoods Trails show the Spa City is betting big on mountain biking as the city’s latest amenity for locals and visitors alike. 

The new 14-mile, $1.5 million multi-use stretch offers trails for all levels, green, blue and black, with one of the black trails designed by pro rider Randy Spangler. Located just north of the city, Northwoods connects to the existing Cedar Glades Park trail, to create a continuous 24 miles of mountain biking. 

The trail will officially be christened with a weekend celebration Nov. 16-18, with a public ribbon cutting, group ride, beer, food trucks and live music. The event coincides with the Hot Springs Running Festival set for downtown on Saturday and Attila the Hun bike race at the Cedar Glades on Sunday.

Bill Sollender, director of marketing for Visit Hot Springs, said the project took a year of planning and construction as part of an even bigger vision for raising the city’s profile for cycling enthusiasts. 

“This stems from the momentum in Northwest Arkansas and the mountain biking that’s taking off up there,” Sollender said. “I visited the International Mountain Biking Association world summit a couple years ago. It got our juices flowing as to how much economic impact we could possibly see here in Hot Springs. That was exciting.”

“We had some property that was going unused. It was beautiful. On top of that you have the Walton family very much involved and willing to put into the industry. All those things happening at once, and Hot Springs wanted to jump on board.”

Superior011.jpg

Hot Springs

LOCATION: About an hour southwest of Little Rock.
GPS: Hub H at the top of Lucky 13 34.53581, -93.07185

Water Treatment Facility Parking Lot 34.53811, -93.06182

For more information visit hotsprings.org, 501-321-2277.

Sollender said Northwoods has particular potential to be transformative for the city. Given its proximity to downtown, it could provide unparalleled access to the everyday resident and firmly position cycling in the public consciousness in a way few Arkansas cities can match. 

“Literally from downtown, I can drive to the Waterworks Trailhead in three minutes,” he said. “Looking ahead to the future, if you head north on Park Avenue which is just right there north of downtown, there’s a street called Pullman and down at the end of Pullman that just deadends at the National Park and connects to Sunset Trail.” 

“We’re working right now with the superintendent of Hot Springs National Park to gain access from Pullman, cut about a little over half a mile through the national park and then go directly into the Northwoods.”

“What’s exciting about that is that it’s all flat. Literally, the hope is we’ll have riders coming in from Oklahoma and Dallas and northwest Arkansas, they can come downtown, they can get a hotel room, they can take their bike off their car. They literally can bike up Highway 7 five minutes to Pullman and then just down the road. Even a beginner can do it and be on the trails in the Northwoods. That is what’s really, really exciting. The chances of accessibility from downtown to Hot Springs are huge for us.”

HOT SPRINGS NATIONAL PARK
Congress established Hot Springs Reservation in 1832 to protect the natural springs flowing from the southwestern slope of Hot Springs Mountain. Known for its 47 thermal springs, this national park is the nation’s oldest, predating Yellowstone by 40 years. Check out the Gulpha Gorge Recreation Area and campground for scenic drives, hot water cascades and thermal-feature tours in the summertime (hot.springs.national-park.com).

HISTORIC DOWNTOWN
Hot Springs is experiencing a rebirth in its historic main drag, bringing new energy to one of the most unique streets in Arkansas. Grab a brew at Superior Bathhouse and Brewery (superiorbathhouse.com), the first brewery to be located inside a national park. Visit DeLuca’s (delucashotsprings.com) for what’s consistently ranked the best pizza in Arkansas and among the best in the nation. 

RARITIES AND ODDITIES
Hot Springs specializes in the unexpected. Take in the Gangster Museum of America (tgmoa.com) to learn of the city’s wild past as a playground for the mob, then party like Capone at the Ohio Club (theohioclub.com). Learn about the era when pro baseball legends held spring training here (hotspringsbaseballtrail.com). You can even find alligators at the Arkansas Alligator Farm and Petting Zoo (alligatorfarmzoo.com) because why not?