Biking the Trails

WORDS and IMAGES Bob Robinson

There are a lot of vehicles driving around town these days with knobby tire bicycles mounted in the back. They range from a pickup with four bicycles lined up across the tailgate to a rack attached to a minivan with bikes of all sizes dangling from it. Many people are opting for dirt trails as their outdoor activity of choice. From cyclists seeking a safe trail for a casual family outing to those seeking more of a challenge, the River Valley area has trails to satisfy all your needs.

BEN GEREN PARK, FORT SMITH
Ben Geren Park offers fifteen miles of singletrack that cover the gambit of skill levels. There are three different trailhead parking locations to begin your ride, and each has a map of the trails posted. Those unfamiliar with the trails should take a picture of the map with their phone as a reference. If you are looking for a short ride, minus climbs or technical features, begin your ride at the disc golf parking lot, located just past the ball fields. Head out on Beaver Dam Trail, then make it a loop ride via Wild Hog Tracks Trail.

Another parking area is located at the crest of McClure Amphitheater, next to the ArcBest building. Warm up your legs on Gravity Fed Trail, a fast, flowy downhill with several jumps sprinkled in. It is an easy transition ride back to the top for fun repeats, or you can link up with the other sections of trails using Zippidee Doo Dah Trail. There are regularly scheduled group rides open to the public that begin at this trailhead every Tuesday evening at 6pm.

The third trailhead is located where the paved bike trail crosses Massard Road. Your trail options from here are unlimited. Drop into the GP Trail for a gradual flowy descent that includes a couple of jumps, then link up with Elvis Trail. Riders can also leave the parking lot to jump onto Roller Coaster Trail for a steeper descent that ties into Wild Hog Tracks Trail. Or, if you’re up for an adrenaline surge, make a fast trek down Hobo Hill Trail – the park’s only professionally constructed trail. Rogue Trails, a company committed to designing, building, and sustaining world-class trail systems, built this downhill funfest packed with jumps, high-banked turns, and fast lines that satisfy your need for speed.

Keep up with events and activities by joining Ben Geren Trail Conditions (FOORC) on Facebook. Frontier Ozark Off-Road Cyclists (FOORC) is a branch of an Arkansas mountain bike club, which is part of IMBA, a national mountain bike organization.

SPRINGHILL PARK, BARLING
Just down the highway is another trail at Springhill Park in Barling. With little elevation gain or technical features, this nine-mile trail system is a favorite for recreational riders. With tight turns weaving through dense trees, this network of trails is just plain fun to ride and is a great trail for the entire family. It includes a bike park at the trailhead to fine-tune your riding skills. The western end trail network has been a popular location for the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) to host races for young riders. Currently, the trails on the eastern end of Springhill are somewhat disrupted by construction for I-49. Once complete, the trail will route riders under the bridge for more miles of riding enjoyment.

Follow events and activities at the Springhill Park Trail Conditions on their Facebook page.

LAKE ALMA
Mountain bikers in the River Valley have a new trail at Lake Alma. Rogue Trails completed Phase I of this trail system in 2022. This includes just under five miles of beginner-friendly trails that circle the lake. Although rated beginner, as all mountain bikers know, everything becomes technical given enough speed, and these smooth, flowy downhill trails can feed most cyclists’ hunger for speed. This is also a very scenic ride offering views of the lake and beautiful McWaters Falls. Rogue Trails constructed several wooden bridges across potential wet crossings, but one such wet crossing remains. Phase II includes a bridge over this final creek along with an additional twelve miles of trail. The new trails will be designed for intermediate and advanced skill levels. The target date to begin construction of the new trails is early 2024.

Follow activities on the Lake Alma Trail Facebook page.

COLLEY PARK, VAN BUREN
There is another bike trail located off I-40 in Van Buren. Rogue Trails were able to pack almost five miles of fun bike trails in the sixty acres at Colley Park. This neighborhood trail system includes beginner, intermediate, and advanced trails. The advanced trail even offers a challenging gap jump. Parking for the trails is located on Forest Oaks Drive in Van Buren.

GREENWOOD LAKE
To the south of the River Valley, there is yet another mountain biking trail at Greenwood Lake. This five-mile collection of trails is truly a community effort. Local riders, city park employees and the boy scouts contributed to building this trail system. One such leader was Michael LeJong, who sadly passed in 2021 and is very much missed. The city plans to dedicate the trail system in his honor in the future.

Greenwood Lake has bike trails north and south of the parking area. The south trail entrance is located to the left of the boat ramp. This starts as a nice easy ride that follows the lakeshore before curving up a small hill. There is a metal bench at the top of the climb, along with several other benches throughout the trails that offer a nice view of the lake. As the trail heads downhill, the rocks can be a little challenging. Eventually, the trail circles back to parallel Mount Harmony Road and returns to the parking lot.

Riders reach the beginning of the north trails by pedaling over a bridge relocated here from Hope, Arkansas. This historic pony truss bridge was constructed in 1931. Once across the bridge, the trail inches its way up a slight grade to a series of wooden bridges constructed by Greenwood’s Boy Scout Troop 54. Troop 54 also built a large portion of the trails and will continue extending the trail another two miles to a proposed parking area on Marymount Drive.

While some may consider the Greenwood Lake trails short on mileage, you can always double up by riding them in both directions. A trail is totally different riding from the opposite direction.

Follow activities on the Greenwood Lake – Trail Conditions Facebook page.

BEST PRACTICES
A lot of work has gone into developing mountain bike trails in the River Valley. Even if you were not involved with constructing the trails, you can help preserve them by following these simple best practices:

  1. When riding a trail, if the ground is wet enough for your bike to leave tracks, do not ride the trail.
  2. The trails mentioned are located on park property. No changes or modifications to the trails are permitted without the approval of the park.
  3. Join scheduled rides and work outings posted on a trail’s Facebook page.
  4. Respect posted trail closings. They are closed for a reason.
  5. Ride only the established trail system. Do not shortcut turns.

Note: NICA is an organization with a mission to build strong minds, bodies, character, and communities through cycling. If you have an area student-athlete who would like to become involved, contact the River Valley Marshals, rvmarshals.nica@gmail.com.

 FUTURE RIVER VALLEY TRAILS
Thirty miles south of Fort Smith, Sebastian County Parks plan to construct a professionally designed trail system at Bob Boyer Park. Progress Trail Design has already compiled a master plan that includes mountain bike trails, and ARDOT has approved a Recreational Trails Program grant to begin construction of Phase I. The rugged terrain of this location has amazing potential for developing a trail system for all skill levels.

Do South Magazine

Related Posts

106 CANDLES

106 CANDLES

One-hundred-six-year-old Marguerite Carney sits in her easy chair inside...

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This