bike. There is a reason IMBA (International Mountain Bicycling Association) rated it
an Epic. The trail stretches from North Fork Lake to the Ouachita National
Recreation Trail. I’ve ridden the entire length a few times in the fall with my
brother but in the very hot summer months the trail is a different beast. For
starters, how do you carry all that water to survive the miles?! There is only so much water a camelbak can carry.
the trail (which is marked by white squares…or triangles. It escapes me now but
it is marked! In white!) a few
days ago and in light of the literal 100-degree temps, we decided to rein in
the ride to around 20 miles, which took around 4.5 hours including short breaks. Along the way
we saw armadillo ( who with their notorious poor eyesight ran right in front of
us) , wild turkey, and a walking stick (yikes!) that fell on me from the
trees. A variety of terrain from
switchbacks, very tight singletrack,
steep climbs, fun descents… is all there. There are also spots where
quartz crystals can be found on the route.
One thing to note is the travel time to start riding. Due to the distance and the trail being one way, you will need to
have shuttles in place. I drove from Hot Springs to the River Bluff parking
area (be warned that Forest Service maps are not too detailed in terms of
marking backroads, etcc.) to leave my car there. This would be the end stop. Then me
and my biking partner ( hi bro!) drove another car to the start of the trail at
North Fork Lake. Then at the end you have to go back again and pick up the
other car. All together it took about 3 hours. So yep, it’s a lot of driving.
But worth it! And, to knock off driving time you can always stay in Mount Ida, either
camping or at cabins at spots like Mountain Harbor.
As to details, there are four
trailhead parking areas you can choose from: Round Top Trail on Forest Road
D75A, Highway 27 south of the bridge crossing Lake Ouachita, North Fork Lake
and Highway 298 trail intersection. The trail is also accessible from the three
float camps and adjacent forest roads. Basically I’ve enjoyed (Bruises: always.
Bad time: never.) the challenge of
the Womble each time out.
In short, whether you take on the trail in the fall or summer or spring
or whenever, this route is more than worthy of it’s Epic status.