|The Bentonville Square|
Recently, Brian Hoover, the Head Tatur over in Tulsa, put the call out for info on regional running trails. I offered to pony up on the offerings we have here in the Bentonville area. I thought a regional trail guide was a cool idea. There are simply too many gems out there. Then it dawned on me that I could kill two birds with one stone. Knock out a blog entry and gather info for the Trail Zombie. I imagine there are some local folks that are not aware of all the great trails we have in our own backyard. We are fortunate to live in an area that has numerous spectacular places to run and here are a few of my favorites.
|The Crystal Bridges Trails|
|Rock Ledge Shelter|
|Shore Lunch by Dan Ostermiller|
To get there on foot from the Bentonville Square go North on NE A St. for two blocks passing the Lawrence Plaza Ice Rink & Splash Park. From there you can see the trail head for the Crystal Bridges trail at the parking lot for Compton Gardens. Follow the pavement down hill through the gardens. During the right times of year this could be a great day trip with a visit to the Farmers Market, a stroll through Compton Gardens, the Art Trail, the Museum, and of course some trail running down at nearby Slaughter Pen. Don't be surprised if you see a number of Rush Runners around as we often use the hill up Crystal Bridges to end our runs. In fact on any given Saturday or Sunday morning about 7:00 AM you will likely find a group gathering on the Square to start a run. And we love new faces some come join us. For more info on group runs and all things running in NWA check out Rush Running.
|Slaughter Pen Hollow|
Phase III of Slaughter Pen was designed specifically with cycling in mind but I have run it several times. It is located between the sewer plant and the museum on the west side of NE A Street. There is parking available nearby where Cub comes off of Tiger Blvd at NE A Street. From the parking area (a gravel lot) there are two ways to access this section. You can go up Cub halfway and look for the gated entry there on your left or use the entrance just before the viaduct to the south towards the museum. You will see the trail veer off the paved trail to your right and into the woods. You can get a couple of miles in here. Just keep in mind that these are bike trails and leave a little something to be desired in terms of trail running. One good aspect here is you can get a good deal of hill work in within a small area. For more info and maps of the Slaughter Pen trails click here and here.
PTD has been busy adding some new trails to Slaughter Pen Phase I. On the North end of the hill (at the main trail head) a section of trail now runs along the East side of the creek towards Walton Blvd and 71B. This trail will take you to a multi-use paved trail that crosses under Walton Blvd and 71B and kicks you out on the East side of the highway. You can continue on this trail almost all the way up to BC40 (the county road with the first traffic light) towards Lake Bella Vista. When you see the BMW motorcycle shop look for the trail to dive down and to the right off the road, cross under BC40 and continue to the lake. This connects you to the lake loop which is about 3 miles of paved trail all the way around. From the Slaughter Pen trail head to the Lake Bella Vista loop is less than 2 miles. On the North end of the lake there is a small playground and a memorial to our military veterans. From this parking lot you can continue due North (less than a mile of pavement) past Cooper Elementary School (turn right at the stop sign) and end up at the Blowing Springs trail head.
|Blowing Springs Trail|
|North Trail Bluff|
|South Trail Spur|
|North Trail Head Bridge|
Progressive Trail Design is also responsible for these trails. A nice loop was recently added on the north side trails towards the back of the park and there are plans for more expansion in the future. There is also a trail that leads north from Blowing Springs all the way to the Missouri border. It is not on any map, is poorly marked, quite technical, lots of elevation change and you will get wet as it goes along some creek beds. In fact, we haven't yet made it all the way on foot but we are hard at work on it. We know it exist because the local bikers do it as a point to point route about once a year. About 30 miles in total from the state line back to the Square. After we finish it off I'm sure I'll post some more info on it. Kinda sounds like a future 50k course doesn't it? Mike Rush, are you listening?
The trail to Missouri has been completed on foot. Several NWA GOATS have made the trip on what is now simply called The Epic Trail.
|Hobbs State Park|
|2011 War Eagle shirt|
|2011 War Eagle Medals & Awards|
|Twin Knob Bluff|
|Twin Knobs Bluff|
From what I could find the trail is about 7.25 miles in length and we would run it as an out and back. The first couple of miles are pretty rocky and has some rolling hills. At about the 1.6 mile mark you come to a dirt road. The trail continues if you turn right and travel across the small spring that crosses the road here. Look to your left and watch for a rough, likely overgrown double track with blue markings. That's the trail. Another two miles or so and you cross CR 839 (dirt road) for the first time. Just past this is where the Twin Knobs rock formation is seen. This was worth the effort. Super technical single track (especially with all the leaves on the ground) travels along the face of the bluff before turning and then continuing between the two faces of the bluff that are split apart. Very scenic. I would put the scenery up there at the very top of the list here. Another turn and the trail goes along the backside of the bluff before diving down into the gulley below. CR 839 is crossed again as are a couple of other dirt roads. Eventually the trail winds along the bottom of a dense thicket before ending on the top of a large, wooded hill. There is another spur towards the end that leads to the Illinois Bayou but we were not able to locate it.
In numerous places the trail is blocked by down trees but it is easy enough to navigate around all of it. We never really got off trail. The trickiest part is the first road crossing. There are signs of pretty heavy equine use on the trail and parts are kinda rough. There are stretches of very "runnable" trail but for the most part expect rocky conditions. The elevation is no big deal, we hit 1,600' of vertical for 24 miles out there. Just shy of 15 miles on the trail and then the dirt road leg. On the "out" leg of our run we decided that doubling up on the trail was not the best idea. Yes, it is that technical (compared to Hobbs of Blowing Springs). After we made it back to the trail head, we headed West to CR 839, found a good place to park and then completed the final 9+ miles on forest service roads. We just reached the edge of the WMA boundary before we turned to head back. Very little traffic, just a few hunters and horse riders out there. In the end I'm glad I returned and I'm super stoked to take my kids out to the bluffs sometime. They are gonna love it. To find the Twin Knobs bluff you will need to take CR 839 North from AR Hwy 16, maybe 3 miles or so. Look for the blue trail markings once you see the bluffs.
Somewhere down the line I'll cover some more trails including the smaller Bentonville park trails, Lake Fayetteville and Devils Den. If you have any info on trails I missed let me know. And as always you can follow me on Twitter @RedDirtRunner. Thanks for stopping by and Cheers.