Mountain bikers can work up a powerful appetite zipping over one of the Ozarks' premier trail networks.
The calorie burn is along the Marble Flats trails minutes from downtown Eureka Springs . Trail loops twist and turn for about five miles along a mountainside above the town's main street. After the ride, nearby restaurants and taverns are within pedaling distance to replace those spent calories.
Part of the excitement of a maiden voyage along a new trail is wondering what's around the next bend. Anticipation had a quartet of bikers eager to put mettle to the pedals June 11 on their first visit to Marble Flats trails.
The four, including Bentonville riders Suzanne Schmidt and SueEllen Novick, with the Women of Oz ladies mountain bike group, met at Mill Hollow Road trailhead on a sun-splashed Friday morning. It's easy to find. From U.S. 62, turn north on Arkansas 23, which is Main Street in Eureka Springs. Go through downtown and turn right on Mill Hollow Road. The trailhead is 50 yards down the road on the left.
A quick check of the trail map gave the group a rough idea where they were headed, going into uncharted territory. Starting at Mill Hollow Road trailhead requires a steady, but moderate, one-quarter-mile climb up some switchbacks along "What the Heck" trail. The ascent rates about a 6 on the wheezer scale.
At the top, the group pedaled off to the right along the "Joys of Riding" path, then right again on the "Beauty is Everywhere" trail. This is one of the longest loops of the Mable Flats trails and one the group followed for most of their ride.
"Beauty if Everywhere" is beginner friendly, with a few rocky patches that may require some walking. Riders cruise beside all manner of rock formations on the mountainside. There's a skills course with slab rock and rock piles situated in a cedar glade. A bridge made of rough-sawn planks is worth a photo stop.
Casual riders enjoy a good undulating flow with no lung-buster climbs or scary descents. For experts, there's plenty of air to grab on the "Midnight Black," "No Mistakes" and Prussian Blue" trails. "Midnight Black" and "Prussian Blue are downhill-only routes.
This weekday morning, the bikers were the only ones crisscrossing the shady mountainside. They enjoyed a nice, easy downhill run back to the Mill Hollow Road trailhead to finish a satisfying first visit.
Schmidt summed it up, wiping sweat from her brow.
"The uphill at the beginning is worth the downhill at the end. It's technical, but surprisingly do-able," she said.
Added Novick, "There's lots of opportunity here to increase your riding ability quickly. I like to push myself a little and this is a good place to do it."
Right next door to Marble Flats are the Passion Play trails near the Great Passion Play. Those 22 miles are another Eureka Springs cycling destination the four vowed to ride on another day.
Women of OZ
Women of OZ is an inclusive, nonprofit organization run by a nine-person board of women in Northwest Arkansas who aim to lower the barrier of entry for women mountain bikers. It aims to create a welcoming, nonintimidating environment for all women regardless of background or skill level.
Source: Women of OZ