Sunday, December 23, 2012

Nuttall Trail - Maumelle Park

This trail should have been in my last book, but when I visited briefly two summers ago after my dad told me there were trails here, I failed to spot it.  My excuse for this is that the trail is hidden away near the entrance to the park and far from the main attraction, the Arkansas River.

The Nuttall Trail, named either for the explorer/botanist Thomas Nuttall or the Nuttall Oak which is native to Arkansas and itself named after Thomas Nuttall, is a short (0.4 mi) asphalt trail that loops through a wooded section of the park.  While multiple paved and unpaved spurs provide access to the trail from several parts of the park, the main trailhead is located at the parking lot immediately to your right at the entrance station.

The trail is pretty short and not that scenic compared to those at nearby Pinnacle Mountain State Park and Two Rivers Park, but it is a nice place to take kids or a dog on a stroll if you are camping or picnicking at Maumelle Park.  

View Maumelle Park in a larger map

Coleman Creek Updates

On my way to Hindman Park yesterday, I drove through UALR to check on the Coleman Creek Greenway progress.  Having served on the greenway committee and spent lots of time helping grade and plant the Trail of Tears section at the southern end of campus, I was interested to see if the trail had been expanded.  It turns out that a lot of progress has been made since I last visited. Students can now walk along a nice, wide, tree-lined pedestrian path from 28th St. to Asher Ave. or in other words the full length of the main part of campus; which is an important milestone in terms of the utilitarian value of the trail to students.

The original concept for this trail wasn't just to provide an improved experience for students walking to class from Lot 13 or the dorms.  When complete, the trail will stretch over three miles from Markham at the north end of War Memorial Park down to Fourche Creek near Mabelvale Pike where it could connect to other trails in the area coming in from Hindman Park, Fourche Bottoms, or the former BFI landfill.  Running along both sides of the creek in some sections, the trail will connect areas of residential, recreational, academic, and commercial uses and provide a scenic and healthy alternative transportation route for people looking to avoid driving on University Ave.

More articles on Coleman Creek.

Current Coleman Creek Greenway
View Coleman Current in a larger map

Future Coleman Creek Greenway
View Coleman Creek Greenway in a larger map

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Hindman Park Trails

Today I visited Hindman Park to see how the trails there are coming along.  From the parking lot at the north end of the park, we hiked northeast along the unpaved trail that parallels Fourche Creek.  That trail is a bit over a mile long and ends at University Ave.  Coming back, we took a side trail to look at the rocky outcrop  that some people climb on.  A nice gravel trail with switchbacks has been completed leading up to the rock.

Hindman Park is part of a massive area of contiguous greenspace in the heart of Little Rock.  It is my hope that the Hindman Park trails will be improved and connected to the old Western Hills Country Club, BFI landfill (it is closed and should soon become a park), Fourche Bottoms, Coleman Creek Greenway, Interstate Park, and the Audubon Nature Center.  A map and description of what this would look like can be seen here.

A more detailed map and description of the trails in this area can be found in Trails of Central Arkansas.

View Hindman Park Trails in a larger map

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Bike-Friendly Role Models

Though several cities in Arkansas claim to be bike-friendly and even have signs to prove it, anyone who has traveled much or lived elsewhere knows we have a long ways to go. I once read an article that ranked the Little Rock/North Little Rock metropolitan area as the 49th most bike friendly city in America. My excitement at this statistic quickly dwindled after the author explained that in reality the top 50 were mostly in California and Oregon, but he wanted to cover more of the country.

So what is an Arkansan to do if they want more bike trails, protected bike lanes, a bike share, and more bike parking?

1. Get active in the bike community.  Join Bicycle Advocacy of Central Arkansas (BACA) or Bicycle Coalition of the Ozarks (BCO).

2. Be visible.  Bike to work or the grocery store.  Go to city council or other community meetings and let them know you bike and want better bicycle infrastructure.

3.  Talk to your elected representatives at all levels.  Provide them with examples of good transportation bills or bicycle master plans.  Talk about what features other great cities have that ours lack.  Does your town have an official Bicycle or Alternative Transportation Committee?  How about a master plans for bicycles and trails?  Are local laws regarding bikes actually safe?  Ohio passed a state-level bill after finding that roughly half of all communities surveyed mandated one or more unsafe biking practices.

4.  Learn the law and bike safely!

5.  Advocate for zoning and development laws that discourage sprawl, encourage higher density infill, and reflect the values of New Urbanism which create conditions more favorable for biking and decrease the need for car trips.

Examples of good statewide, regional, and local bike plans and laws.
Read what makes some of the best bike cities great.
Learn about the rapid growth (elsewhere) of protected bike lanes and why separate lanes and trails are best.
See what Montreal has in terms of bike infrastructure.
Protected Intersections are a good idea too.

Let me know of any other resources I missed using the comment form below.

Protected Bike Lane - Indianapolis

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Gregory Park - Fayetteville

Gregory Park is a mostly undeveloped park located in the center of Fayetteville, off of Sycamore St. between College and Woolsey Ave.  While mostly wooded, it does have a gazebo and some picnic tables.  The roughly 1 mile of trails here are highly eroded in places and the woods are packed with invasive species like bush honeysuckle, privet, and assorted vines, but this is a great local neighborhood park and would be nice for students from nearby schools to use for short nature hikes. Parking is located off of Sycamore behind the McDonalds.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Mt. Kessler Revisited

I've now been back to Mt. Kessler four times.  Rather than blog about each trip or awkwardly edit my original post about a particular visit, I decided to create this entry which will serve as my all-encompassing piece on Mt. Kessler.  The map below shows all the trails I've covered in the area, but I don't think it is complete yet.  Here is a list of things I think are interesting about Mt. Kessler Greenways followed by some photos:

1.  Rock City - This area of interesting rock formations is not far from the trailhead and is probably the highlight of the hike for most visitors.  The trail follows a thin crevice between sheer, intricately textured, rock outcroppings.

2.  Great views - From different parts of the trail, you can see way off to the west and east.  In a couple places the trail follows a ridge, offering views simultaneously in both directions.

3.  Dwarf Oaks - The somewhat open area where trails split off in all directions is quite rocky and has very little soil.  These conditions have fostered dwarf oaks similar to those found on Black Fork Mountain near Queen Wilhelmena State Park.  To be clear, these aren't naturally shorter Blackjack Oaks, they are oak varieties that are typically much taller and less stocky.  Hey, it's interesting to me.

4.  Fossils -  I hesitated to add this one and may remove it if I see or hear of problems.  Let me first say I've been informed by a professional paleontologist that none of the fossils I've seen so far are rare or valuable.  In other words, look at them and leave them for everyone else to look at.  They will still be there next time you go!

5.  Solitude - Obviously it'd be great if more people found out about Mt. Kessler, registered, and starting visiting this incredible place located so close to the heart of Fayetteville; but I've never seen many people on my visits.

Rock City, Mt. Kessler
Rock City

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Mt. Kessler Greenways

For recent news on Mt. Kessler and the Regional Park click here.

With spectacular views, over eight miles of hiking and mountain biking trails, and located just a few miles from the heart of Fayetteville (and campus), Mt. Kessler Greenways is a great place to get out in the woods.  The trails are largely on private land, so be sure to register to use the trails first and stay on the trails when you go.

I went with my friend John and Buddy today to explore some of the trails.  John and I had been before but only did about half a mile due to bad weather.  The map below shows the route we took, which covered 6 miles.  The trail had lots of great views and in one place, marked on the map, the trail runs along a ridge with views off to both sides.

One of the big highlights of the trail is not far from the parking area.  "Rock City", has lots of interesting rock formations reminiscent of parts of Devil's Den State Park (but way closer to Fayetteville).

Efforts are underway to boost awareness of the value of Mt. Kessler and to encourage local governments and the university to help preserve this area as a great recreational and educational resource for the community.  The Mt. Kessler properties border Fayetteville's new regional park, creating the potential for an expanded network of trails and educational facilities.

To find out more visit:  or my more detailed post with more photos and mapped trails:

(If you got here looking for information on the Nov. 1st Kessler Run, visit here or here.)

Mt. Kessler Fayettevile Arkansas Farmington Mount

Monday, October 22, 2012

Fall is Here!

Fall has arrived and with it spectacular fall colors.  I've lived all over the country and I can safely say that Arkansas has the most beautiful fall colors around.  In my opinion, this is due to the wide variety of tree species we have and the fact that our mixed hardwood forests often have evergreens mixed in too.  In Indiana, fall is pure yellow due to the dominance of hickories, sugar maples, sycamores, and beech trees there.  In California it is either brown or stays green depending on where in the state you look.  Here, we have dogwoods, sweet gums, red maples, sassafras, sumac, black gums and a wide-variety of oaks that add an incredible range of stunning purples, pinks, reds, and oranges to the palette.  Many of these species can be found over much of the country, but not in the same concentrations and mixtures that Arkansas has.

This site posts frequent updates on fall colors across the state:

Here is are some of my favorite places to view fall foliage:
Pinnacle Mountain State Park
Crystal Mountain in Flatside Pinnacle Wilderness near Lake Winona 
Mt. Magazine State Park
Petit Jean State Park
Highway 7
Highway 23
Queen Wilhelmina State Park

Fall at Pinnacle Mountain State Park, East Summit Trail, Little Rock, Arkansas. Photo by Johnnie Chamberlin

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Queen Wilhelmina State Park

Queen Wilhelmina State Park, located 13 miles northwest of Mena, has incredible views, great trails, and fun activities for kids.  While we didn't ride the mini-train or play putt-putt, we did take advantage of the campsite and trails around the park.  Like Mt. Magazine and Mt. Nebo, the trails at Queen Wilhelmina are pretty short but offer amazing views.  One exception to that, is the fact that the 223-mile Ouachita Trail passes through the park.  Read on for photos, a map, and brief summaries of the park's trails.

Ouachita Trail:  This impressively long trail (one of Arkansas' longest) runs right through the park.  Heading west from the tent camping area, the trail parallels the Talimena Scenic Drive.  Over the first 1.25 miles, you will come across nice vista points and an old pioneer graveyard.  Hiking another fifty miles will take you to the western end of the trail  in Talimena State Park in Oklahoma.  The trail also heads east from the lodge and works its way to Pinnacle Mountain State Park in Little Rock!  The eastern end of this trail is described in my book Trails of Central Arkansas.

Spring Trail:  The 0.5 mi. Spring Trail connects the camping area to the Wonder House and Amphitheater.  Campers can probably walk between those areas faster on the road, but this provides a more natural path with much less traffic.  I walked the trail early in the morning mostly to tire my dog out, so the fact that I didn't notice the spring shouldn't be taken as concrete evidence that it isn't there or isn't interesting.

Reservoir Trail:  This rocky trail heads west from the southern side of the lodge.  It gradually winds its way downhill to an old drained stone reservoir.  The round-trip hike is about 2/3 of a mile.  The walk-in campsite is located just off this trail.

Lover's Leap Trail:  This is probably the best trail in the park. The whole trail is a mile long, but if you just want the easiest way to the viewing platform, you can leave from the northeast side of the lodge, hike the third of a mile to the platform and head back the same way.

We had hoped to hike the nearby Black Fork Mountain Trail, a interesting spur off of the OT, but low clouds drove us to change up our plans and visit several wineries in Altus instead.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Crystal Bridges Museum Trails

Crystal Bridges Art Museum has an impressive network of miles and miles of diverse walking and biking trails that are well connected to the city's trail system and Compton Gardens.  Dogs are allowed on the trails ("but", I was told over the phone, "not in the museum".)  If you take a pet, you might want to look at a map online beforehand, as all of the outdoor map boxes were empty today.  

It has been a year since I last visited the trails (I've been to the museum a few times since then) and I'm glad I finally got to check them all out.  The fall foliage was starting to show up with hickories, red buds, dogwoods, and sassafras providing some amazing yellows, pinks, purples, and oranges that paired beautifully with the pines and still green oaks.  Multiple empty frames placed along the trails make a point I greatly appreciate, that nature provides us with limitless, ever-changing, incredible works of art that are free to everyone.  Each trail has its own unique character and perhaps surprisingly for someone who writes hiking books, my favorite was the very manicured...

Monday, October 1, 2012

Buffalo River - Gilbert to Maumee South

This weekend, Buddy and I went with some friends to float the Buffalo River from Gilbert to Maumee South.  Due to its length (12 miles), this stretch is less congested than more popular nearby routes between Tyler Bend, Highway 65, Shine Eye, and Gilbert.  In fact, we didn't see another boat on either day of our float at the end of September.  Of course this could have been due to the fact that the St. Joe gage was at 3.3', meaning the river was REALLY low and we had to walk a lot even in kayaks.  The float was incredibly beautiful, with views of some of the best bluffs to be seen on the Buffalo.  We camped near Red Bluff and the dogs had a great time running around, digging in the sand, and chasing skipped rocks.  At night we heard elk (maybe), a screech owl, whippoorwill, coyotes, and a couple loud splashes that I assume were river otters (any ideas what else?).  During the day we saw Great Blue Heron, some turtles, spotted gar, and several Kingfishers.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Nature's Treats - Snacking on the Trail

A good friend of mine once told me that people in his home country would think hiking just to hike was an odd hobby.  In that culture, hiking was just an integral part of the popular hobby of searching for mushrooms and other sources of food while enjoying the outdoors.  Judging from the popularity of my post on mulberries, I'm guessing there are many people in Arkansas who enjoy grabbing a free snack while out on a hike.  Rather than make a new post every time I find some other tasty treat in the woods, I thought I'd try to compile lots of useful information on nature's treats all in one place.  The following is a list of foods you can find in the wilds of Arkansas and when they are ripe.  Obviously it isn't a good idea to go picking and eating things you find in the wild based on what you read on one website.  If you want to get into this activity, go with some people who already know what they are doing.  I will try to fill in more details and photos over time, but I wanted to get this up so people could start using it.

Mulberries - Red Mulberry trees grow all over Arkansas and produce tons of tasty berries in April and May.  They are most often found in floodplains, river valleys, and on moist hillsides.  The USDA PLANTS site has more information on this (and many other) species.

Blackberries/Raspberries - Several species of blackberries and raspberries grow in Arkansas.  They are usually at their peak in late spring and early summer.  The wild varieties are incredibly thorny, so be careful!

Persimmons - Persimmons are an interesting fruit.  The best persimmon is pretty tasty but not amazing in my book.  The worst persimmon is about the worst experience you can put your mouth through.  If you enjoy high risk, low reward situations, this fruit is for you.  That said, I love them for that very reason since it is what makes them fun.  The trees have a very distinctive dark, blocky, bark and the fruits are ripe here around September - November. I recommend waiting until they are purplish-orange and starting to wrinkle before eating them. I've heard waiting until a frost helps guarantee sweetness.  Some people claim placing them in the freezer for awhile before eating them makes them better.  Make sure to take it slow on the first one and watch out for the large seeds!

Muscadines - These incredibly tasty native grapes are larger and have thicker skin that the grapes you buy in a store.  The wine made from them is really sweet but also delicious.  There is some evidence that muscadines have higher levels of those healthy polyphenols than other species of grapes.  I typically see them in rocky wooded areas, though they may grow in other conditions too.

Mushrooms - I don't know anything about picking wild mushrooms other than that it can be dangerous to do if you don't know what you are doing.  If you are interested but have no experience, try to meetup with the Arkansas Mycological Society.

Pecans - Sweet Pecans grow in the wild throughout most of Arkansas.  The pecan you are used to seeing is hidden inside a green husk.  In the fall, that husk splits open revealing the nut.  If you try to tear open the husk early because you really want to see a pecan, chances are it will stain your fingers a yellowish-brown.

Paw Paw - While I've known about this plant and its edible fruit since my Audubon days, I'd never eaten one until recently.  Judging from my one experience, they are ripe at the end of summer or the beginning of fall.  Apparently eating wild ones can be a bit like playing the lottery since flavors can vary greatly.  I must've really lucked out with this one, because it was everything the unbelievable descriptions said it could be: a creamy mix of pineapple, banana, and mango with a little something extra that I IDed as circus peanuts.  I saved the seeds and will attempt to grow my own!


From Left to Right: Blackberries, Serviceberries (Huckleberries?), and Blueberries
Paw Paw Fruite on Tree. Arkansas. Photo by Johnnie Chamberlin
Pawpaw Fruit on the Shrub

Ripe Pawpaw

Inside of a Pawpaw Fruit

Monday, September 10, 2012

Learn and Protect Little Rock's Creeks

Water quality is important to both wildlife and humans.  As I mentioned here and here, streams and their floodplains are a logical place to build trails due to their scenic value and the fact that development shouldn't take place in a floodplain.  Preserving or establishing wide buffers of mature vegetation along all creeks and rivers is a good method for protecting water quality, since that vegetation helps slow erosion, filter out pollutants, and regulate water temperature.  Since it is more attractive and provides more shade than mowed grass or concrete, this mature vegetation has the added benefit of being more fun to hike, bike, or float under.

Little Rock and many other communities in our state haven't done a great job of protecting local creeks from development, but you can help change that by becoming aware of your local streams and watersheds and advocating for their protection and pointing to the fact that protected waterways with trails along them have positive health, economic, and environmental impacts on a community.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Apple Picking at Prairie Grove National Battlefield

Last week, we went to Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park to take advantage of the free apple picking we learned about on our previous visit.  I called ahead to see if it was that time of year yet and was surprised to learn that late-August was almost too late for picking!  When we got there, Buddy handled the apples on the ground, while I climbed some trees to reach more attractive specimens.  Angela developed an effective modified pinata approach using a stick and tennis racket that yielded some excellent, only slightly bruised apples.

I didn't get verification, but it seems like apple picking season is roughly the month of August.  To the non-professional eye, there appeared to be two varieties of apples.  Both were delicious, but the smaller, brownish, less attractive ones were incredible.  

The park has a 1-mile paved trail, pavilions for events, historic houses, and battle reenactments in early December of even years.

Update 7/24/2014: I went back at the end of July this year and it looks like the first half of August will be a great time to go pick.  I got some good ones on this trip, but could tell many weren't quite ready.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Buffalo River Low!

Some friends and I had a very interesting trip to the Buffalo this weekend.  I can now say from experience that 3.3' on the St. Joe gage means the water is too low to comfortably paddle in the Tyler Bend/Gilbert area (4 to 6 or 8 feet is typically considered ideal).  It would have been a nightmare in a canoe and we saw one family turn back after about two miles.  We were all in kayaks and still had to walk more than a few times.  On the plus side, Buddy swam and ran most of the way from Tyler Bend to Gilbert and since the river wasn't crowded with paddlers, we saw lots of great wildlife including: a river otter, a mink, and a bald eagle in addition to the usual turtles, kingfishers, and green and great blue herons.

On the day after our float, we went upstream to checkout Woolum and were confused to find the river had some flow upstream of the put-in but was BONE DRY downstream of the bluffs there for a mile or more!  So after swimming briefly in the chilly pool by the bluffs and in the warmer, shallower pool just upstream of there, we took a unique hike down the dry channel of the Buffalo River.  To my disbelief, we didn't find any hidden treasure, but we did find bones, bleached crawdads, a few cans, and lots of interesting rocks and rock formations.

You can access the Buffalo River Trail and some other trails from Woolum.  We started on one but due to its overgrown condition and my paranoia of ticks and chiggers in August, we opted for the wide open dry channel of the Buffalo instead.

The following pages have more information on finding ideal water levels for floating the Buffalo:

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Valuable Bike Information for Incoming UA Freshmen

With an ever growing campus and student body, owning a bike to get between classes and around town is becoming an increasingly good idea and a necessity for some.  At the same time, biking around campus has never been more difficult given the construction, lack of bicycle parking, and crowded roads and walkways.  With the number of students enrolled approaching 25,000, up 5,000 from just 3-4 years ago, it is no surprise the campus is undergoing some growing pains.  With that in mind, here are some useful tips for students looking to bike on campus:

1.  Register your bike.  This helps the campus realize how many people are actually biking and will encourage them to budget more money for bike infrastructure.

2.  Don't give up.  Lots of students buy bikes, ride them once, and give up due to steep hills, lack of parking, and other issues.  Explore campus, use this site and others listed below to find hidden bike racks and better routes to get where you need to go.  Give your legs a couple weeks to get used to the hills.

3.  Learn the rules.  Find out if you can keep your bike in your dorm room or apartment.  Dorms on campus are one of the main places lacking sufficient parking spots.  Wear a helmet, bike on roads and trails when possible, dismount in busy pedestrian areas.  Get lights for biking after dark.

4.  Buses have bike racks.  If you live a long way from campus, you can ride the bus and bring your bike to help you get from one side of campus to the other between classes.

5.  Check out Razorbikes a free bike-loan program on campus.

6.  The maps below show locations of parking spots and popular biking routes through campus.  Click to view the bike routes map in Google Maps so you can see the legend. (Red = steep or busy, Green = less steep)

7.  Make your voice heard.  There is a perception among some in the administration that there is plenty of bike infrastructure in place on campus and this couldn't be further from the truth.  If you have trouble finding a place to lock your bike or don't feel safe on the roads around campus with no bike lanes let people at Facilities Management and the Transit and Parking Department know.

8.  Stay up on the construction closures on campus

Sites with information on biking on campus and around Fayetteville:
City of Fayetteville Trails and Greenways - Maps, Rules, Tips
Office of Campus Sustainability
Bicycle Coalition of the Ozarks

For more information on biking on campus check out my other articles:

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Emerald Park and River Trail News

Update 2/3/15: Big News on Emerald Park and Big Rock Quarry can be found here.

Emerald Park and the River Trail both receive lots of coverage on this blog and in Trails of Central Arkansas.  Emerald Park has some great trails and some of the most incredible scenery Arkansas has to offer, which is why its waterfalls are included on the cover of my book.  The River Trail is one of the best and smartest things the governments of central Arkansas have ever done.  It helps attract businesses and people back into our urban core and improves residents' quality of life.

For these reasons it is shocking that the city of North Little Rock would consider marring this priceless view and recreational resource by selling greenspace to a private developer.  Parkland is rarely recovered from developed land, so cities should be careful about selling their openspace to developers.  Anyone who has biked the entire River Trail knows that the North Little Rock side is vastly superior to the Little Rock side due to the large parks and natural areas on that side as well as the fact that you have to compete with traffic for a large section of the Little Rock side.  This plan would hurt the North Little Rock section of the trail in both these categories by removing greenspace from a section of the trail and increasing vehicular traffic to River Road and the park area.

If you live in North Little Rock, let your elected officials know how you feel about selling greenspace to private developers or attend the City Council meeting this Monday (August 13, 2012) where the sale and development plans will be discussed.

Here are some other sites with information on the proposed sale:

And a Facebook page:

The development proposal has been pulled from the agenda for the next city council meeting.  I don't know if that means the plan is dead or just in hibernation.  If you live in North Little Rock you should push to have that area officially zoned as parkland so this type of plan won't pop-up again.

Do we really want to ruin this?

Emerald Park Cliffs Arkansas River

Emerald Park Waterfalls Cliffs Arkansas River Little Rock

Emerald Park Cliffs Arkansas River Little Rock

Friday, August 10, 2012

Lake Wedington Swim (Swimming Holes #3)

After biking the Lake Wedington Loop yesterday, my friend and I cooled off by swimming in the lake.  The water was clearer than I expected and the designated swim area has a nice sand and gravel bottom over much of it.  While not chilly, the water was still refreshing on a 95-degree day.  Unlike the swimming holes I described here and here, this spot has convenient facilities that are open much of the year.

Lake Wedington is about 13 miles west of Fayetteville on Wedington Dr./AR-16.  The lake has a day-use fee, but makes for a great place to swim, especially following a bike ride or hike on one of the lakes trails.

Lake Wedington Loop #2

Yesterday I got suckered into my first bike ride of the summer despite my aversion to exercising in non-aquatic environs in August in Arkansas.  My friend and I drove out to Lake Wedington and did the 19-mile loop used in the Ozark Valley Triathlon.  Though it requires driving, this route is much nicer and has less traffic than the ride to the lake from Fayetteville.  As you can see on the terrain map below, the route is fairly flat, but does have a couple significant hills.  While I enjoyed the ride, it left me wishing I'd invested in bike shorts and some cold Gatorade.  After finishing, we cooled off with a swim in the lake.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Olympic National Park

Updated 8/19/2015: I'm going back to Olympic later this month. You can see more photos from other trips I took there (with a dog) at this link.

Pardon the off-topic post, but I just got back from a week at Olympic National Park, where I did lots of day hikes and my third backpack trip in the park.  Most major national parks are known for one or two things; Yosemite - huge, awe-inspiring, light-colored single-slab granite mountains and towering waterfalls, Yellowstone - wildlife and geothermal features, Grand Canyon - a big canyon, Rocky Mountain - mountains, Sequoia and Redwood - huge trees, etc.  In contrast to these places, Olympic National Park is spectacular for its great diversity.  The roughly 1 million acre park contains scenic foggy beaches, temperate rainforests dripping with dozens of species of moss, and high alpine peaks home to gorgeous wildflower-packed meadows and incredible glaciers.  It also has hot springs, amazing waterfalls, and its fair share of wildlife.  The multi-colored pebble and sand beaches are lined with massive logs and some are home to tide pools full of starfish, anemones, and other interesting organisms that can be explored during low tide.

All these features are within an hour or two drive of each other and provide endless opportunities for exploration for all ages as the park has a great balance of short, paved trails and longer more primitive trails. In my opinion, July-September is the best time to visit the park unless you love cold rain and mountains of snow.  Be sure to bring bug spray!

Right now, the Forks area is in a bit of predictable Twilight madness, which can be fun or annoying based on your feelings towards the movies/books.

The map and photos below show some of my favorite places and hikes.

Hole-In-The-Wall - Rialto Beach

Hoh Rainforest

Lake Crescent

Obstruction Point

Obstruction Point

Seven Lakes Basin

Hoh Lake

Tidepool at Rialto Beach

View Olympic National in a larger map

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Fleeing the Heat

August is here and I'm fleeing to Washington to escape the heat.  My family is heading to Olympic National Park, one of the most spectacular parks in the country, for some day-hiking, camping, and maybe backpacking.

I have a policy against hiking in Arkansas (or doing anything outdoors that doesn't involve swimming) in August due to the extreme heat and presence of numerous seed ticks, chiggers, and mosquitoes.  If you are looking for ideas for non-miserable outdoor activities this August, you might want to check out these blog entries:

Articles on Swimming Holes
Blanchard Springs Caverns
Floating Articles

Remember, if you do anything outdoors in August, take plenty of water, bug spray, and sunscreen!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Swimming Holes #2

I hit two swimming holes today and have now been to Wreck Hole four times!  My friend John, Buddy, and I first went to explore the Cedar Flats hole near Devil's Den State Park, then drove by Riverside Park where some people were swimming, and stopped at Wreck Hole for some more fun.

Cedar Flats looked like a great place to camp in the fall when it might be warm enough to swim during the day but cool enough to sleep comfortably at night.  The hole was a little dry but we still enjoyed swimming and using the scary looking rope swing.  There were interesting stepped rock slopes on both sides of the creek.  You can also swim in the state park at the swimming pool or at the dam.

The water at Riverside Park still seemed too low to me and the spot isn't that scenic or shaded, so we continued to Wreck Hole.  The recent rain hadn't improved the water level there, but it was still deep in places and cool thanks to a spring.  I've noticed that families tend to use the east side and come in via the park while the younger, rowdier crowd tends to park on Campbell and come in on the railroad/rock side.

After that, we stopped at the small cafe/food stand in downtown West Fork for a couple Lobo Burgers (2 patties, bacon, and ham!) with fried pickles.  Next time I hope to try a pizza and fried broccoli!  Across the street is the Little Oprey, which has country music shows every Saturday night at 7.  I still haven't been, but hope to go soon.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Town Branch Creek Trail

Today, Buddy and I walked the Town Branch Creek Trail.  This short, 0.3 mi. asphalt trail runs along Town Branch near the Crowne Apartments at Razorback Rd.  The Fayetteville Master Trails Plan shows that this trail will one day stretch much further (zoom out on the map below) as part of the Town Branch Corridor and may eventually connect to the Frisco Trail via the Walker Park Connection.

If you drive to get to the trail, be sure to park in visitor parking.

It rained! Where can I float?

It rained over much of Arkansas yesterday and some places got over two inches!  Here are some sites to check to see if your favorite streams are up:

American Whitewater -
Arkansas Canoe Club (lots of useful links) -
Buffalo River -
Ozark Whitewater Page -
USGS Map of Arkansas -
Fourche Creek via USGS -

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Riverside Park - West Fork

Located on 170, a mile east of I-540, this small park has a trail, a playground, pavilions, and nice bluff views.  The 6' concrete loop trail is flat, mostly open, and not quite half a mile long.  An informative kiosk at the trailhead provides information on the town, river, and its watershed.

Some people swim here when the water is deep enough, but I prefer nearby Wreck Hole and others.

Swimming Holes

(Swimming hole list & links at the end.)

Wanting to find a place to cool off with the dog, we went to explore Wreck Hole near the town of West Fork and it was great.  This swimming hole is much closer to Fayetteville than the nicer parts of Beaver Lake and White River and War Eagle put-ins.  The water was cool and there is a nice rock outcropping to climb on.  There was a bit of a litter problem, especially on the gravel bar.

If you visit this or any other swimming hole:  1) Don't bring glass.  2) Plan to carry your trash out (and maybe some trash that isn't yours).  3) Wear shoes as there could be broken glass

Afterwards, we went by the nearby dam in West Fork that is also listed as a swimming hole, but it was completely dry.  There was, however, a nice park there with a walking trail, playground, pavilions, and views of the nice bluffs along the river.

We parked in the gravel pullouts on Campbell Rd. about 0.6 mi. north of 170, but you can also access the area from the local park on the other side, which requires more walking, but offers more space and easier access to the water.

View Wreck Hole in a larger map

Given recent temperatures, here is some information on finding a quality swimming hole near you:

1. Many river access points can make for great swimming holes, especially when rivers are low like they are around the state right now. I enjoy the Siloam Springs Whitewater Park on the Illinois River and Shine Eye on the Buffalo.

2. Beaver Lake, Lake Wedington, Lake Sylvia and many other lakes around the state have swimming areas.

3. has some useful maps and descriptions of many swimming holes around the state. It is where I found out about Wreck Hole.

4. Tim Ernst has a book on Swimming Holes of the Ozarks. I haven't read it, but I'm willing to guess it is informative.

5.  My follow-up piece on Swimming Holes.

6. Here are some of my favorites (click the captions for maps):
Lake Sylvia

Beaver Lake Dam Site

Shine Eye on the Buffalo River
What are your favorite swimming holes? Leave a comment!

*Remember: Conditions such as flow and property ownership change over time. Accuracy of this information and the safety and legality of visiting these places cannot be assured. Each visitor is personally responsible for safety and legality when visiting any site mentioned here or elsewhere on this blog.

Monday, July 16, 2012

UA Farm Link To Scull Creek Trail

The UA Farm Link, as it is called on the Fayetteville Master Trails Plan, is nearing completion. It connects the Frisco trail to more apartment complexes, the UA Farm, the AMP, and the county fairgrounds. This roughly two-mile section of trail has some nice open views as it travels through different parts of the UA Agricultural Research Farm. Hopefully the route navigating the interstate will be completed soon and this trail will connect to the Hamestring Creek Trail, which will in turn, one day connect to Bryce Davis Park and the dog park there. A valuable aspect of these trails is that they will connect the large residential areas west of I-540 to the main trail network, providing more residents with the option of commuting to work (or shopping or Dickson St.) by foot or bike.

When deciding what types of trails to include in my books and on this blog, I made a decision not to include wide sidewalks or trails that just parallel roads; partly because I prefer trails that take you places a car can't and partly to focus my work. Much of this trail does follow existing roads, but it also goes places cars can't. Importantly, the section along Knapp Dr. is a dedicated bike lane with a physical curb separating bikes from cars. As I've written elsewhere (here, here, and here), this is a much better idea than simply marking bike symbols on roads and hoping for the best.

There are not a lot of great places to park to access this trail. If you want to check it out but don't live nearby, the Agricultural Park at Knapp and Garland has some roadside parking.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Frisco Trail Repairs Underway

Repairs have begun on the Frisco Trail just south of Center St. in Fayetteville.  A part of the trail was washed away some time ago and had just been fenced off while the city waited for funds and suitable weather conditions.  Hopefully they will place the trail a bit further away from the stream this time!

Arkansas Ranks Poorly In Trail Spending

A new report by the League of American Bicyclists shows that Arkansas ranks near the bottom of the pack in using their federal transportation dollars for bike and pedestrian projects.  The study looked at four major streams of federal transportation funds that go to states and the percent of each funding source that states put towards bike and pedestrian projects.  Looking at the percent of a state's total federal transportation dollars helps control for population differences and the data shows that in 2011 Arkansas spent less than 1% of its federal transportation dollars on bike/pedestrian infrastructure, while Vermont and Washington each spent roughly 10%.

New State Parks Website and Trail Finder

Arkansas State Parks just launched a new design of their website.  It looks pretty nice and has a page for finding trails in their parks based on several useful criteria.  Take a minute and go check it out!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

War Eagle Creek

Located in NW Arkansas and flowing from south of Huntsville into Beaver Lake, the War Eagle is a scenic creek and makes for a nice float when the water is right.  Beaver Water District hosts a War Eagle Appreciation Day every year, where people float the river from the old 412 bridge to Withrow Springs State Park and stop at educational stations along the way.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Lessons from Montreal

Dedicated Bicycle Lane in MontrealI'm in Montreal for the week due to a science conference, but I won't let that keep me from blogging about trails.  After being in the city for less than a day, I already had an idea for what to write about: things Arkansas' cities could copy from Montreal.

1) Montreal has dedicated bike lanes.  These are something I've written about the need for multiple times before, here and here.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Rock Creek Trail Erratum

The Rock Creek Trail in West Little Rock is a flat, shaded, scenic trail that makes for a good summertime stroll.  In both Trails of Little Rock and Trails of Central Arkansas I describe the trail as paved.  The western section of the trail is asphalt, but much of the eastern section is a packed crushed gravel trail.  I got some great feedback recently that made it sound like the gravel section was a little rougher for the wear than when I last visited a few years ago.

Hopefully one day this section of trail will expand much farther in both directions since there is no better use for a floodway/floodplain.  Other parts of Rock Creek's floodway are paved (Boyle Park) and much of the creek runs through city parks (Weedman, Kanis, Boyle).  This trail could one day connect to the Coleman Creek Greenway and to Fourche Bottoms trails allowing residents of West Little Rock to commute to Midtown and Downtown by bicycle through scenic wooded areas instead of along congested concrete highways.

If you find an update or error (no typos please) in Trails of Central Arkansas please let me know and I will post it!

The map below shows existing (blue) and potential (red) trails along Rock Creek.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Bikes Vs. Cars and the need for Complete Streets

I mentioned earlier that Arkansas is the least bike-friendly state in the country and that this is partially due to the fact that we don't have good bike policies or infrastructure, like separate, dedicated bike lanes, in place throughout our cities and towns.  Reinforcing the call for better infrastructure and policies, this report by the Ontario Coroner, links numerous bike deaths to a few major causes including: 1) Lack of "complete streets" that include dedicated bike lanes and networks of bike paths 2) Lack of helmets  3) Mixing bikes and cars travelling at high speeds.  One piece of data that stuck out: most accidents involve cars hitting bikes and not bikes hitting cars.  This has certainly been the case for the most serious accidents my friends, family, and myself have been in.

In another piece, I mention an Economist article that makes similar conclusions about why biking in the United States is so dangerous.  It is now very clear that we should seek to separate bike traffic from car traffic and to slow car traffic on shared roads.  If we want safer roads and a healthier, happier population, Arkansas communities should refocus transportation efforts and dollars using a more balanced approach that places equal emphasis on driving, biking, walking, and mass transit.  Seeing how car-centered infrastructure has received the vast majority of transportation funds in the state for decades, an argument can be made that alternatives should receive more than equal emphasis until some type of parity in existing infrastructure has been reached.

If you are interested in improving bicycle policy and infrastructure in Arkansas and in your town, consider visiting and joining Bicycle Advocacy of Central Arkansas, Bicycle Coalition of the Ozarks, Arkansas Bicycle Club, the Northeast Arkansas Bicycle Coalition, or any of the other organizations listed here.

$15 Million Awarded to Connect Memphis and West Memphis

The City of Memphis just received a $15 million federal grant that will help fund a $30 million project to convert the historic Harahan Bridge that spans the Mississippi River into a bike and pedestrian bridge.  The plans include extending trails on both sides into the hearts of both cities.  The project will connect to the existing Riverwalk in Memphis.  Some people in Central Arkansas see this type of project as an ideal solution to the very similar issues facing the also historic Broadway Bridge between Little Rock and North Little Rock.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Arkansas Trail Resources - Find places to go and people to go with!

If you are familiar with this site and my books, hopefully you aren't having any trouble finding places to hike, bike, walk, or paddle nearby.  However, if you are new to the site, or looking for people to get outdoors with, or are bored with all the places mentioned here and in my books, then these resources might be of some help:

Finding Trails:
There are now quite a few Arkansas trail guides out there and I haven't read them all.  My favorites tend to be anything by Tim Ernst (in particular the waterfalls book and Arkansas Nature Lover's Guidebook) and my newest one, Trails of Central Arkansas.  Make sure you get books with good maps and great descriptions not only of the trails themselves, but also of how to find the trails in the first place.

Some cities do a good job posting maps and information on their trails online.  If you live in Fayetteville, you can visit this site for a list of trails and a map showing existing and planned trails.  Little Rock has also posted maps of some their major trails here and maps of trails in North Little Rock can be viewed here.

Finding People Who Like Getting Outdoors: has many groups in Arkansas that do outdoor activities and they make it easy to search for groups in your area. Some large and active groups you might want to checkout include: Little Rock Hiking Meetup Group and The NWA Hiking Group.

If floating is more your thing, visit the Arkansas Canoe Club website.  It has tons of floating information and an active message board where people plan trips all the time.

The Ozark Society and local chapters of Sierra Club and the Audubon Society also organize a number of fun  and educational outdoor excursions. 

Let me know if I left something out!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Frisco Trail Extension

Three designs for the MLK crossing of the Frisco Trail in Fayetteville have been proposed.  The city is taking public comments until June 22nd.  The Bicycle Coalition of the Ozarks' website has more details and a map showing the proposed crossings and how the extension will link up to other trails including Tsa La Gi and Walker Park.  Let your voice be heard by reviewing the trail options and sending in your comments to Matt Mihalevich at

I personally favor the "Above Grade" option since MLK is a large busy road and the tunnels on this trail system can get pretty damp and a little spooky at certain times of the day.  Cars stuck in traffic on MLK will be reminded of other forms of transportation if they can see bikes whizzing by overhead.

UPDATE: They went with the tunnel.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park - Battlefield Trail

Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park was the site of the Battle of Prairie Grove which took place in 1862 and resulted in over 2,700 casualties.

The park's scenic and educational 1-mile Battlefield Trail is paved and ADA compliant.  The gently sloping trail loops through both open and shaded areas and passes by numerous interesting historic buildings and under large oaks and hickories.  There are multiple informative signs along the path that provide background on the battle as well as details on the buildings and their inhabitants at the time.  Leashed dogs are allowed on the trail.

The park also has a 5 mi. driving tour, an apple orchard open to the public, and battle reenactments.  For directions and other information on the park visit:

Friday, June 8, 2012

Longest Trails In Arkansas

As a child, I was fascinated by skyscrapers and remember regularly checking lists of the tallest buildings in the world.  Cities and nations place lots of value on having the tallest buildings and see them, and skylines packed with them, as symbols of power and wealth.  In fact, the publicity and pride that accompany constructing the world's new tallest building, has lead to a long-running competition for the title, first between US cities and now the countries of the world.

It is my hope that posting a list of the longest trails in Arkansas and updating it every year or so might help spur a little friendly competition here in our state.  One thing I remember was that there were lots of ways to measure building height; antennae included or excluded, spires or no spires, do towers count, etc.  This is an issue with trails as well, given that some trails are paved, others are dirt, some are well-maintained, while others aren't, and some trails simply follow an existing road for some sections.

Below is my list of longest trails in Arkansas, let me know if I missed any or if you disagree with the rankings:
Ozark Highlands Trail - 240 mi. (Includes 20 mi. Buffalo River Trail and ~10 road mi.)
Ouachita Trail - 214 mi. Almost entirely unpaved dirt trail.
River Trail  - 88 mi. - Main loop is 14 paved, 2 on roads.  Larger plan is primarily on roads, sometimes without bike lanes.
Razorback Greenway (Proposed, Partially Completed) - 36 mi. Paved.  Roughly half-completed, mostly as Scull Creek, Mud Creek, and Frisco Trails in Fayetteville.
Burns Park Complex - ~15 mi. of interconnected and mostly unpaved hiking and mountain biking trails that connect to the River Trail.
Mississippi River Trail - ~290 mi.  I believe this bike trail is entirely along roads for the Arkansas section. Let me know if that's wrong!

So which is the longest?  I personally give little credit to just calling a stretch of road a trail, so I lean towards calling the OHT the longest followed very closely by the Ouachita Trail.  For the same reason, the Razorback Greenway will be longer than the River Trail in my book unless Central Arkansas puts in some serious bike lanes, or better yet, a separate paved trail along the designated roadways.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Blanchard Springs Caverns - Trails Underground!

This weekend, some good friends came in from out of town and I wanted to show them what Arkansas had to offer.  Since they live in NYC and Philly, I decided not to try to out-city them and instead took them on a tour of northern Arkansas after showing off our rooftop garden, hitting the Fayetteville Farmers' Market, and raiding the apartment's community garden for supplies.

My goal was to take them on a float from Tyler Bend to Gilbert and also visit Blanchard Springs Caverns.  While the weather didn't cooperate for the float (tons of lightening and 1.5 inches of rain), we did make it the caves which are a great place to go to get away from storms or intense summer heat.
Blanchard Springs has 3 incredible trails underground and some scenic, if less unique, surface hiking trails.

We did the short 0.4 mi. Dripstone Trail located 200+ feet below the surface.  The trail is paved with a non-slip surface and lined with a handrail.  It is even wheelchair accessible, but has some very steep slopes that might require some extra assistance.  The Dripstone Trail is the shortest and easiest of the three trails in the cave system and being the highest in elevation, it has the most detailed and spectacular formations; making it, in my opinion, the best trail for first-time visitors, individuals with physical limitations, or people who aren't fond of tight, dark spaces inhabited by bats.

The photos below are from our recent visit.  As GPS units don't work well underground, I grabbed a copy of a map of the cave trails, but have since misplaced it.  I will upload a scan of it if I ever find it, but it is hard to get lost down there since there are two humorous and informative guides herding you along the whole time.