Womble Trail

The Sentinel-Record - HER - Hot Springs - - Outdoors - Story and Pho­tos by CORBET DEARY

With the New Year came a mul­ti­tude of res­o­lu­tions, many of which likely in­volved a change of life­style, lend­ing to bet­ter health. Those mak­ing this prom­ise to them­selves and their loved ones surely in­cluded phys­i­cal fit­ness into the equa­tion. Some are apt to take their work­outs to the gym. Oth­ers, how­ever, will take ad­van­tage of one of this state’s great­est nat­u­ral re­sources - the won­der­ful out­doors.

Lo­cated in close prox­im­ity to Mount Ida, the Womble Trail is one of many jewels lurk­ing in hilly and boul­der­in­fested sub­strate of the Oua­chi­tas. Stretch­ing over 37 miles, this par­tic­u­lar route caters to folks with an ar­ray of out­door in­ter­ests.

With sev­eral ac­cess points along the way, this trail is a per­fect desti­na­tion for day-hik­ers. The beaten path also pro­vides am­ple mileage for back­pack­ing en­thu­si­asts to em­bark upon their fa­vorite ac­tiv­ity as well.

The long-winded could tra­verse the en­tire trail in a two­day ex­cur­sion, but most folks would likely pre­fer stretch­ing it out for three days. A cou­ple of 12-mile days with one 13-miler mixed in lends to am­ple time to oc­ca­sion­ally stop and rest one’s feet and take in their sur­round­ings.

This trail is also a great trail run­ning desti­na­tion. The route crosses a few small drainage ar­eas. But gen­er­ally speak­ing, one par­tak­ing in this par­tic­u­lar sport could get in sev­eral miles with­out drench­ing their feet in the process. The Womble is no dif­fer­ent from any other trail me­an­der­ing through the Oua­chi­tas though, in the sense that there will be swelled wet-weather drainages af­ter sig­nif­i­cant rain­fall.

Al­though hik­ers, back­pack­ers and run­ners uti­lize the route, the Womble is noted by many as a pre­mier Moun­tain Bik­ing desti­na­tion. Pre­dom­i­nantly sin­gle track, this trail pro­vides rid­ers with an ar­ray of tech­ni­cal dif­fi­cul­ties, lend­ing to the op­por­tu­nity for rid­ers of all skill lev­els to en­joy the ex­pe­ri­ence.

A por­tion of the path winds through a hard­wood, pine for­est, pro­vid­ing rid­ers with a ca­sual ride. Other stretches of the route hold their fair share of climbs and de­scents. How­ever, a ma­jor­ity of th­ese hills can be nav­i­gated by the in­ter­me­di­ate rider. And those who lack the skills or stamina to tackle the tougher sec­tions can sim­ply dis­mount and push their bikes to a point where the rid­ing is more con­ducive to their abil­i­ties.

I would sus­pect the weath­ered bik­ers look most for-

ward to the stretch from County Road 59 to high­way 27. A por­tion of this sec­tion of the trail fol­lows the con­tour of a nar­row ridge line, oc­ca­sion­ally run­ning along­side bluff lines over­look­ing the Oua­chita River.

How­ever, less ex­pe­ri­enced moun­tain bik­ers can tra­verse a ma­jor­ity of this sec­tion as well. But by all means, use good judg­ment. One mis­step here could prove cat­a­strophic. If it does reach a point where you’re not com­fort­able with nav­i­gat­ing this par­tic­u­lar ter­rain - sim­ply get off and push the bike while en­joy­ing the beau­ti­ful scenery.

The trail be­gins at North­fork Lake, a small U.S. For­est Ser­vice flood con­trol reser­voir west of Mount Ida. It even­tu­ally ties in with the Oua­chita Na­tional Trail sys­tem which crosses Arkansas high­way 27, north of Story. One can ex­pe­ri­ence their ex­cur­sion along this des­ig­nated trail be­gin­ning at ei­ther ac­cess point, but most peo­ple pre­fer be­gin­ning at North­fork.

Those be­gin­ning at this point will have am­ple op­por­tu­nity to choose var­i­ous dis­tances, as well as var­i­ous sec­tions of trail, as ac­cess points are plen­ti­ful. From the lake, the trail tra­verses 3.4 miles prior to cross­ing County Road 92. From this ac­cess point, the well-main­tained path trav­els 2.7 more miles prior to cross­ing For­est Road 922. The route ex­tend­ing from 922 to U.S. High­way 207 is a bit more lengthy, me­an­der­ing 6.9 miles be­fore cross­ing the pave­ment.

Af­ter a short jaunt, the trail crosses state high­way 298 and em­barks upon another 2.2 miles prior to cross­ing County Road 61. A spur trail along this sec­tion of the jour­ney leads the out­door en­thu­si­ast to the Ful­ton Branch Recre­ation Area.

From County Road 61, the trail makes its way along­side a spur trail lead­ing to the River Bluff Recre­ation area be­fore Cross­ing County Road 59 at 4.0 miles. From this ac­cess point the route heads to­ward Arkansas High­way 27. This is the pre­vi­ously men­tioned stretch lend­ing to some of the most tech­ni­cal and scenic sec­tions of the en­tire ex­cur­sion.

Reach­ing high­way 27, the path uti­lizes the high­way, cross­ing the Oua­chita River Bridge, prior to head­ing back into the for­est, and cross­ing State high­way 88 four miles far­ther into the jour­ney.

The trail crosses For­est Road 887 shortly there­after and be­gins the fi­nal leg of its jour­ney (4.2 miles) to the in­ter­sec­tion of the Oua­chita trail.

The Womble Trail is a great desti­na­tion for those who have made a con­scious de­ci­sion to uti­lize the won­der­ful out­doors as a means of phys­i­cal fit­ness. Don your fa­vorite gear, pack a few snacks and ex­pe­ri­ence a jewel travers­ing through the Oua­chi­tas.

Gary Strak­shus, of Hot Springs, par­takes in a fast down­hill ride while tak­ing in the sec­tion of the Womble Trail from County Road 59 to Arkansas High­way 27.

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