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.