Writing on Riding

Writing on Riding

Get a bicycle. You will not regret it. If you live. – Mark Twain

A Good Way to Ride Blowing Springs

Riding the Blowing Springs South Lower Trail counter-clockwise.

Riding the Blowing Springs South Lower Trail counter-clockwise.

Exciting things are coming to Bella Vista, Arkansas, with about 150 miles of multi-use trail planned, and the first 30+ miles due for completion no later than November, 2016. That’s just in time for the International Mountain Bicycling Association’s (IMBA) World Summit set next-door in Bentonville.

Local riders and hikers are hopeful that these new trails will be as rewarding as the already excellent trails at Blowing Springs Park. The terrain certainly is conducive to features that will interest a variety of users.

One of many undulations on Blowing Springs North Lower Trail.

One of many undulations on Blowing Springs North Lower Trail.

Inspired by a new resident’s inquiry into the best trails at Blowing Springs, I wrote a long description of one good way to ride the system of loops. I realize that memorizing this isn’t realistic, but some of the details might stick out for a rider new to the trails. Also, it proved to be a fun read for those already familiar with them.

Update: Add the Lake Bella Vista Trail to this ride for bigger bluffs and more good flow. I include a Strava track of both on that linked page.

One of the Many Ways to Complete Blowing Springs

To start with a good warm-up and then a couple of fun descents in the first two miles, start at the front lot on the right before you reach the RV Park gatehouse. Near the kiosk, between the large rocks, ride up the hill on the South Trail. When you get to a split, turn right to get on the South Upper.

Ride it around the curves and up the hill, and don’t make a sharp right again, or you’ll end up going all the way up behind Cooper Elementary (which is fun, too, but we’re staying in Blowing Springs right now). You’ll come to a place where the trail splits down to the left, or goes up to the right. Go up to the right.

If somehow you’ve already grown tired of reading this, a good rule at this point is just stay right all the way around to complete the upper trails on the south and north sides. There is a small lollipop loop on the north side where that direction is not optimal, but it will get you all the way around. More details if you continue reading.

Ready for a descent on the South Upper Trail.

Ready for a descent on the South Upper Trail.

Keep pedaling and before too long you’ll go around a big, gravelly curve to the left and then up a bit to get to the top of the first descent. This is a fun, flow-ey downhill that ends up at a small drop and a rock garden. After that small drop, my advice for a first-timer here: when there’s a choice for left or right, stay right to avoid potential trouble. Number one, when the weather’s been wet there is more mud on the left, and number two, there is a drop that’s a bit tricky if you’ve never scoped it out, and especially when it’s slick. There are some fun stair-step rocks near the end of this rock garden, and then you’ll CROSS an old road AND THEN continue up on the trail.

Keep riding and don’t turn left where the trail splits, unless you want to play around on those rock features. So, staying right of that, keep pedaling and you’ll go uphill again, but not for as long this time.

Hucking the drop on the South Upper's second descent.

Hucking the drop on the South Upper’s second descent.

Another big, gravelly turn to the left and you’ll hit the second descent. It’s shorter, but just as much fun as the first. It ends with a fun, decent-sized drop, but there is an alternate line to the right. In fact, you probably won’t see the drop coming and will miss it, anyway. Unless you’re riding VERY slowly, you almost can’t accidentally go off that drop, so don’t fret if that isn’t your thing. If it is, you will see it as you ride past and wish you had hit it.

I had to ride out there quite a bit before I memorized the trails well enough to remember when that drop was coming up.

I exit the South trail.

I exit the South trail.

If you just follow the trail around it will lead you out of the woods and to another kiosk. From there, you can ride the north trails.

Head past the kiosk, with the kiosk on your left, and you will see the trail straight ahead. Follow it and then choose whether you want more uphill with flow-ey descents between, or a more technical trail that undulates and features a few steep spots (up and down) with bluffs towering above you.

For this guide, right now you’re doing the uphills and flow-ey descents. The other, more technical trail comes later in this how-to.

When the trail hits the woods, stay to the right where it splits. After pedaling a bit more uphill and around more curves, you will come to a split with a large rock on the right. The sharp right takes you up Lollipop, or the northeast loop. You’ll pedal a steep-ish hill and then see another split. Take the left fork this time. It’s an up and then down, not very long, but the descent ends in two jumps that are fun if you like catching air. Be careful of catching too much air off the first one, or you could endo into the second one. You can still keep up enough speed to air out the second one pretty well. Then the trail quickly heads uphill again before it takes you back down a fun, somewhat twisty and narrow descent to that big rock where you turned onto this trail in the first place.

Coming down the Cranberry Sauce II line.

Coming down the Cranberry Sauce II line.

To continue onto the North Upper Trail, blast straight past that big rock and keep going. You’ll pedal uphill for a while here — the longest ascent at Blowing Springs. You’re then rewarded with a fun descent, back down to some long, flat rocks that take you barely above the lower trail.

Next you find a shorter climb and a shorter descent, with a few spots near the end to catch air off of rocks and roots. You’ll curve around to the right a bit and then up to a section that is a little rocky and rooty, but also a lot of fun. Where a trestle bridge crosses a particularly wet spot, look for signs for Cranberry Sauce on the left, if you like technical lines. There are two entrances to it, but maybe you don’t want to try that line alone for the first time. You can ride it either direction, but it’s more fun going the opposite direction from what you’ve been riding. For more clarification on this fun section, see my blog post about that section, featuring two ride-through videos by my brother.

Two riders take a chat break on North Upper.

Two riders take a chat break on North Upper.

When you finish tasting Cranberry Sauce (if you ride it), you will head uphill a bit and to some scenic spots with rocks and beautiful cedar trees with gnarly roots. There is one big, steep rock to go down, but if you get your weight back you can easily roll it. The area just before that is even more fun if someone who’s ridden it before shows you alternate rocks to ride.

After the big, steep rock, you will finish out on a fun section that ends in a sharp switchback to the left. Then you’ll just keep riding the switchbacks until you get to the bottom, to the handrail bridge.

Next, cross the handrail bridge, and there’s your vehicle across the road at the front lot. Go between the large rocks again to head up that same hill, but this time turn left when the trail splits. You’ll want to start building momentum before the split so you can get over the rocks.

This leads you up to a scenic spot between large rocks (see first picture in this post). When you see a sharp right to another trail, don’t take it. Keep going and you will cross a long trestle on a curve to the left. Then you hit a fun descent featuring some rocky sections. When the trail splits, stay right to go slightly uphill and then CROSS the old road again and continue on the trail. Keep pedaling and enjoying the trail. There’s an alternate line drop to the left that you might not see until after you’ve passed it, but again, you won’t accidentally hit it. You’ll also cross some roots and see low-hanging bluffs on your right.

After the handrail bridge, you will go up a pretty decent climb and around a sharp right turn, and then you will come to a rocky section and a short, sharp climb beyond it that curves to the left around a tree.

An alternate line between the South Upper and Lower.

An alternate line between the South Upper and Lower.

This is where you join back with the South Upper and take the short climb to the second descent, for a second chance at that drop you might have missed earlier. Finish out the trail as before.

Out of the woods again, and with the kiosk on your left, take the trail up into the woods. This time, stay left instead of turning to the right, to take the North Lower Trail (a.k.a. Bomb Diggity). The flat rocks stay slick here in wet weather, so take it kind of slow, or at least don’t brake much or turn while on them.

Called “Blowing Springs Bluff Trail Heading West” on Strava, this trail features lots of fun up and down, and a few spots where it gets steep suddenly and the apex is a technical challenge to clear. One particular spot skirts alongside the cliffs high above the grotto, but there’s a safety fence that makes some riders feel better about it. It’s also fun to ride fast here, if you don’t look down.

More of the fun on the North Lower Trail.

More of the fun on the North Lower Trail.

The main key to the North Lower is to scope ahead for know when you’ll need to hammer down for more momentum to make the sudden sharp uphills. You’ll be glad, though, when you ride the whole thing without any foot taps or any stops. It, too finishes up with sharp switchbacks, and you come to the same handrail bridge that crosses to the point where you can see the front lot.

You’ve done it. You’ve ridden Blowing Springs. Now do it in reverse.

2 Responses to A Good Way to Ride Blowing Springs

  1. Cool write up! For those wanting to get in some technical riding, when you’re on the North Upper trail and you cross the elevated bridge that’s right in the middle of the trail, look left as Mark describes to find the two entrances to “Cranberry Sauce.” It’s actually the lower part of “Thanksgiving Day Massacre.” If you just spend some time riding and looking around there, you will see lots of alternate lines that head “down the mountain” that you can ride. They’re a good test of your technical ability, and lots of fun. “The Wedge” is a line that goes between two bluffs, and it’s probably better to scope it out first, because it changes weekly based on rainfall and what has or hasn’t washed down. Also, when you’re on the North Lower Trail, look up to the right just beyond the trail entrance, and you’ll see a good little line that has four small rock drops that is also fun to ride. Generally speaking, if you keep your eyes open, there are a lot of little off-shoot trails that allow for more technical riding, and it offers lots of little fun spots to play around on. HAVE FUN!!

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  2. Thanks for this write-up and detailed description. I also enjoyed your recent FB post about your Back 40 ride a couple of days ago, and your recent post about the trail in Oklahoma. My husband and I live near Fort Smith and come up north to ride occasionally, usually with Michael and Adriana. I’ve just “requested to follow” you on Strava. It would help us learn different routes in the area. We’re both casual riders, no competition from us.

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