Varied terrain, surfaces test riders
Special to NWA Democrat-Gazette
The Arkansas High Country Route, 1,200 miles of mixed-surface bicycling through the hills and hollows of Arkansas, launched May 1.
Created by the Adventure Cycling Association, this route brings the national cycling organization’s total network mileage to 48,608 miles of carefully researched and mapped routes for bicycle travelers in North America.
Chuck Campbell, an Arkansas school teacher, created the route that was funded by a grant from the Arkansas Parks and Recreation Foundation and Adventure Cycling Association. The Arkansas High Country Route came together over two years as the nonprofit’s cartographers worked through the nuts and bolts of putting down a route in the tangled topography of the Ouachita and Ozark mountains.
“I believe it will provide a little bit of everything to the cyclists who tackle it. The terrain can be steep and demanding, but there are also miles upon miles of gently graded paved bike paths,” said Carla Majernik, director of routes and mapping at Adventure Cycling.
“I have been amazed at how complex this new Arkansas routing is. There are so many twists and turns, with road surfaces switching from pavement to gravel and back again.”
Featuring a near 50-50 split of natural surface and tarmac cycling, with a bit of single track available for the ambitious, the high country route is constructed of three interlocking loops that link Little Rock with Northwest Arkansas.
“It is the Arkansas Parks and Recreation Foundation’s mission to be involved with projects that enhance adventure in our state,” said Suzanne Grobmyer, executive director of the foundation, which was created in 2017. “The route is an outdoor experience for all levels of cyclists, from a 1,200-mile world-class adventure to simpler single-day trips or weekend overnight bikepacking.”
Arkansas is already well known as an international mountain biking destination. The potential for a long-distance route appealed to representatives of the foundation. The foundation received a grant from the Walton Family Foundation.
The route uses two singletrack trails certified as “epic” by the International Mountain Bicycling Association. It touches seven state parks, three national parks and the Buffalo National River. It also passes through 13 U.S. Forest Service campgrounds and nine U.S. Army Corps of Engineers parks.
Route maps are available via Adventure Cycling’s Bicycle Route Navigator app (available in the iOS and Android app stores), in print, and as downloadable GPX files from Adventure Cycling (adventurecycling.org/store) immediately.