by Flip Putthoff
Riders may want to take two flavors of bicycles when they visit two of the area’s newest trails.
Coler Trail and Applegate Trail on the west side of Bentonville are really two trails in one. They join at Northwest Third Street to create a most scenic concrete trail ideal for the skinny tires of a road bike. Away from the concrete, more mountain bike trails than you can shake a spoke at spur off the hard-surface trail and head into the woods. These are perfect for those knobby tires and for riders who crave dirt.
At the centerpiece of it all is Coler Creek, a lovely, flowing brook, which dazzles riders along much of the concrete route. There are overlooks for riders, walkers and runners to stop and savor the quiet and the view. One area along the creek is nicely manicured and a cool spot for kids and the young at heart to play in the water.
Turn kids loose on a Coler Creek bank, and they won’t want to leave.
Coler and Applegate trails meet where Northwest Third Street crosses the creek one mile west of Walton Boulevard. There’s an unnamed trailhead here with parking on both sides of Northwest Third, and there’s a restroom.
From this trailhead, Applegate Trail takes a gradual uphill route south for 2.5 miles. It ends at Southwest Eighth Street, but it’s an easy ride or walk from here into downtown Bentonville.
Head north from the Third Street trailhead and you’re on the Coler Trail that takes you 2.5 miles along the creek to the Coler Trailhead along Peach Orchard Road. Rides or walks can also begin here. The street address is 11840 Peach Orchard Road.
That’s about five miles one way, with much of it along the pretty creek.
The dirt trails in the area are a mountain biker’s dream. There’s easy, flat riding along the creek. Tougher trails meander up into the hill country and forests. At one hilltop is a hub where a series of downhill trails start, routes more suited to intermediate and expert riders. Riders and hikers share these soft-surface trails.
We’d driven over the Applegate Trail dozens of times traveling along Central Avenue west of downtown. Drivers get an inviting glimpse of a beautiful trail, but danged if we knew how to get on it. A thunderstorm showed us the way.
Lightning flashed and wind howled one Monday night in late August. Next morning we were out covering the damage for the newspaper. Word was that Bentonville city crews were cutting trees that had fallen across Northwest Third where it crosses the creek.
We found the workers sawing away all right and also discovered the nice trailhead on Northwest Third. Sunday morning of Labor Day weekend, we were unloading road bikes to ride this new territory, new to us, anyway.
We pedaled along Applegate Trail first, then moseyed north on the Coler Trail in no hurry at all. Coler has the most scenery, and art, too. A bridge over Coler Creek has a sound art feature, sort of a soothing bell and chimes that’s not quite music, but nice to hear.
There’s an old barn close to the trail where a walkway is being built for folks to check out this neat old relic. Signs posted hither and yon warn visitors, “Trail under construction. Enter at your own risk.”
There is one construction area along Coler Trail that looks like it’d be pretty busy during the week. Best be careful here.
The whole route was such a joy we rode Applegate and Coler trails twice, but they’re really all one trail. Families played in the creek. People walked their dogs. Folks stopped to hear the soft chiming sounds. It’s easy to imagine you’re in a deep, faraway woods, but you’re only a few blocks from downtown.
Next visit, I’m packing the mountain bike, too.
Flip Putthoff can be reached at email@example.com