EUREKA SPRINGS — In the beginning, there was no Genesis trail winding its way through the forested grounds at The Great Passion Play in Eureka Springs.
Nowadays, 18 miles of natural surface paths for mountain biking and hiking crisscross 667 acres surrounding the amphitheater, shops and parking areas of this landmark attraction.
Bikers and hikers are welcome at no charge on these trails that start just beyond The Great Passion Play entrance. At the trailhead, a log pavilion sports a large map to help people plan a route. Bikers can choose easy rides or treks at break-neck speed down hills and over jumps.
Three mountain bikers from Alabama gathered around the map next to a trio of local riders. For the Alabama boys, it was their third trip in two years to ride the mountain bike trails in Northwest Arkansas. This was their first time to bike the Passion Play trails.
“We’ve ridden at Slaughter Pen. I love Slaughter Pen,” one biker piped about the Bentonville trails. “And we love Hobbs State Park.”
For the locals, this Oct. 8 ride was their first on these trails. Riders, including Suzanne Schmidt of Bentonville, studied the big map, then pedaled off into the forest.
Genesis trail is like main street through the network of paths that branch off from this primary trail. The route is easy to intermediate and leads riders on a nice 4.5-mile loop back to the trailhead.
Spur trails take off from Genesis for thrills, but hopefully not spills. These range from intermediate-rated paths to difficult tracks marked with double-black diamonds that could be translated, “You’d be crazy to ride this.”
Intersections are marked with rustic wood signs that name each trail. All have names of a Biblical theme such as The Lord’s Prayer, Passover or Salvation.
Schmidt hadn’t ridden far on the Genesis loop before she was already singing its praises.
“I’m already thinking about who I want to bring out here,” she said during a break from the pedals. “It’s so flowy and fun, like moguls on a ski run. I’m thinking that this is now my favorite mountain bike trail.”
She’s biked miles of area trails riding with the Women of Oz mountain bike group. Last summer, she biked Marble Flats trails near downtown Eureka Springs, which is practically next door to Passion Play trails. A path connects the two networks. Both were built in partnership with the Walton Family Foundation and the city of Eureka Springs.
The local riding trio stayed with the easy stuff along Genesis loop while the Alabama boys took off for more adventurous riding. The two groups caught up with each other near the end of the Genesis route.
“That was a blast!” a rider from down Dixie way hollered. They gave glowing reviews about the tougher spur trails rated blue and black to the local trio. “You guys could ride any of it,” they said.
The blues maybe. We’ll ponder it on our next go-round at Passion Play trails.
Flip Putthoff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NWAFlip.