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March 7, 2022 Comments Off on Dirt loops add to greenway ride: Easy biking, hiking on hospital trails Cycling, Latest

Dirt loops add to greenway ride: Easy biking, hiking on hospital trails

It’s a cinch to enjoy a smooth bike ride along the Razorback Greenway and an easy off-road mountain bike ride all in the same trip.

Pathways of the Mercy Heritage Trails between the Razorback Greenway and Mercy Hospital in Rogers may not be on every rider’s radar screen. They’re tucked away along a woodsy hillside at the greenway’s Mercy Trailhead just south of the hospital.

The easy-to-ride trails are perfect for wide-eyed kids who see a shiny new mountain bike beside the tree on Christmas morning. Mercy Trails are ideal for that first try at off-road biking, a quick ride during lunch or a combination greenway and mountain bike ride.

Lots of riders are familiar with one of the trail’s two short loops. It’s the dirt oval that circles a meadow north of the hammock hangout at Mercy Trailhead. This 0.47-mile path, called Lantern Loop, is flat with several up and down features that make for a fun off-road ride.

The surface is smooth as a baby’s bald head and a great little loop for adults out for a ride with the kiddos. It’s mere pedal strokes away from the hard-surface Razorback Greenway. It’s wide open with no trees close to the trail.

What’s not so obvious is the 1.25-mile loop hidden in the woods to the west of Lantern Loop. This Catherine’s Crossing soft-surface trail starts a few steps west of the Mercy Trailhead hammock hangout.

It’s easy to sing “Joy to the World” during a ride over the loop. There’s little to huff and puff about on the mostly level ride with some fun ups and downs and no leg burning climbs.

Mercy Trails are rated green for easy biking and hiking. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)

A counterclockwise ride around the loop starts on flat trail for a nice warm up before navigating some of the up and down rollers along the way. The trail takes riders north before a gradual uphill and a sharp U-turn. After the tight turn, the path heads south as the hospital comes into view through the trees.

Look down while rolling along and the lower section of trail you just pedaled is easily seen below. Keep eyes on the path because it’s a pretty steep drop off the edge.

The loop ends with a fun downhill coast over some switchbacks back to the start of the loop. One spin deserves another and riders can circle the loop until they’re downright dizzy.

I thoroughly enjoy our Sunday rides on the greenway with our little Tour de Madison County bike group. Sometimes though, I’m not able to do the whole ride. Football gets in the way. On those days, I’ll load up the mountain bike and do a lap or three on the Mercy trails and pedal a little on the greenway for my Sunday bike fix.

Short or long, a good bike ride can work up a powerful appetite. There are all kinds of places to eat or get coffee close to the Mercy Heritage Trails. A hot cup of java or hot chocolate goes down good on a chilly winter day.

Flip Putthoff can be reached at fputthoff@nwadg.com