With so many trails spanning our neck of the woods, sometimes it’s nice to hike the paths less traveled.
It was obvious on a gray and cool misty January morning that the Dutton Hollow Loop at Hobbs State Park-Conservation Area is one of these quiet gems.
Dutton Hollow Loop is part of the Hidden Diversity multiuse trail network at the 12,000-acre park that welcomes hikers, bikers and horseback riders. The four multiuse loops curl 17 miles through woodsy hills and hollows. Dutton Hollow Loop offers a fine hike or mountain bike ride of 4.5 miles, give or take a few tenths. Our visit this winter morning was on foot.
The hike starts at the Piney Road trailhead off Arkansas 12. Turn south on Piney Road and drive a mile to the trailhead and parking on the right side of the road. The lot on the left is for vehicles with horse trailers.
A Dutton Hollow hike starts by entering the woods and hiking to the right on a well worn path that runs one-half mile or so to the Dutton Hollow Loop and also Bashore Loop. Both loops are about the same distance, but Bashore is the easier of the two. A sign at the trailhead recommends first-time hikers or bikers take the Bashore Loop. It was obvious on this morning that most folks do.
We could clearly see the Bashore Loop was clear and free of leaves because it gets the most traffic. The start of Dutton Hollow Loop was covered in so many brown fallen leaves it was hard to see the trail.
On we hiked, taking this path less traveled.
Hikers enjoy an gradual downhill Dutton Hollow stroll through mostly oak, hickory and other hardwood timber. About a mile in, the trail meanders through a forest of tall pines. Hiking is an easy descent into the valley of Blackburn Creek where the trail levels out and starts curving left.
The creek bed was dry on our late January hike. Farther downstream it becomes the Blackburn Creek arm of Beaver Lake. Here in these bottoms hikers pass low bluffs and big boulders mostly covered in moss. Signs remind hikers the area is home to rare and sensitive plants and asks that hikers stay on the trail.
Here in this hollow, the route runs along the creek bed for a ways before the tread curves left and starts uphill, giving legs and lungs a workout. Like my dad, the late Mike Putthoff, would say, “Just think how much they’d charge for all this exercise at the health spa.”
The ascent out of the creek bottom rates a solid 5 on the wheezer scale. A similar climb on the nearby Bashore Loop is easier, registering a 4 on the wheezer meter.
Along the loop, we kicked sticks and limbs off the trail, presenting more evidence of the light traffic it receives. At least that’s our impression.
If there’s one minor drawback to this forest hike, it’s that the trail is within earshot of the park’s public shooting range. Hikers may hear target shooting taking place. Hiking on Monday eliminates that because the range is closed on Mondays.
Our trails are kind of like highways for feet. Some are busy like Interstate 49. Others like Dutton Hollow Loop are quiet country roads.
Flip Putthoff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org