Thursday, February 13, 2020

My Favorite Pikes Peak Attractions

Pikes Peak

My favorite childhood family vacations were to Colorado Springs, home of America's Mountain: Pikes Peak. Standing at 14,110 feet, the mountain has inspired countless visitors. For example, during the Colorado gold rush, it became known as a popular rally cry among minors who proclaimed Pikes Peak or Bust. In the late 1800s, Kathleen Bates was so inspired by the beauty of the mountain that she penned the lyrics for "America the Beautiful" while riding to the summit in the cog railway. The Pikes Peak region is home to many awesome outdoor attractions. Here are my favorites.

Garden of the Gods

Garden of the Gods

Garden of the Gods is the best free attraction in the Pikes Peak region. Garden of the Gods offers miles of hiking trails that take hikers past the park's tall sandstone rock formations. The park is a fun place to spend a few hours (or even the entire day) exploring. The park's visitors center offers a lot of information about the unique geology of this area. You can also pick up a free map and trail guide at the visitor's center.

Garden of the Gods was donated to Colorado Springs in 1909 with the stipulation that it remain free for visitors to enjoy. Colorado Springs has honored its commitment by keeping the park free and an amazing place for visitors to enjoy.

Pikes Peak Cog Railway

(Closed since 2019)

Pikes Peak Cog Railway
Me and my dad circa 1999

Between 1891 and 2018, the Pikes Peak Cog Railway carried passengers from Manitou Springs up the mountain to its 14,110' summit. Unfortunately, the cog railway closed after the 2018 season. However, I have heard a rumor that it's scheduled to open for the 2021 season. I hope so!

I love hiking. However, hiking Pikes Peak is a bit out of my league. I really enjoyed riding to the top of the summit in the cog railway. I think the trip up took about an hour. You pass by a waterfall that is taller than Niagara Falls. Once you get above the tree line, the terrain dramatically changes. Everything is covered in snow and looks wind-swept. I remember the wind taking the wind out of my sails upon exiting the train on the summit. First, the thin air at 14,110' is hard to breath. Secondly, the strong, cold wind packs a punch. I just remember running inside the Summit House to get out of the cold lol. The train's tour guide recommended that we adjust ourselves to the high elevation by eating donuts and drinking water. I happily took her advice! The Summit House does have several large glass windows that offer a good view from the top of Pikes Peak. I did go outside for a few more minutes to snap some pics.

Seven Falls

Seven Falls

Cheyenne Canyon - at the base of Cheyenne Mountain - features a really cool waterfall. Actually, it's a series of seven waterfalls known as Seven Falls. You know how much I love hiking! If you look closely at the picture above, you will notice a staircase climbs the canyon wall next to the waterfalls. That means you can get an up close view of each of the "seven" falls. At the top of the canyon, you can hike to Helen Hunt Falls. I forget the number of stairs you have to climb to make it to the top but it's quite the workout lol.

At the bottom of the falls is a pavilion that features Native American dancers. You can also go inside the canyon's walls and take an elevator to an observation deck located adjacent to the waterfalls. I am sure there is a souvenir shop too.

During the summer of 2012, Seven Falls sustained extensive damage from a severe flash flood. At least one of the falls was destroyed. However, this attraction has been repaired to its original glory.

Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun

Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun
Cheyenne Mountain Summit
The summit of Cheyenne Mountain features a really cool memorial to Will Rogers. The Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun is a free and open to the public. You just take the road up to the summit of Cheyenne Mountain. This unique attraction offers breathtaking views of Colorado Springs below. You can get a good look at where the foothills of the Rocky Mountains transition into the high plains. Funny, I don't actually remember going inside the shrine. I just remember admiring the views from on top of the mountain.

Manitou Springs Historic District

Manitou Springs, Colorado
Historic clock tower
Downtown Manitou Springs is one of my favorite places on planet Earth. Luckily, the area around downtown Manitou Springs has been preserved in one of the largest historic districts in the nation. The area feels like you are back in the late 1800s. I love the brick buildings that are now shops, eateries, and mom & pop businesses. The town has a lot of historic homes like the Cliff House and Miramont Castle.

Manitou Springs became famous from its springs that many believed contained healing powers. In the late 19th Century, many health-seekers "chasing the cure" came to the region hoping the springs would provide medicinal benefits. Unfortunately, the springs have no medicinal value but they add to the area's unique history.

Downtown Manitou Springs is quite walkable and much more fun to explore on foot. This is a fun area to grab a bite to eat and browse the unique shops. If you enjoy vintage motels, there are several in town. (My family always stayed in Manitou Springs on our Colorado vacations).

Manitou Springs Historic District

For a really spectacular view of the Pikes Peak region, take U.S. 24 west of Manitou Springs up the area known as Ute Pass. The highway takes you more than 10,000-feet above sea level. Sometimes this drive even takes you above the clouds!

Cripple Creek Historic District

Cripple Creek Mining District

The Pikes Peak region became famous because of mining. Just on the other side of Pikes Peak is a beautiful small town called Cripple Creek. Before WWI Cripple Creek was the site of a large gold mining district. If you would like to visit a real mine, check out the Molly Kathleen Mine. The tour will go more than 1,000' underneath the surface. You can also ride the vintage Cripple Creek & Victor Narrow Gage Railroad. This train ride takes you through the entire mining district.

Cripple Creek sits more than 9,000-feet above sea level. The small mountain town that has been revived by casino gambling. There are several historic hotels downtown, as well as unique shops and restaurants. This side of Pikes Peak is much less crowded, so you can get some spectacular views of the mountain.

Cripple Creek, Colorado

Garden of the Gods

Garden of the Gods

Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs is my favorite place to hike on planet Earth. The 1300-acre park features more than 20-miles of hiking trails that take visitors around its towering sandstone rock formations in the shadow of Pikes Peak. Those unique rock formations were formed during the same geological event that created Pikes Peak. This is my favorite outdoor attraction in Colorado Springs. In my humble opinion, Garden of the Gods is much more fun to explore from its hiking trails than by driving through it. 

Garden of the Gods Park and Visitors Center

Garden of the Gods Visitors Center

The Garden of the Gods Park and Visitors Center is free to the public because of a stipulation made when it was donated to the city of Colorado Springs in 1909. The stipulation states that the park must always remain free and that no buildings should be constructed except for the necessary upkeep of the park. (This is the best free attraction in Colorado Springs). The park is a registered National Natural Landmark that gets more than two million visitors per year. I am glad that the park has been kept free from commercial development and that all are welcome to explore.

The visitors center is a good place to start your hike. It has a really nice observation deck with several telescopes that let you get up-close views of the rock formations and Pikes Peak. The visitors center also shows an interesting video about the geology and history of Garden of the Gods. You can also pick up free trail maps and grab a bite to eat before exploring the hiking trails. In addition to exploring on your own, the park's staff offer several free guided hiking tours throughout the day. 

Garden of the Gods Rock Formations

Balanced Rock

Garden of the Gods is most famous for its 300' tall sandstone rock formations. Many of these interesting rocks have names - and some are quite famous. For example, "Balanced Rock" (shown above) is a geological marvel because it looks like it should tip over. Many visitors stop for a photo at "Balanced Rock" and take poses like they are holding up the rock.

Garden of the Gods Park

There is a tall sandstone formation called "Kissing Camels" because it looks like two camels kissing each other. The "Siamese Twins" are another popular rock formation. I really didn't take time to learn the names of most rocks because I was just in such awe by them. However, if you are interested in learning all the rock names on your visit, you can pick up a free guide at the visitors center. The park's hiking trails will take you by all of the major geological features. Since I am from the Ozarks, I have hiked below steep cliffs and bluffs. However, exploring the Garden of the Gods felt a lot different. You just have to experience it yourself to understand.

Garden of the Gods Hiking Trails

Garden of the Gods Hiking Trails

The cool sandstone rock formations are much more fun to explore by hiking through the park because it's easier to walk right up to them, feel them, and be awed by them. I guarantee that most have never experienced a hike like this one. Be sure to bring water, a snack, and some sunscreen. Depending on your health and acclimation to higher altitudes, you might want to start off with a slower walking pace. Here is an overview of the park's most popular hiking adventures:
  • Buckskin Charlie Trail - This rugged and hilly trail circles the park and offers distant views of rock formations. 
  • Palmer Trail - If you want to get away from the traffic and crowds, this hiking trek loops around most of the park. 
  • Perkins Central Garden Trail - For a short, easy hike, this trail takes you to the park's tallest rock formations.
  • Ridge Trail - This short hike makes you feel like you are really part of the rock formations.
  • Siamese Twins Trail - This trail gives hikers the best views of Pikes Peak. 
For a complete list of trails and their respective skill levels and lengths, pick up a free park map at the visitor's center. Some of the trails also have more than one name. However, a map will point you in the right direction.

Balanced Rock at Garden of the Gods

I loved hiking at Garden of the Gods because it felt like I was walking among giants. (I was in fact walking among giant rock formations). The majestic views of Pikes Peak in the background create the perfect backdrop for this beautiful park. I think the park holds a special place in my heart because it offered me my first glimpse of the Rocky Mountains. I remember thinking how they looked like these giant blue clouds before I realized they were mountains.

I recommend taking a picnic lunch because you can't beat the view from any of the picnic tables. I am grateful that this natural treasure is free for everyone to enjoy. The city of Colorado Spring does an outstanding job of maintaining the park. Depending on your length of stay in the Pikes Peak region, you could spend an entire day exploring the park, or explore it in parts on multiple days.  I look forward to visiting this incredible park again.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Har-Ber Village Museum

Har-Ber Village Museum

Har-Ber Village Museum - located on the shore of beautiful Grand Lake in Grove, Oklahoma - is like a history museum on a walking trail that offers visitors a stroll back in time to life on the frontier. The seasonal museum is open from the 3rd Saturday in March through the 1st Sunday in November. The hours of operation are from 9:00 am to 3:30 pm on Thursdays through Mondays (closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays). Har-Ber Village charges the following admission fees based on the category you fall under:
  • Adults - $10
  • Students - $5
  • Seniors - $7.50
  • Military - $7.50
  • Children Under 6 - Free
Har-Ber Village has been a favorite of mine since I was a kid. I can remember visiting the museum on field trips and family picnics. It is just a short drive from Tulsa, Northwest Arkansas, and Joplin. This place is definitely well worth your visit. In addition to visiting the museum, visitors can enjoy hiking on the Har-Ber Village Nature Trail next to Grand Lake.

Har-Ber Village

Har-Ber Village

Har-Ber Village was founded 50 years ago by its generous benefactors Harvey and Bernice Jones (owners of the Jones Trucking Company). My favorite thing about Har-Ber Village is that unlike most museums, this one is outdoors - and all of the exhibits are connected by a nice paved walking trail. You will definitely get a decent workout from all the walking. (Be sure to bring your walking shoes).

The museum features a collection of 19th Century structures that offer a glimpse into life on the frontier. Each building is an exhibit that contains priceless antiques and collectibles. For example, there is a bank, doctor's office, dentist, barber shop, church, and more than 100 others. It would be impossible for me to mention every exhibit. Instead, I am going to highlight my favorites.

Grand Lake

Grand Lake

If you are familiar with my blog, you know that I love water. The shoreline of Grand Lake creates a beautiful setting for Har-Ber Village in the foothills of the Ozarks. I love hearing the sound of the big waves hitting the rocky shore as I walk by the lake. I consider Grand Lake an exhibit that represents something vital to surviving life on the frontier: Water. Without water, homesteads and frontier towns died. Wars were even fought on the frontier over water rights. 

The waterwheel (pictured above) powered many gristmills before electricity. In fact, the Ozarks were home to many gristmills because of the region's abundant springs. 

19th Century-Style Buildings

Har-Ber Village Grand Lake

Har-Ber Village Museum contains dozens of 19th Century-style structures that were common in frontier towns. My great-grandfather was a blacksmith, so the blacksmith exhibit is one of my favorites. The old fashioned doctor's office makes me grateful for modern medicine lol. My great-grandmother and great-aunt both taught in one-room schools that were similar to the schoolhouse exhibit. Also, some of my ancestors were country preachers that would have preached in small congregations like the church exhibit. 

If you love antique China and vintage items, you are in luck. Many generous people have donated their family heirlooms to make Har-Ber Village an awesome history museum. I love viewing all of the old wood furniture and hand tools.

 Frontier Justice

Hanging Gallows
The Gallows' exhibit is definitely a bit creepy. However, the frontier was full of dangerous outlaws that robbed and killed many innocent people. Therefore, in order to tame the frontier, these outlaws had to be brought to justice. Hanging was the most common form of capital punishment throughout much of the 1800s into the early 1900s. These gallows were used by Judge Parker - known as the "hanging judge" - in Fort Smith, Arkansas.

I Found Myself in Jail

Speaking of frontier justice, I even found myself in the frontier jail. (This exhibit was actually from the original Springdale, Arkansas jail). As if being stuck in a frontier jail weren't bad enough, the iron ball chained to your ankle made escaping that much more difficult lol. Typically, frontier justice was pretty swift, so most outlaws didn't spend much time in jail.

Life in the Early 20th Century

Horseless Carriage
The dawn of the 20th Century marked an end to life on the frontier (in most places). The automobile represented a major change to transportation by replacing horse travel (which had been used for thousands of years). The last few exhibits at Har-Ber Village show life in the early 20th Century. I like the vintage tractors and farm equipment that show the beginning of modern farming. 

When you leave the museum, you can stop by the gift shop to browse souvenirs and pick out your favorite old fashioned candy. If you worked up an appetite from all that walking, you can visit the Har-Ber Village Cafe for a bite to eat. I like their ice cream!  

Har-Ber Village Nature Trail

If you enjoy hiking, check out the 2-mile Har-Ber Village Nature Trail located next to the museum's parking lot. The hiking trail is partially paved. It takes hikers through the hills and trees along the shore of Grand Lake. The hiking trail is free and open to the public 7-days a week year-round. There are also several picnic tables to enjoy a picnic lunch by the lake.

Friday, February 7, 2020

5 Cool Swimming Holes in the Ozarks

Great Blue Heron in Arkansas
Even the Great Blue Heron Enjoys a Good Swimming Hole!

Those of us who live in the Ozark Mountains - or get to visit here - are blessed by the abundant supply of crystal clear spring water that feeds into larger rivers. These streams offer fun water recreational activities for outdoor enthusiasts during the summer:
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Inner-tubing
  • Rafting
  • Swimming
This post is about the last item on that list - swimming. The Ozarks are home to many cool, refreshing swimming holes that are fun to enjoy on a hot summer day. These are my top 5 favorite swimming holes because they are less crowded than many of the more well-known swimming spots in the Ozarks. They are located in extreme Southwest Missouri or extreme Northwest Arkansas.

Grand Falls

Grand Falls Joplin

Grand Falls is the largest waterfall in Missouri - located just a few miles south of Joplin. However, Grand Falls is more than just a beautiful photo spot on Shoal Creek. Below the falls swimmers can enjoy one of the largest swimming holes in the Ozarks. The water gets pretty deep here. There are also some cool rock formations that have been carved out by Shoal Creek over the years. You can get to Grand Falls by taking Riverside Drive a couple miles west of Redings Mill. Most visitors park along the road near the falls. I usually hike from Wildcat Glades.

Tanyard Creek Waterfall 

The Tanyard Creek Waterfall Nature Trail in Bella Vista takes hikers past one of the best secret swimming spots in the Ozarks of Northwest Arkansas. This swimming hole is probably a half-mile hike below the Tanyard Creek Waterfall. Tanyard Creek is shallow, but it's still fun to wade and splash around in. This swimming spot is a little deeper than the rest of the creek because the water pools in an area behind some large rocks that slow its flow. You can find the Tanyard Creek Natural Trail by taking HWY 340 a couple miles west of the Bella Vista Town Center. The swimming hole is about a mile hike from the trail head.

Little Sugar Creek Above Bella Vista Lake

Little Sugar Creek Bella Vista

Little Sugar Creek - just above where the creek flows into Bella Vista Lake - offer swimmers a fantastic swimming spot. First, this is like clear Ozark Mountain spring water. Secondly, there is a long gravel bar where the water starts off shallow and then gradually gets deeper as you get closer to the other bank. (The gravel bar is probably 1/4 mile long). Pictured above are some small rapids that are fun to play in. This is a really fun spot to bring a water chair and picnic lunch, and enjoy an afternoon on the water. This swimming spot is located between the Bella Vista Lake parking lot and Walgreens. You can access it from the hiking trail, or by parking behind Walgreens and walking down the hill.

Little Sugar Creek Farm

Little Sugar Creek Farm

Another fun swimming hole on Little Sugar Creek is located about a mile south of Bella Vista Lake just off the Wishing Springs Trail. However, this swimming spot is completely hidden from the trail. You will just notice a well-beaten path in the grass that leads to some trees next to the creek bank. You will often hear voices from behind the trees, which is how I discovered this spot. There is a rope swing on the other side of the bank. You can try it out if you are brave enough!

Dabbs Greer Town Hole Park 

Dabbs Greer Town Hole Park

McDonald County, Missouri is famous for being home to the Elk River - which is popular for float trips between Pineville and Noel. However, just a few miles north of the crowded Elk River, Indian Creek offers a much more quiet, peaceful setting for a good swimming spot at Town Hole in Anderson. The park is located next to the Post Office on Main Street. Town Hole is at the confluence of Indian Creek and Beaver Branch. Both are typically shallow streams. However, the water pools in this spot, making it a good place to swim. 

Safety First

Before you enjoy these cool waters on a hot day, you need to take some safety precautions. First, never dive headfirst into any swimming hole. I don't care how deep you think the water is, there still could be rocks or other debris underneath the surface of the water that you can't see. Also, the water level in these streams is always changing. Therefore, please play it safe and always jump feet first AFTER you know the water is deep enough for a cannonball lol. Secondly, this is the Ozarks, so you need to watch out for snakes. I recommend staying away from trees and logs in the water. Lastly, don't go swimming after heavy rains when these streams are flooding. 

In short, if I haven't scared you away, I hope that you can enjoy some of these fun swimming holes in the Ozarks of Southwest Missouri and Northwest Arkansas. They are kind of like a best-kept secret because many don't know about them.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Blowing Springs Trail

Blowing Springs Trail Bella Vista

The Blowing Springs Mountain Biking Trail is a 6-mile multi-use trail that's good for hiking as well. The rugged trek takes hikers, trail runners, and mountain bikers on a scenic journey into the Ozarks of Bella Vista, Arkansas. I would rate this trek as moderate as there are lots of steep hills, cliffs, and rocky, narrow pathways. However, hiking this trail was a really awesome and enjoyable experience - something different from my usual hikes.

As far as I know, only Bella Vista POA members are allowed in Blowing Springs Park, so non-members must access the trail from outside the park. Therefore, I began my hike on the Blowing Springs Trail by taking the Cooper Connector that runs between the Smith's Trout Farm and Cooper Elementary School. (I parked by the Bella Vista Lake Dam - which is just across the street from the trout farm).

Blowing Springs Trail in Bella Vista

Smith's Trout Farm in Bella Vista
Spring-fed Lake That Looks Like a Painting

I have done plenty of hiking on dirt and rock surfaces before. However, this was my first hike on a mountain biking trail. This is a popular mountain biking spot in Northwest Arkansas, so I did meet a few bikers. Since I was on foot, I wanted to show a bit of courtesy on the narrow pathway. Whenever I met a biker, I just politely stood on the side to let them pass. I am impressed by how skilled mountain bikers are who can go cliff-riding up and down steep, rocky hills on narrow, rugged paths like this.

Ozark Mountain Workout

Blowing Springs Mountain Bike Trail

This was definitely a workout! My pace was a lot slower from my usual hikes on the paved Northwest Arkansas Razorback Regional Greenway. Unlike paved surfaces, the Blowing Springs Trail resembles what I call authentic hiking in the Ozarks. The trail was built with a very limited impact to the scenic nature that surrounds it. There is no crushed rock to walk on, so much of the pathway is uneven. Also, there is not much grading - just enough to cut a small path out of the hillsides. The trail meanders along the side of cliffs, underneath bluffs, into deep valleys, all under a thick canopy of trees. You will definitely need a good pair of walking shoes - or even some hiking boots. I recommend a good walking stick like the one that I left in my trunk lol. This trek was quite muddy and slick in many spots due to all of the rain. Just pace yourself and take it one step at a time to avoid getting hurt. During the warm weather months, you will want to bring insect repellent and watch out for snakes!

The Blowing Springs Trail is a 6-mile loop. However, there are several sections where the trail divides to give you two choices of where you could go:
  • Loop
  • Low Ride
If you enjoy hiking along the cliffs above the valley, just follow the arrows to stay on the main loop. I mainly stayed on the loop to hike the full 6 miles.
However, if you enjoy trekking through more of the deep valleys, you can take the "low ride" options at various spots along the trail. This will give you more chances to explore the springs below the cliffs. The "low ride" options are also good if you would like hike more than 6 miles.

Blowing Springs Cave
Bear's Den?!
Just south of the Blowing Springs RV Park are a series of tall limestone bluffs that tower above the trail. I spotted a small opening to a cave. I wonder if this could be home to a hibernating bear lol? (Luckily, I didn't see any bears on my hike). Much of the limestone is covered in green moss where water likely drips through the rock. After passing by the limestone rocks, the trail takes a steep turn up the side of a hill. The trek then takes you along the side of a cliff that runs above these bluffs and limestone rock formations.

Blowing Springs Park

Blowing Springs Bella Vista

Blowing Springs Trail and park are named after the many springs that flow through the area. Typically, the springs flow next to the trail in the valleys. There are some wooden bridges that occasionally cross a spring. However, due to all the recent rain, there were many 'wet' springs running across the trail in several spots. I love flowing water so it didn't bother me. However, I had to take a few short detours to avoid getting my feet wet.

I imagine that many Native Americans camped around these springs because they provide a good source of water. Also, the caves would have made nice shelters. This would probably be a good area to go hunting for arrowheads. All of these little springs eventually flow into Little Sugar Creek which runs just west of the park. 

Blowing Springs

On the hike back to my car, I decided to do a quick loop around Bella Vista Lake.  Just above the lake, I caught this cool view of Little Sugar Creek. Notice the small white water rapids? That's due to the creek flowing higher and faster from all the rainfall we have had. A recent flash flood took out a small portion of the Bella Vista Lake Trail, as well as some tall trees next to the creek. Shout out to all of those responsible for maintaining the trails in Northwest Arkansas. You have had your work cut our for you over the past year.

Little Sugar Creek Bella Vista
Little Sugar Creek Headwaters

In short, if you are looking for a decent hiking adventure on a rugged, moderately difficult trek, I recommend the Blowing Springs Trail. The trail gives you an excellent opportunity to enjoy a fun trek into the Ozark Mountains of Northwest Arkansas without venturing too far off the beaten path. It also connects into the Slaughter Pen Trails and Bella Vista Back 40 trail systems. I enjoyed a good workout climbing up and down the steep hills, as well as taking in some awesome views of the valley below from the top of cliffs. I would rate this hiking adventure suitable for most skill levels, as long as you are in good shape.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Lake Fayetteville Trail

Lake Fayetteville Trail

The Lake Fayetteville Trail is a 6-mile paved loop that circles the lake and surrounding park. The Lake Fayetteville Trail is very popular with hikers, bikers, and joggers in Northwest Arkansas. It also connects directly into the Northwest Arkansas Razorback Regional Greenway for additional hiking and biking treks. For example, you can hike or bike on south toward Dickson Street, or north toward Springdale and Rogers. There is plenty of parking available near the park's entrance, as well as some limited parking nearby in neighboring Veteran's Memorial Park.

Lake Fayetteville

Lake Fayetteville

Lake Fayetteville is located on the north side of the city (north of the mall) very close to Springdale. It was constructed in 1949 (probably to meet the city's water needs in the years before Beaver Lake). The lake is about 200 acres - which is larger than most municipal lakes. It is formed by a nearly one-mile dam that impounds a small creek. At the end of the dam, a large iron bridge crosses above the spillway where the water leaves the lake pouring over the dam and running down the step cliff like a giant waterfall.

Since the city of Fayetteville is located on a high point in the Ozark Mountains, the area around the lake is often windy. That makes it a little cooler near the water while hiking or biking on a hot, summer day. Unfortunately, no swimming (or even wading) is allowed in the lake. However, I have seen a lot of fishermen so I am assuming that fishing is allowed. I consider the lake to be the crown jewel of Fayetteville's outdoor recreational opportunities.

Lake Fayetteville Trail

Lake Fayetteville Dam

The Lake Fayetteville Trail is one of my favorite hiking treks in Northwest Arkansas. You just can't beat the gorgeous views of the lake with the surrounding Ozark Mountains in the background. Hiking or biking the trail is very easy. Even though the trail surrounds the lake, there are several long sections where you aren't even close to the water. Instead, you find yourself hiking through lightly wooded areas, as well as up and down some hills. I remember one hill was very steep power-walking up it. Therefore, you do get a good workout from that hill lol. Plus, 6 miles is a decent trek - even on pavement. One of my favorite spots on the trail is walking along the dam to the iron bridge. It is fun to stand on the bridge above the water raging below as it leaves the lake.

In addition to the beautiful lake views, the trail passes by a few cool areas to explore:
  • Veteran's Memorial Park
  • Scenic Mountain Bike Trails
  • Botanical Gardens of the Ozarks
I actually started my hike from the Veteran's Memorial Park. The Lake Fayetteville trail runs right through the park. The park features some nice shaded areas, a sand volleyball court, restrooms, and picnic tables.

Veteran's Memorial Park in Fayetteville
I even brought a picnic!

The only thing about Veteran's Memorial park is that parking there can get crowded - especially on the weekends. Other than that, this park was a really nice starting point for my hiking trek around the lake. 

Directly east of the park are some really scenic wooded areas that hug the south shoreline of Lake Fayetteville. This is definitely off the beaten path. Anyway, there are a few miles of dirt mountain bike trails along the south-side of the lake. I hiked on one that took me to a hidden cove with an old floating dock. I didn't see anyone else on these secluded trails. However, if you like to mountain bike, this area would be a lot of fun. 

The eastern edge of the Lake Fayetteville Trail passes by the Botanical Gardens of the Ozarks. (There is an admission fee to view the gardens). The botanical gardens feature several types of flowers and plants - even a Japanese garden.

Lake Fayetteville Park and Marina

Lake Fayetteville Marina

Surrounding the lake is a beautiful park that offers visitors the largest open green space in Fayetteville (over 600 acres). For example, I usually see lots of people playing disk golf, having picnics, and just enjoying their time outdoors. My favorite resting spot on the trail is at the Lake Fayetteville Marina. I love sitting on the wooden docks because you can really feel the waves moving them on a windy day. 

Speaking of the marina, you can rent paddle boats and kayaks to enjoy the lake. You can also bring your own kayak or boat. However, there are restrictions on the type of boats allowed. (The boat ramp is next to the marina). I have seen people out in kayaks and boats during the winter - so I am sure the lake is especially popular in the summer. You can also rent bikes at the boat house to ride on the trail. I believe they sell snacks and drinks too.

In short, the next time you are looking for a fun hiking or biking trek in Northwest Arkansas, check out the Lake Fayetteville Trail. The trail offers a bit of everything: nice views of the lake and Ozark Mountains, wooded scenery, a decent workout, and a fun place to enjoy the outdoors. If you like playing on the water, rent a kayak or paddle boat.