A new, 1,100-mile-long bikepacking route through Northwest Arkansas is under construction, and a $100,000 grant from the Walton Family Foundation (WFF) to the Arkansas Parks and Recreation Foundation is expected to make the route a reality soon. Dubbed the “Arkansas High Country Mountain Bike Route,” the grant money will help underwrite the Adventure Cycling Association’s “research and cartography work,” along with the development of “maps and digital navigation products,” according to a recent press release from the Adventure Cycling Association (ACA).
Suzanne Grobmyer, Executive Director of the Arkansas Parks and Recreation Foundation, says, “The foundation’s most important mission is to maximize the outdoor and recreational value of Arkansas, and the High Country Route exceeds this effort.” Grobmyer continues, “This project will be a magnet to all those who want to explore our state’s natural beauty and will open the door to countless adventures. We are pleased to partner with Adventure Cycling to bring this regional project to our state.”
“The new route will leverage and connect the region’s existing network of natural surface trails, boost bicycle tourism and economic development opportunities, and create a more vibrant region for residents and visitors alike,” according to the release.
While the full route has not yet been released yet, it’s expected to incorporate some of the best mountain bike trails that already exist in Northwest Arkansas, including trails in renowned destinations like Bentonville. The route will utilize “eight state parks, 15 Forest Service campgrounds, nine Corps of Engineers parks, [and] three national parks.” In addition, the High Country Route will incorporate five existing IMBA Epic trails: the Lake Ouachita Vista Trail, the Womble Trail, the Buffalo Headwaters Trail, and the Syllamo Trail.
The development of this route by the ACA could lead to both a well-designed route and incredible popularity. Two of the ACA’s previous routes that have achieved international renown include the Great Divide route and the Idaho Hot Springs route. The ACA specializes in producing high-quality navigational material that should make following the future High Country Route through Arkansas an enjoyable and attractive experience for bikepackers from around the world. Completion of the route is expected to take two years.
I’m very excited about this trail and that it will connect to the Ozark Trail of Missouri. The two trails together running all the way to St. Louis will be the 1100 miles or so of trails that is referenced. It will be the midwest version of the Colorado Trail — just a little lower in elevation but twice the distance. Very nice indeed. Even longer than the AZT. For riders hoping to tackle the CT, it would make for a nice preparation ride. I’ve ridden some of the OT. It is really cool. You are in some nice backcountry. If they build, I will come. =)