Zoie Clift, travel writer
Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism
Mountain bikers from across the nation will be heading to Arkansas for the USA Cycling Marathon Mountain Bike National Championships May 7 in Arkadelphia. The event will be held at the Iron Mountain Trail System, which is located in the foothills of the Ouachita Mountains and on the south shore of DeGray Lake.
According to Fred Phillips, Executive Director of DLT Events, which is hosting the race, the event is a chance to continue the national spotlight on mountain biking and outdoor recreation in the state.
“Between what is happening in the Northwest corner of the state, the multiple IMBA [ International Mountain Bicycling Association] Epic trails we have here in the state now, and all the trail building and maintenance programs going on now, these national championships are helping provide additional exposure,” he said. “It is my hope it will help further make the state a nature tourism location and destination for outdoor enthusiasts such as trail runners, mountain bikers, and hikers.”
The Iron Mountain Trail System is made up of around 20 miles of total contiguous trail. The trailheads are easy to access and are located about 15 minutes off of Interstate 30. “The route as far as topography provides challenges yet is rideable by pretty much all levels depending on what section of the trail system you choose,” Phillips said. “It really depends on the type of riding you are looking at doing. You can have relatively easy riding or a little more aggressive climbing and descending. So there is a lot of variety.” The trail also provides views of DeGray Lake on some sections of the trail. The lake is a well known fishing destination and is home to DeGray Lake Resort State Park, Arkansas’s only resort state park.
As to details of the race, participants will ride 50 miles on the championship course. The route is spectator friendly, with several sections that are easy to access from the main parking areas out onto the trail system. An $18,000 prize purse for the pro field courtesy of a grant from the Walton Family Foundation will be offered and on Saturday May 6 there will be an 11 mile mountain bike companion event for those who would like to get out on the course and ride some of the national championship course. On a side note, next year’s Mountain Bike National Championships are also slated to take place at Iron Mountain as well and the trail system will also be the scene of the USA Offroad National Triathlon Championships this June.
Arkansas is home to a wealth of mountain biking trails across the state and is home to five IMBA Epic routes. These include the Lake Ouachita Vista Trail, the Upper Buffalo Trail, the Womble Trail, the Syllamo Trails, and the 108 miles of the Ouachita National Recreation Trail, a long distance hiking trail through the Ouachita National Forest. This designated section of the route currently holds title as the longest mountain biking trail in the state.
Arkadelphia is located along Interstate 30, about 65 miles from Little Rock, 40 miles from the Crater of Diamonds State Park, 25 miles from Hot Springs, and 10 miles from the DeGray Lake Resort State Park. For more details on riding in Arkansas, visit arkansas.com/bicycling/