by Rob Potts March 22, 2023

This is my favorite route on the whole trail.   It's got amazing scenery, follows creeks most of the way, great bridges/creek crossings, a lake, has a lot of shade, not a lot of road crossings, and a lot to see and do along the way.  There are plenty of parks, places to eat and recreate along the way.  It's also got a 700' long tunnel that's really cool. 

Basically, it's got a great combination of secluded and scenic areas, and urban areas with services.  Now, there are some variations I make of it to add miles when needed, but I'll stick with the main one for here.  Fayetteville has over 50 miles of paved trails, many connected to this route. 

Now, I'm not going to give you turn by turn directions or mile markers.  Why?   That will detract from the ride.  Go ride the trail, if you miss a turn, go back and get it.   The worst thing that can happen if you make a "mistake" is you'll get to see some cool things you didn't expect.   You don't need to be focused on the details of how to get from one place to another, the fun is just riding and experiencing.  

The 15 mile version of the ride takes you to The Ramble, which is just over a half mile past Dickson Street.  You definitely need to go to this area if you're going to go to Dickson (pictures later).  It's worth the extra mile.   The other takes you all the way to Mt. Kessler and back, the current south end of the trail system.   

Why two distances?  A couple of reasons:   

- One, to give both a moderate distance ride and a longer ride option, both on the same path.  I lead a lot of social rides from the store to just past Dickson Street and back, which is a good ride to complete in just over an hour, assuming a 12-13 mph pace.  For many, a good 15-ish mile ride is plenty.  

-  UPDATE AS OF MAY, 2023.   In the original review, I wrote how you would encounter homeless camps at about the mile 8.5 mark (Walker Park) and encounter them the next couple of miles.    I'd never had an issue here, but I know some issues have been reported.   

These camps are now gone.   I'm not guaranteeing there are no issues, but I have seen no traces of them the last couple of times through.  The City of Fayetteville has cleaned the area up.  Would I recommend my wife or daughter riding/walking this area alone - no I'd say parts of it are still too secluded / wooded.  



I'd rate this as beginner friendly.  Most of the trail follows along creeks and therefore there isn't much climbing.  There are a few hills on it, but the vast majority is beginner friendly.  Even more so with an E-bike.  


You can park at our store or the parking lot at Lake Fayetteville by the softball fields.   There are restrooms are both our store and the softball complex.    

Amenities in the area include:

- Numerous great local food trucks, right across from us; 

- Lake Fayetteville Bike and Boat.  They rent bikes and kayaks here, and have food, snacks and games.   You can also fish here (with a permit).   Definitely go by and visit them.  


Once you get started, we're going to have you turn south to go across the spillway.  Now, I'd be negligent if I didn't tell you for added distance, you can make a full loop around the Lake.  This is a 6-ish mile loop and if you take it going clockwise, then continue on the route I've laid out, you'll add about 5 miles.  This is not only one of the prettiest trails around but by far the most heavily utilized by riders and walkers.   So I'm choosy about when I ride it - avoiding it on the prettiest weekend days.

Once you cross the spillway and bridge, you'll make a quick left and then an almost immediate right and go down the hill.   It's a steep hill, so please use your brakes accordingly / don't go too fast.   You'll ride past Lokomotion and on your left you'll see a spring with the rock work believed to be built sometime in the late 1930's / early 1940's.   Here's something cool!   Below is a picture of the spring there. After posting it last year, we had a descendent of the family that built it / farmed the land then.  Her mom is the one in the picture by herself in front of this very spring.   Here's the story she told us.

“These pictures were made in late 1930’s or early 1940’s. John Bookout farmed land where Lake Fayetteville is now. His son ( my great grandfather) was Fred Bookout. He is barely visible in the picture behind the woman with the white hat (my grandmother Irene Smith).  Fred married Ella Peerson whose family farmed land where Springdale Country Club is now. Ella is the older lady behind the girl with the camera. ( My mother Peggy Parker. She was about 16 here, and will have her 98th birthday in October). The other people include 2 of Fred and Ella’s son’s Fred and John Henry.  We called Fred ‘Bus’. His wife and 3 sons are also in the picture. You can see some of the rocks from the spring behind them.
The other picture is my grandmother Irene Smith. It is faded, but you can see the rocks of the spring better."


Sorry, that's my history tour.  I never just ride my bike.  I like to look around and when I see stuff that's old, I immediately start asking - who built this? One thing that always surprises me is how so many people ride past this and other stuff on the trails every day and miss these amazing things.  Look around! 





Also, Johnny Cash once played a concert right on that spot, September 17th, 1968.   Someone sent us this picture and many have found themselves in it.



You'll continue here through Johnson, Arkansas and this is one of the most scenic sections of the trail with a some great creek crossings and bridges.  After you pass the two old trucks on the trail, you turn left at the intersection and head south to Fayetteville.   



As you're exiting the Johnson City Limits you'll know as Fayetteville has lights/poles along the trail.  A short distance later,  You'll see a spur on your left - keep going straight (you'll take the spur on the way back.   You'll go through the tunnel and a couple of parks here.   One note, after you've left Gordon Long Park, you'll make a right under a railroad bridge.   Take it easy going through this short tunnel so you don't run into anyone coming from the other direction.   After this short tunnel, you'll ride next to the field/trail where the U of A Cross Country Team Trains (winners of 11 National Championships).  

You'll have a few road crossings the next several miles.  Most don't have lights, but cars are great at stopping (but make sure they are stopping!).   The first busy road you'll come to is North Street and there is a light here that you'll need to hit.  After about a mile, you'll hit the first real hill of your ride, up to Maple Street.  Before you go up the hill to Maple, you'll encounter Wilson Park on your left.  This is a really nice park and a great one mile loop if you want to add some miles.  Lots of really cool historic homes in that area as well.  

So ride up to Maple, watch for cars and then you'll head downhill to Dickson Street.   We do a lot of social rides to Dickson and Back.  There's dozens of great places to eat and drink here.  Most of my rides include a stop for food.  Let's be frank, a major reason I ride is to be able to eat more food!  If you pass Dickson, you'll head down to the Ramble.  Definitely ride up and down it!!!   Here it is at night and day.  The videos do it no justice. 

 The Ramble at Night


The Ramble During the Day. 

The Tunnel
So if you're going to keep riding, just stay on the trail.  You'll hit 71B, cross it at the light, continue through Walker Park, another road crossing, then you're headed southwest toward Kessler.  Follow the signs - there are a few spurs here.  As many times as I've done it, sometimes I forget to pay attention and miss a turn.  But again, worst thing that can happen is you'll take a wrong trail for a while.  Some call them mistakes, I call them adventures.   
At about Mile 9, you'll encounter Mr. Taco Loco, a great place to eat!
Stay on the trail, you'll cross more bridges, through some tunnels.  Even get to ride over Highway 49!  Once you hit Kessler, you'll be around mile 13.  Make a loop around the park and head back.   
On your way back, obviously just backtrack.   You'll get to see some stuff you didn't see on the way up.   One cool thing - once you're past Maple Street, it's virtually downhill all the way back.    Now, here's where I'll give you two options virtually the same distance and equal difficulty level.   That spur you saw when headed south, after leaving Johnson.  
- Option 1.  Just backtrack the way you came.   The only real hill on the way back is up that steep hill after passing Lokomotion.   I've seen a lot of beginners on here.  Some make it, some finish by pushing.  Many have E-bikes and make it up much more easily!   Then just head back to the parking lot, or if you want to add 5 miles, just head counter-clockwise.   Again, it's a pretty ride.  You're likely to see some deer, you'll go through the Botanical Gardens. 
- Option 2.  Take that spur (Mud Creek Trail) to the right, before you get to Johnson.  You'll head east, go under a few roads, go under 71B.  Here you'll have a bit of a funny road crossing where you turn left on Front Street, ride a few hundred feet, then immediately turn right back onto Mud Creek Trail.   Take the trail to Vantage Drive.   Here, you'll cross the road at the traffic light and head north.    This is about a half mile, steady climb.   It's not easy, but doable for new riders.  This way is longer and not as steep, while Lokomotion Hill is shorter and steeper.   Once you're at the top of the hill, you cross the street and you're back to Lake Fayetteville.   Go through the park, the road loops to the left and you're back on the trail and will immediately see where you crossed the spillway and bridge.   Want to add 5 miles, you'll get on the trail and head counter clockwise before you go through Veterans Park. 
That's it.  It's a great ride.  There are many other spurs you can take that will add many more miles to your ride.  But I'll be adding those other routes in the coming days.   I've been riding bikes all my life and these trails countless times. 
What's it like riding at night?



Most of the trail in Fayetteville is lighted from Johnson to Kessler (when it gets really hot, I do a lot of night riding on it), but you still need riding lights at night for safety.  It's very well lit.  Here's a few pictures. 
When It gets hot out, I do a lot of night riding on the trails, largely on this route.  
That being the case, you still absolutely need a front and rear tail light so you can see and other bikes and cars can see you.
We've been avid riders of the trails, since the first ones opened 20-ish years ago.   We'd even take our kids on the couple of sections that existed and just ride them back and forth.    Just over a year ago, my wife and I got Electric bikes.   That's really been a game changer.  I'm not a great rider, but have done a fair amount of biking.   But when exploring the area, my primary focus is not a really hard workout - it's to spend time with her, while exploring the area and having fun. 
 These have really opened up a lot of riding for us as we are able (and willing) to explore a lot more miles every time we ride.  Just so happens, a benefit of that is I've gotten in much better shape as a result.  





My wife and I loving our bikes on adventures together.    Sorry, I couldn't find any pictures of us on the paved trails here - this is the Katy Trail, Missouri.  We ride E-bikes everywhere because we can explore so many more miles and see and do a lot more.  Regular bikes are great for bike riding, E-bikes are amazing for exploring.