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story.lead_photo.caption NWA Democrat-Gazette/FLIP PUTTHOFF Coler Mountain Bike Preserve in Bentonville offers scenic off-road biking and hiking. A stream flows during a hike Jan. 1, 2019 at the preserve.

What's good for two wheels is good for two feet.

Coler Mountain Bike Preserve in Bentonville attracts crowds of off-road cyclists to its twisting, rocky trails for a thrilling ride. It's also a dandy place for a hike, especially one that rings in a new year.

Hike, Bike Coler Preserve

Coler Mountain Bike Preserve in Bentonville has 16 miles of trail for mountain biking and hiking. A trailhead is located at Peach Orchard Road and Palladium Drive at 11850 Peach Orchard Road.

Source: Walton Family Foundation

A New Year's Day hike is a tradition at trails around Arkansas. State parks have them. Groups like the Hill 'N Dale Hiking Club wouldn't miss hiking on Jan. 1, no matter what the temperature.

About 25 Hill 'N Dale members started the year on the right foot, then the left, at Coler Mountain Bike Preserve. A 25-degree morning greeted hikers at the trailhead.

That's tropical compared to New Year's Day 2018 when it was zero for their hike. Still, a gaggle of bundled up explorers hit the trail, then the hot coffee.

Parkas, layers of clothing and gloves were in fashion on this New Year's Day. Trip leader George Riggin summoned the group with a warm welcome and laid out a plan for the four-mile hike.

To warm up, the trek would start on a level concrete trail along lovely Coler Creek. Then the group would leave the concrete and head uphill along a gradual grade to the top of the ridge. At the summit is a hub where the park's trails come together like spokes to the center of a wheel.

Coler Creek flowed fast and full after December rain at the western edge of the preserve. The flow meanders through gentle twists and over shoals that create soothing streamside music. An old barn looked even more gray in the overcast and low light of New Year's Day 2019. From here, hikers' boots left the concrete. Soles got muddy in short order treading the moist route of dirt and stone.

Trails have names like Copperhead Road and Oscar's Loop. Hikers navigated switchbacks and rugged rock that delights mountain bikers. Stocking caps came off during the climb. Steam rose from hot heads on this cold morning.

Nothing but forest and hardscrabble Ozarks enveloped the hikers strolling single file along the single-track route. Then, beams and boards like a modern-art sculpture came into view at the lofty summit.

The steel and wood looks like a dragon. Closer inspection shows it's made for mountain bikers who put the hammer down flying over jumps, awash in an adrenalin rush. "Coler's Peak One Hub," the spot is called, because trails veer off from the hub and head downhill.

For the hikers, benches scattered about the hub were welcome seats for a break.

The Walton Family Foundation spearheaded construction of trails and amenities at the preserve. More attractions for hikers and mountain bikers are planned at the 300-acre site.

Twenty-five tent campsites are planned, with wooden platforms to ensure dry camping. A restroom and shower building are in the works, along with a bike wash, according to the foundation website.

A spur trail will eventually connect Coler Mountain Bike Preserve to the Razorback Greenway.

Exploring the park's 16 miles of trail on two wheels or feet is fine on New Year's Day or any time.

Flip Putthoff can be reached at fputthoff@nwadg.com.

NWA Democrat-Gazette/FLIP PUTTHOFF The Hill 'N Dale group takes a break at a bicycle skills area at the top of the Coler Mountain Bike Preserve.
NWA Democrat-Gazette/FLIP PUTTHOFF Hikers pass through a grove of hardwood trees.
NWA Democrat-Gazette/FLIP PUTTHOFF A rough switchback challenges hikers during their trek.

Sports on 01/29/2019

Print Headline: Off on the right foot

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