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story.lead_photo.caption NWA Democrat-Gazette/FLIP PUTTHOFF The Wolf Den Loop of the Monument Trail at Hobbs State Park-Conservation Area, seen here Oct. 28 2019, provides a scenic 4-mile mountain bike ride or hike suitable for all skill levels.

Every trail has its ups and downs. The ups are easy and the downs exhilarating along the Wolf Den Loop of the new Monument Trails at Hobbs State Park-Conservation Area.

The network of Monument Trails opened for hiking and mountain biking a few months ago at the park in east Benton County. Wolf Den is a lovely 4.2 mile loop that offers easy hiking or biking with no lung-buster climbs. The loop is in the center of the total trail network, which covers some 20 miles.

Main access to the entire Monument Trails network is at the Hobbs visitor center along Arkansas 12, one-quarter mile east of War Eagle Road. From the visitor center, riders can take a 2.1-mile trail that leads to Wolf Den Loop. Between the visitor center and Wolf Den are two optional downhill trails of about a mile each, with a return trail that takes riders back to the top. Pick up a free easy-to-follow Monument Trails map at the visitor center.

So today let's hop on our bikes, strap our helmets on snug and tour the Wolf Den Loop, a 4.2-mile joy ride for any mountain bike rider, from novice to expert.

We'll start our ride at the bottom of Wolf Den Loop and access the trail from Page Sawmill Road. Wolf Den Loop starts here on the south side of this gravel road.

To reach Page Sawmill Road from the visitor center, haul bicycles by vehicle east on Arkansas 12 about 3 miles to Rambo Road. Turn a sharp left and go about a mile to the bottom of the hill. Where the paved road turns right, Page Sawmill Road continues straight ahead on the gravel. The trail is about one-quarter mile down Page Sawmill Road.

We'll start by riding left to circle the loop in a clockwise direction. The first 2 miles is called Wolf Den East. The final 2 miles are Wolf Den West. Or, riders can start at Wolf Den West and finish along Wolf Den East.

A neat thing about the Wolf Den Loop is it runs gently uphill from Page Sawmill Road for 2 miles. Then there's an exhilarating 2 miles of mostly downhill back to the start. Much of the route is packed dirt that's smooth as a baby's bald head.

The climb along Wolf Den East is so gradual riders may barely notice they're going uphill. On the wheezer scale there's nothing more than a 5, if that.

It's a nice, meandering ride through the forest, with the last hints of fall color seen in the hollows. Near the end of mile 2, riders come to a tunnel that goes under Arkansas 12. This is the 2.1-mile trail that leads to the visitor center. There's a sign here with information all about the Wolf Den Loop.

But we don't want to go through the tunnel. Now the real fun starts as we start downhill on Wolf Den West. The trail drops gradually for easy riding with some nice rises and falls, like a kid's roller coaster at a carnival. Just watch for riders coming the other way because traffic is two-way on the Wolf Den Loop.

Once Beaver Lake is seen off to the left, Page Sawmill Road and the end of the ride is near.

During an earlier ride along Wolf Den Loop, we met a rider from Michigan sampling the park's Monument Trails. She'd come all the way from northeast Michigan to mountain bike in Northwest Arkansas. Our corner of the Ozarks is indeed a national cycling destination.

Later in NWA Outdoors we'll explore the Karst Loop of the Monument Trails at Hobbs. That loop will take us 7.8 miles through the Hobbs State Park forest with fabulous views of Beaver Lake.

Flip Putthoff can be reached at fputthoff@nwadg.com

Sports on 11/12/2019

Print Headline: Off-road loop offers monumental ride

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