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Nature on the west side

by Flip Putthoff | May 11, 2021 at 7:00 a.m.
A canoe sculpture greets bikers and hikers who cross Little Sugar Creek along Sugar Bridge trail in Bellal Vista. Little Sugar trails offer 40 miles for hiking and mountain biking on the west side of Little Sugar Creek. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)

BELLA VISTA -- Hikers and bikers can take the high road, the low road or both during a streamside adventure along Little Sugar Creek.

The stream flows through the heart of Bella Vista, past manicured golf links and well-kept neighborhoods. Nature is the highlight on wild sections of the Little Sugar trail network, which meanders 39 miles through Bella Vista. Most of the city's trails are east of the creek. Little Sugar trails run on the stream's west side.

Forty miles is a lot to cover. An ideal slice of this trail pie takes in about three miles along cliffs and past the maw of a dark, spacious cave. Pathways of this trail sampler run high above Little Sugar Creek or so close to its banks, it's easy to jump in for a swim.

The high road is lofty and narrow enough in spots to give some hikers the willies or take the less spooky, but equally scenic, low road trail.

This hike takes in pieces of the level Sugar Bridge trail and the rugged high road of the Danger Will Robinson trail above Little Sugar Creek.

To sample the section. Turn east on Pinion Drive off of U.S. Hwy. 71, just south of Lancashire Boulevard. A sign with a trail map marks the start. Park as best you can along Pinion Drive. There's no dedicated trailhead parking lot.

Follow the Sugar Bridge trail under a highway bridge and head west across a golf course fairway. The trail runs between two wood fences, then meets Little Sugar Creek and heads into some woods.

In no time, explorers see a pedestrian and bicycle bridge over Little Sugar. The span appears sturdy enough to support a train. Explorers pass under a shiny canoe sculpture with ornate patterns cut into the aluminum.

On the west side of the bridge, turn right for a short way, then take the first immediate hard left and head up a gentle grade. This is the Danger Will Robinson trail that runs along a cliff edge above the water.

Width varies from wide enough to spots so narrow that cable fences have been installed to prevent mishaps. This high route runs for maybe a half-mile. Then take a hard left on a trail that heads downhill. The path levels out and runs the rest of the way along the creek. It goes back to the bridge for the trek back to Pinion Drive.

Little Sugar trails are marked in degree of difficulty on posts with the trail's name. Green is easy, blue is intermediate and black diamond is for experts.

Danger Will Robinson trail is designated a black-diamond route, mainly for mountain bikers. In fact, a sign warns bikers that it's for expert riders only. That would include Brian Obermann of Bella Vista and his buddy, Jake Endicott of Carthage, Mo. The high, rocky route didn't faze them an iota. Their mission was to eventually ride every Little Sugar trail.

"We're going to ride it all," Obermann hollered as they pedaled past.

"It's scenic. It's different than the trails on the east side," he said during a water break. "I'm a rock hound, and I love all the shale outcrops. With my kids, they're new on bikes and there's plenty of easy trails for them."

Endicott can be riding the Little Sugar trails in about an hour from home.

"I like this whole area," he said. "It's nice to see all the effort put in on trails in Bella Vista and all over Northwest Arkansas."

Gene Williams of the War Eagle area explored the 3-mile trail sampler, including the Danger Will Robinson black-diamond route.

"It's not for the faint of heart. I don't like heights, and I don't like cliffs, but I took my time. I know I got my heart rate up there because of the fear factor," he said.

High road or low, the cliffs, cave and Little Sugar Creek are sights to behold.

Parts of the Little Sugar trail network take hikers to lofty views of Little Sugar Creek. Gene Williams takes in the view from the Danger Will Robinson trail, which is part of the trail system.
(NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)
Parts of the Little Sugar trail network take hikers to lofty views of Little Sugar Creek. Gene Williams takes in the view from the Danger Will Robinson trail, which is part of the trail system. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)
Jake Endicott of Carthage, Mo. and Brian Obermann (right) navigate March 26 2021 the Danger Will Robinson trail, part of the Little Sugar trail system in Bella Vista.
(NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)
Jake Endicott of Carthage, Mo. and Brian Obermann (right) navigate March 26 2021 the Danger Will Robinson trail, part of the Little Sugar trail system in Bella Vista. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)
Visitors pass numerous caves and crevices along the Little Sugar trail system. This cave is a feature of the Danger Will Robinson trail along Little Sugar Creek.
(NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)
Visitors pass numerous caves and crevices along the Little Sugar trail system. This cave is a feature of the Danger Will Robinson trail along Little Sugar Creek. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)
A lower trail can be seen March 26 2021 from a higher trail along Little Sugar Creek.
(NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)
A lower trail can be seen March 26 2021 from a higher trail along Little Sugar Creek. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)
Trails follow Little Sugar Creek at water level and high above the stream.
(NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)
Trails follow Little Sugar Creek at water level and high above the stream. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)
More News

Hike, bike Little Sugar

Little Sugar trails are the newest trails in Bella Vista, with 39 miles made up of three loops and more than 20 connector trails. Routes range from beginner to advance with challenging climbs, long descents and spectacular views.

Information: discoverbellavistaar.com

Source: City of Bella Vista

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