Hiking may be the most comfortable way to see the sights during winter at one of the region's most popular trails.
Mountain bikers and hikers head for Hobbs State Park-Conservation Area east of Rogers to explore the Karst Loop of the park's network of Monument Trails. On chilly days, there's less wind chill factor on foot than zipping along on a bicycle.
Karst Loop is a 7.8-mile natural surface path of dirt, gravel and some solid rock. That may be too much distance for a lot of hikers. Hiking out a ways, then back, lets foot travelers cover as little or as much of the loop as they like.
Parts of the trail hugs the Beaver Lake shoreline offering picture postcard views. Other sections meander through hardwood forest or stands of fragrant pine
Visitors on foot or on bikes can choose two spots to access Karst Loop, situated on the eastern tier of the 12,000-acre park. To reach the loop, drive east from the park visitor center on Arkansas 12 to Rambo Road. Make a sharp left on paved Rambo Road and follow it downhill one-half mile to a sharp right-hand curve.
To access the trail section that runs along the lake, go straight on Page Sawmill Road (gravel) at the sharp right-hand curve. Drive 100 yards to the trailhead on the right and park alongside the road. Follow the trail a short way to the Karst Loop information sign and hike to the left. Views of the lake begin to unfold in short order.
Another trailhead is located farther along Rambo Road, uphill about one-half mile from the sharp curve. A hike or mountain bike ride from here is mostly wooded. Bikers are required to ride the trail in a counter-clockwise direction. Hikers can go either way.
Karst Loop is named for the rocky, fractured landscape, called karst, that prevails at Hobbs, which is Arkansas' largest state park. Sink holes and rock formations full of cracks and fissures are seen along the entire loop.
Hikers like Sheila Ross, who lives near the park, particularly enjoy the miles that go up and down along the lake shore.
"The views are incredible," she said. "It's one of the prettiest trails in the area."
Some of this lakeside hike is inches away from steep cliffs, "so you need to watch your step," she noted.
Karst Loop is easy to hike with no lung-buster climbs, said Denise Nemec, a hiker from Fayetteville. "There's not a whole lot of up and down."
She always brings a camera on Karst Loop hikes.
"For pictures you can get wide, expansive shots of pretty lake views," Nemec said. "Or you can photograph little details such as patterns in the tree bark or rock."
On frigid mornings, gardens of frost flowers can be seen. These form when water in the stems of plants freezes and delicate blooms of ice ooze forth,creating white frozen petals. Frost flowers are a favorite for Nemec to photograph.
Boulders along the trail are ideal sitting during water-break rests or to eat lunch.
Hiking Karst Loop is a fine way to spend an hour or a day on the trail, minus the two-wheeled wind chill factor.