Summary: Cedar Glades Park outside of Hot Springs, Arkansas is a worthwhile destination for any mountain biker looking for a beautiful, quiet place to ride with a variety of challenges. Recently named as having the best trails in the state by the Arkansas Mountain Bike Racing Series, Cedar Glades offers a network of interconnected trails totalling approximately 12 miles spread across its 400+ acres, with trails appropriate for a broad range of rider ability, and color-coded for skill level.
The Cedar Glades Park is operated by the parks department of Garland County, Arkansas, where Hot Springs is located. In addition to the bike trails, the park features a dirt track for radio controlled cars and an airstrip for RC planes, plus a frisbee golf course and a couple picnic areas. Found near the junction of interstates 30 and 40, just about any east/west trip across the state is going to take you nearby, and it's certainly worth the stop.
Despite the other attractions at Cedar Glade, you certainly won't find yourself among crowds, and if you like solitude, this is the place for you. Granted, it was a weekday morning, but when I was there in July I experienced three hours riding and saw not a single other rider. Only lots of wildlife, including deer, a bobcat, an armadillo, and a box turtle. (Talk about something that will get your heart rate up, just try rounding a tight corner and surprising a bobcat standing on the trail. Or maybe a bear.)
Another example of the relative quiet? I noticed that one of my water bottles had shook loose at some point over a rough stretch of riding, and I just figured it was gone. The good news came when I found it lying in the middle of the narrow singletrack trail when I came back 90 minutes later, undisturbed by any other rider.
For the most part, the trails are not particularly technical, but it's not a cakewalk either. Experienced cyclists will enjoy them for their appealing mix of medium climbs and long swooping descents. In short, you'll have a lot of fun, and can mix and match the interconnecting loops to get the distance you want. Additionally, the loops are long enough that you can repeat them without feeling like you're getting bored.
Though I enjoyed all of the loops, my favorite trail of all at Cedar Glades was the black loop, 4.6 miles of mountain biking nirvana, climbing from the main stream bed cutting through the park, and following along a series of ridges that finally circle back to the main trailhead after a long collection of decents. Though it's listed as the most difficult trail, the black loop was just right for this rider, at least, challenging without being frustrating, and just difficult enough to require a person to have to really work at the tough parts and still be successful.
Trail surface at Cedar Glades park is a mix of soil and rock, with a bit of sand thrown in here and there in a couple of places. It's not loose, not slippery, and drains quickly, so much so that it can rain in the morning and you can ride in the afternoon without having problems with mud. There are nice sections that go through pine forest, other places through open glades and additional stretches through mature hardwood forest.
In summary, this is a top-notch collection of mountain bike trails, and one that you'll want to try out if you get anywhere near central Arkansas. It's as nice a place to ride as you'll find.
- Black (most difficult) - 4.6 miles
- Blue (more difficult) - 3.9 miles
- Green (easiest) - 1.2 miles
- Yellow - .7 miles
- Gold - handicapped accessible - .5 miles