The Karst Loop of the Monument Trails network at Hobbs State Park-Conservation Area is a favorite among mountain bikers. It also makes a dandy fall foliage hike.
Hikers actually have a bit of an advantage on this 8-mile loop that hugs the Beaver Lake shoreline much of the way. Hiking gets you to the best scenery, the good stuff, faster than biking.
That’s because bikers are required to ride the loop counterclockwise. From the trailhead on Page Sawmill Road, the trail leads bikers away from the lake and gradually uphill. It’s still a nice ride. The forest is peaceful, and there are no lung-buster climbs.
Hikers are encouraged to travel clockwise and reach the lakeside scenery almost immediately. This clockwise route follows the lake shore for 3 or 4 miles.
A good option is to hike out as far as you’d like, then turn around and hike back. The scenery seems different going the other way. The entire 8 miles is beautiful. Bikers and hikers find some uphill here and there, but nothing that rates high on the wheezer scale.
To get to the trailhead from the Hobbs visitor center, travel east on Arkansas 12 for two miles to Rambo Road. Take a left and follow the road for a mile. Where the pavement makes a hard right, go straight on Page Sawmill Road (gravel) for 100 yards to the trailhead. From here, a short trail leads to the start of the loop. Walk left to hike clockwise.
Karst Loop gets its name from the karst landscape that is characteristic of the park’s 12,000 acres and much of the Ozarks. Limestone that is underground gets dissolved by water creating fractures, cracks and caves. That’s karst.
Hikers and bikers may notice sink holes close to the trail that are indicators of this karst.
Sunrise may be the best time to hike the Karst Loop, especially now that trees are showing fall color. The climbing sun seems to change the color in the trees as if someone’s slowly turning a kaleidoscope. Beaver Lake, right beside the trail, is glass smooth at this magic time of day.
The trail promises to be spectacular through autumn. Sugar maple trees stand tall along the path with leaves that turn to red and orange. Trees of bright yellow are most likely hickories. Dogwood leaves sport a reddish or burgundy glow.
The path occasionally leaves the lake and dips into a couple of mysterious shady hollows that cradle small creeks, but not for long. Pretty soon you’re back beside the lake admiring the woods and water view.
There was only a hint of fall color when we walked part of the Karst Loop at sunrise in late September. The hike was beautiful nonetheless, two miles out then two miles back to the trailhead.
We had company even at this early hour. Over the four miles we met one mountain biker, one trail runner and two hikers.
One of the hikers carried her newborn infant in a type of baby-toting day pack strapped to her chest. Now that’s getting kids out into nature at an early age.
Ah, so many trails and so little time. Fall and its color seem to pass so quickly. Karst Loop is definitely one to explore before those pretty leaves flutter to the ground.
Flip Putthoff can be reached at [email protected]