Trail tourism

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]com) 57 views 

I love the outdoors. As the summer weather winds down and the fall leaves turn, there’s no better place to be than right here in Arkansas. We’re known as the Natural State for a reason. Our moderate year-round climate and stunning landscape are perfect for outdoor activities, especially biking on one of our scenic trails.

The trail system for mountain biking in Arkansas is one of our best-kept secrets — although word is getting out fast. A story in one national publication wrote of our biking trails: “How could one area have such a diverse amount of riding? If this system was anywhere in Colorado, it would be packed, constantly. But riding in Arkansas is still a bit of a secret.”

Our five Epic Trails recognized by the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) make Arkansas a premier biking destination. And it seems as if we are steadily adding more trails across the state to meet demand.

This Sunday (Oct. 11), I’ll take a five-mile ride along the new Delta Heritage Trail near Helena-West Helena. This trail is perfect for biking and hiking. Once complete, it will meander for some 85 miles and include views from bridges that span the Arkansas and White rivers. I can’t wait to bike through some of these scenic areas of the Delta, and I encourage you to join me in this free trail ride.

Our state has so much to offer travelers and folks who love the outdoors. Last year, Arkansas hosted 26 million visitors who spent $6.7 billion while traveling the Natural State. Here’s a telling piece of research: Of those visitors who stayed overnight, 5% said they were going biking. We expect that number to grow.

We’ve known for a while that next year’s world summit of the IMBA will be in Northwest Arkansas. It will be the first time this big event has been held outside of “mountain states” such as Colorado and California.

And why not? Outside of California, no other state has more Epic Trails. As many as 800 people are expected to attend the summit, resulting in an economic impact of about $500,000. That’s another nice influx of tourism dollars flowing into Arkansas, and I bet many of those visitors will be back.

The summit coming to Arkansas is a direct result of a lot of hard work by a lot of people — so is the Delta Heritage Trail. Arkansas is now a biking state. Add that to our growing list of reasons to love, live in, and visit Arkansas.